Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The ideals that Matt Schuermann seems to hold dear to him are the ones that we find in those who get awarded Purple Hearts and those who are the favorite sons-in-law of mothers everywhere. They are those of a man who probably looks at a news magazine and shakes his head forlornly at every other word, wishing that the people described on the pages could just zap themselves out of their current place and go somewhere for a permanent vacation. They are those of a man who instead of writing letters to the editor, picks up a worked in acoustic guitar and sits around his porch on a crystalline morning, with a hound dog at his feet and writes the songs that he then collects onto albums. Schuermann, who plays drums in another Ohioan band called the Sidekicks, has named his solo project with a subject that is the source for endless ire and debate. The idea of violence can't help but be prevalent as the money machine feeds on wars of all kinds and has done so since man first started reproducing. There is and always has been greed and foolish power-grabbing and those that win more than they lose can find themselves at the top of the heap - the top of the chain. They often lose sight of the smaller people and they definitely forget about those that they defeated and climbed over to get onto the top of the heap. It goes like this and it goes on like this. American War, the subject, supplies itself with a delusional justification - that the action is intended only as an act of brotherhood, for the greater well-being of democracy and healthier mankind. American War, the band - Schuermann's project, takes all of this into account and decides that there's just no need for the two-faced nastiness. There's no way that war makes sense. It's as if what makes sense to him is, if we look after and take care of our loved ones, and they do the same, and then we see everyone else out there taking care of and being taken care of by those loved ones, we might have something close to the problem solving itself. And wouldn't that just be interesting, having such an easy fix to all of those problems. In his lyrics, Schuermann is a guy who probably doesn't sleep all that much, with the weight of the world, and the vast tragedies spilling from every corner of the world getting to him, getting the hooks in deeply and just forcing his heart into a quicker rhythm, one that doesn't abate even when everyone else is slumbering. It's then that everything becomes so vivid, there in the blackened silence. He sings of these worries, as he's comforted in the song, "The Paper People," "She said baby gotta stop complain bout the things that we all can relate to/Cause we're human/We go through the same things/So, baby, just try to be strong/Try to move on." Moving on and forgetting is nothing if it's not a difficult proposition. In his song, "Gardens and Smoke," Schuermann gives another hint of these similar thoughts, taking us into an Armageddon line of thinking, where the world goes up in a cloud of smoke and yet here he is, with his friends around him, telling him that it's all okay. Things are fine. He reasons, "The sky can only apply so much of it's knowledge to us so we/Forget/And I will choose to dance right through all my days until my heart explodes or my head grinds up its gears and it's the end of my years." It's one way of saying, "Fuck it."