Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Ark Life's Jesse Elliott is well aware of the snags in the road. He's driven over all of the bumps and the holes that have worked themselves into formerly smooth surfaces. He's driven over them at great speeds, banging into their bellies with cringe-inducing knocks. He's aware of the jokers and the mimics. He's found the fakes - or they've found him. He's put himself in the den of temptations and he's been dazzled by the mundane. He's given himself over to the urges that come from some place that never thinks anything through and he's glad to have done so.
On a hiatus from These United States - one of the hardest working bands of recent times, Elliott has relocated to Denver, Colorado, and has cooked up a band to present stories that are more domestic in nature. They're stories that are indebted to years and years of foraging, or drifting around, of sleeping on floors, of missing out, of living it up, of feeling shitty and exhilarated all in the same day/same hour, of wasting time, of finding love, losing love and not recognizing it. They are stories that have come out of him after all of these years of exhausted eyes, all of the dancing on the blade of a knife (as he refers to it), plenty of rainy and wet days (one of them in wine country) and more than enough reasons to do it all over again and more than enough reasons to say to hell with it and stay in forever and for always.
Ark Life songs are what happens when you slap yourself a little bit, when you've come undone and then seen the makings of what might put the seams back in where they need to be. This recognition leads to something that many would recognize as renewal, but there's a recognition that it could lead back to some of those divots and another undoing. Elliott sings, "I gave you so much time to love me/Gonna have to leave you now," on the song, "Have To Leave You Now," thanking the one-to-be-ditched for the "crow's feet marching valleys to my brow," accepting the aged aggravation that's been caused. He continues, singing, "I can't be carrying on to the blue dawn repeating the same sad sounds," hinting that there's a chance to experience more than what he's been taking.
With three lovely lady voices (coming from Anna Morsett, Natalie Tate and Lindsay Giles -- along with drums from Ben DeSoto) singing soulful harmonies, we see that depreciation to quality of life is always subjective. It's always about what someone's willing to take or willing to accept. Here, once again, love is a culprit, a real twister, and it turns out that it's what's been desired all along, even when it's a damned mess.
*Essay originally published April, 2013