Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
Much is made of the quintessential discussion points of life and death throughout the history of seminal Sacramento, Calif., emo band Far. Led by singer/songwriter Jonah Matranga, who went on to produce even more seminal emo when he started his solo project Onelinedrawing, giving Dashboard Confessional a very precise blueprint to cheat off, the band builds itself around very intense and very serious thoughts of when we're living and when we're doing something less than living. It could refer to dying, but more often than not, in listening to the words that Matranga pens, we get the feeling that being dead and dying don't carry all of that permanence. These just happen to be conditions - no less serious - but situations that can be fixed if the winds and minds are right. While there's talk of dying in Matranga's words, those are just like the toothpicks stabbed down into club sandwiches, holding everything in place for at least a little while. The idea of death holds everything together for a good long while and it gives everything that comes before purpose, but it can be detrimental and actually lead to less living, even a subtraction of it all. As he thinks about "Bury White," one of his group's older songs, from its second album, "Water & Solutions," Matranga offers this explanation, "Some UK mag got it right when they picked this lyric out to indicate that we never were some mopey-ass emo band, even when that word actually meant something, before it was commoditized to death. This music is about getting through and getting up. Even when it sounds all mopey." It's mopey, and there's no getting around it, but most of the time, Far songs sound as if they are meant as some kind of dark encouragement to do better, to throw your hands up in the air and surrender to just getting through the thick and shitty times and getting on to the rosier ones. A line from the title track to the band's first album since the late 90s - "At Night We Live" - suggests the living dead sensation that we all feel from time-to-time, but even that can be shattered, busted up and conquered. Matranga sings, "At daytime we're dead/At night we live," and even when the last half of the lyric is followed by the word "alone," we can take it as some minor victory or that the character is at least getting to do whatever they really want to be doing. This death and life thing is a constant, but that's because it seems as if Matranga is a naturally born thinker and someone who might find a lot to identify with in a passage from Michael Chabon's new book of essays, where he writes about the unavoidable failure that taints everything. Chabon writes, "My story and my stories are all, in one way or another, the same, tales of solitude and the grand pursuit of connection, of success and the inevitability of defeat…Sometimes things work out…Success, however, does nothing to diminish the knowledge that failure stalks everything you do. But you always knew that. Nobody gets past the age of ten without that knowledge." Life, in a Far or Matranga song, is not always about success and failure - on the surface - but it is when you think about life as one and death as the other, married together like two hissing cats. One we strive to maximize and the other we strive to delay and then eventually make painless and successful. Matranga sings, "Like everyone, we all die/We all live on," and he seems to always want us to live with that thought.