Occasionally, an artist finds a new sound, one they knew was right all along.
On their latest, Minneapolis quartet the Awful Truth unearth a vibe that had been bubbling underneath the surface all along. Glisten is genreless, living in both the past and present. The album stretches over decades, gathering bits and pieces in a curiously loose manner. Lead singer Brent Colbert writes the kind of music that sends you into big, dizzy daydreams, whether at a show or in your bedroom.
Ahead of the Awful Truth's album-release party Saturday at 7th St. Entry, City Pages caught up with Colbert to find out what it was like to work with Esmé Patterson and how synths played into the new LP.
City Pages: How do you feel the band has progressed since forming in 2014?
Brent Colbert: The sound has definitely reshaped as we sorted out the songs on Glisten. The biggest difference being instrumentation being more synth in this record, a shift that happened pretty naturally with these songs.
I would say the biggest fundamental change had to do with me bringing unfinished songs to Laurie [Geving], Stephen [Sokolouski], and Chris [Madden], and receiving more feedback and getting more help on arranging these new songs. Trying to make songs shorter, or try them faster, etc. There was more room for newness.
CP: Why release on cassette?
BC: I love the audio quality of nicely dubbed cassettes, and that they are inexpensive to sell. I think this record sounds best on cassette, and we really liked the tapes for our last record, Lakewater. Logistically, it's much easier and accessible for us than vinyl. We had CDs made, too, and it will be available on all digital platforms.
CP: How did you meet Esmé Patterson, and how did you come to work with her on "Blissed Out"? What do you feel she added to the song?
BC: I met Esmé at a show we played in 2014, where she was touring off the release of her Woman to Woman record. We hit it off pretty quickly, and I was really inspired by her songwriting. We kept up with each other and last summer she asked if I would be interested in the Awful Truth supporting her [tour in support of] We Were Wild so we did some dates with her in early August.
We had been playing “Blissed Out” already at the shows where I was supporting Esmé, and one night after a show she sang over it. I loved the harmony immediately. She's got a powerful spirit, and I think we bond on a soul level, her voice [and Stephen’s] added a really magical touch that I think makes the chorus sound somewhat whimsical and plays on the timing shift that happens.
CP: Why do you feel writing and recording took so long on this album? How do you feel at the end of such a long process?
BC: I'm really excited for it to be out, It's felt complete for a while now. The process was long and required more editing than anything I've done in the past. There was definitely an ebb and flow to this process.
Some of these songs feel like something entirely new to me -- “Do Right, Know You By Name” -- and I feel excited to write more after making these songs come to life. I'm not exhausted by this, but I am glad we don't have to sit on this release any longer than we are going to.
CP: Tell me about the song "Saturn."
BC: The sun orbits to the place it was at when you were born every 27 to 29.5 years, which is what a Saturn Return is. 2016 was my 27th year and it led to a lot of changes within myself. Some of them are quite personal and are still developing, but I suppose the song just comes out of a moment of acknowledging that change.
I think it's a time in your life where you are confronted with a lot of change and pass into a new chapter of existence. I feel good about the changes I am experiencing, but I think the song came out of a moment of feeling sadness about change and resistance. It was a challenge to record since it's so quiet and sonically quite different than the other songs. I'd like think it turned into a prelude for the other songs on the record.
CP: What other songs stand out to you on this album?
BC: “Do Right” certainly does, as one that is more synth-driven and the tone embodies a feeling that seems like a breakthrough in our sound. I really like how the groove developed and what Laurie and Stephens backing vocals do on this track. Also, this songs structure is just like two verses, a bridge, and a chorus and it's over, something is deeply satisfying to me about how the song plays out and ends with so much energy.
“Beam” also stands out to me as a really unique track. I find myself coming back to it and loving the hollow guitar sound, with a really steady rhythm section and a fuzzed-out cello part leads the song so beautifully, like some kind of Arthur Russell riff. This one is also unique because Laurie sings with me the entire song, she's really good at the deadpan harmonies and it works so beautifully on this track. It's hard for me to choose a favorite but I'm really proud of this track.
CP: What are you particularly proud of with this album?
BC: I'm proud of the record and the work we put into it, and I would say I'm particularly proud of the quality of the finished product. We've achieved a sound that I think we've been setting out to get to since we started, and that only feels clear to me now that we are about to release the record.
The Awful Truth
With: Strange Relations and Wetter
When: 8 p.m. Sat., Jan. 7
Where: 7th St. Entry
Tickets: $7-$10; more info here
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