Artist Interview: Slaughter Beach, Dog
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Surprise released on Christmas Eve, At the Moonbase is the latest LP from Jake Ewald’s project Slaughter Beach, Dog. This new record is a departure from the slower and sometimes grungy style of 2019’s Safe and Also No Fear, and it brings a refreshed energy to the project. It feels like he’s experimented and removed a lot of barriers without sacrificing that familiar warmth that we’ve come to expect from SBD.
I spoke with Jake about the comparisons of their last two albums, and the narrative and influences behind At the Moonbase, before the band’s Valentine’s Day Weekend Performances on February 13th and 14th. Read up on our conversation below while you listen to the record.
We started by discussing pizza dough recipes, and eventually got to talking about the narrative differences in the last two releases. I said that At the Moonbase felt like an updated return to the original form that we heard on Welcome and Birdie, and that there was a personality to the album that was missing on Safe. He told me that “Narratively, Safe was a lot darker. I’ve talked to my wife about this a lot since the release and we’ve tried to notice people’s comparisons. It’s funny because I kind of go through phases of writing and then never do them again. So likewise, Safe still felt personal, just in a different way; like all my feelings expressed through disparate stories. I think at that time I had been getting really excited about reading and I wanted to do bigger narratives built up around emotions, like vignettes. With At the Moonbase, it was almost the opposite. Instead of building on abstract feelings, it was about memories and the feelings those memories elicited. I’d start from my own actual moments and then spin it. It’s more tangible and specific and detailed. Plus, since I was recording it on my own, there was less curating down from a larger base of maybe eighteen songs like we did with Safe and Also No Fear.” I agree with his mentions of detail and tangibility. I feel love from the narrative in this record; a intimacy that you only get when you know someone down to the minutiae of their person. The specificity in detail and setting nestle you into the perspective perfectly.
I asked Jake to speak a bit on the influence of “love” within the album, and questioned a certain recurring character, Annie, among the SBD discography. He chuckled a bit and then took a real long pause before saying, “My wife’s name is Jess, so no real Annie. I always turned away from writing like ‘Capital L Love’ songs because frankly they always felt cheesy. I guess there were some love songs on Birdie— but with these songs, I kind of giggled at the thought of writing honest love songs. Something that wasn’t just surface level feeling, but inspired by a kernel of someone that I’m truly in love with. It’s a mixture of personal and impersonal, and the first time that I chose a starting point that was my actual memory of falling in love with someone. It was a little comical at first, but I figured I’ve been doing this so long that there has to be a way for me to do it without comprising what I want out of it,”. I respect the honesty in the apprehension to write love songs for fear of being disingenuous. I feel the expression across At the Moonbase is far from insincere. It’s hard to convey personal truth in songs without the audience assuming that they’re getting the “real you,” but Jake truly puts a small bit of his own love into each song on this record.
We decided to move away from the narrative and talk about the music. Clearly there was experimentation with new instruments on this record, but the true payoff in my opinion is the change to a Lou Reed style of spoken prose vocals paired with a Walter Etc. style attitude. When I asked Jake about the variety of changes with this record, he said, “The variation is from not being in a position to chisel it down like we did with the last album. As far as callbacks to SBD go, the energy is the real reference. For Safe, I wanted to try some restraint and get something more tame. This time, it’s very much a feeling of ‘being a young man in a studio, using everything available’ again. It really stripped away any fear I had that this would stop being fun and new. I mean, I can have multiple sax solos and five layers of synth arpeggios if I want. Who’s going to stop me? I’m not worried about making everything fit this cohesive frame; it will happen naturally. I let the music lead that this time and just trusted my instincts and taste would arrange it without me having to push back.”
I think there’s a lot to be said about things occurring naturally in this record, especially in regards to the surprise release. The response to single hype and month long album release tension is variable at best and loses steam and interest in the age of twenty-four hour cycles. I asked Jake about the significance of the unexpected Christmas Eve release and he told me, “We were thinking about it over the summer once it was clear that 2020 was out the window and it just felt tough to follow a singles format when we’re not really a singles band. I don’t know– the whole structure has always felt weird to me. I feel like you lose a lot of excitement over like three months and when it finally comes out, you basically forgot there was a new album coming which is a bummer. It felt like it was better to try and capture that excitement in a single moment because that’s how I like to receive it. I think the most incredible part is that I knew that there were a bunch of people all listening to the album, front to back… all at once… all at the same time.”
Before we concluded our talk, I asked about the album cover and title. In regard to the artwork, Jake told me that he was the artist: “Over the year, I started drawing some sketches in my free time. When I was sorting through the pictures I originally wanted to use for the cover, nothing really felt right so I shifted over to the sketchbook and picked the line art you see now.” My last question was “Where, or what, is the Moonbase?” He laughed, but also hesitated before answering: “I– well, I don’t think I want to say, but I appreciate the ask. The Moonbase is where you want it to be.”
Make sure you check out At the Moonbase if you haven’t already, and tune in on Valentine’s Weekend for a solo performance from Jake on the 13th and the first full band performance together on the 14th. Access to both digital shows is $20 ($13 for one) and they’ll be playing the whole new record so stay in with your loved one and soundtrack a nice dinner at home with some Slaughter Beach, Dog. Link to tickets for show: https://noonchorus.com/
Luciano Ferrara | @LucianoRFerrara
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