Track by Track: The Last Arizona / Everybody’s Worried About Owen – ‘Yerba Muerte’

Posted: by The Editor

The Last Arizona and Everybody’s Worried About Owen, both the projects of single singer-songwriters, are two rising stars in the indie rock world. So it makes sense that they’ve teamed up for a split, out today on Flowerpot Records. It’s called Yerba Muerte, and both artists talked to us about the process behind the writing of the songs and how the split came to be.

The Last Arizona shares of the split that

I reached out to Owen in late 2022 after we were featured on the same year-end list on Twitter, and days later we were on FaceTime discussing tour plans. It was an incredible opportunity, going on tour in May 2023 was the first time we met in person but we quickly meshed as friends and as artists and discussed plans to do this split while on that run. I started writing while still on the tour, and nearly a year later here we are. I collaborated on the recording of these tracks with Wes Meadows, who really helped bring them to life. Wes’s label, Flowerpot Records, is handling the cassette and digital release of this split as well, so we really couldn’t have done any of this without them.
Everybody’s Worried About Owen says,
Emma and I actually met over Twitter. She DM’d me, complimented on my music, and asked me if I was touring near Roanoke, VA, anytime soon. I responded telling her that I had never been on tour, and that I had no idea how to even start. A day after that conversation she started booking venues for our tour last summer. I had such an awesome time on tour with Emma, and she was there to help me through any first-tour issues that came up. On the road Emma was drinking a lot of Yerba Mate and one of us pitched Yerba Muerte as a name for a potential split. It was so fantastically dumb and perfect that we committed to making it happen, and a few months later came up with this!

While originally titled “So I Shotgunned A Beer And Listened To Snowing” and I was talked out of it by, well, everyone. So, “Shotgun” it is. This song is about all the friends and more than friends you meet on tour. I definitely wrote this song after developing a crush with someone I met while on tour and then going to the next city and being like “okay, I won’t see that person for months, they live hundreds of miles away, that sucks”. My favorite part of touring is meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends, and my least favorite part is the fact that the people I grow to love end up living so far away from me. This song is for that feeling of being long distance, of falling for people too easily, and for always being on the move. It is simultaneously such an incredible experience on the road, feeling connected to everyone you meet, and so isolating knowing that it is incredibly hard to find consistency in living that life.
I’m using no hyperbole when I say that this is probably my favorite song I have ever written. I wrote parts of this and the following two tracks on the same night back in early November. I was experiencing full isolation for the first time in quite awhile, and was going through a bit of a mental health episode. This is the second song that I’ve written about my funeral, and I’m not sure what that means, but it is something that I think about often. As a trans person, it is incredibly scary to not know how you’ll be remembered, what will be written on your headstone. This song was written, and on a short run with Wes Meadows back in November, I rewrote the lyrics immediately prior to my set. I performed the song a few minutes later, reading the words off my phone, and felt the most incredible release. Wes added the most amazing atmosphere with her additional instrumentation on this track that really took it to a new level for me.
This one is an amalgamation of a few lyrical ideas I had going for awhile. It explores the feelings of having to run away from situations, of feeling like life is coming at you too fast, and feeling like everything good is destined to end. I wanted this song to feel like it was a train nearly derailing, and Wes nailed it with the percussion and other instrumentation. It is a very emotionally charged song, and was tough to record, but it feels great to get out there. The last lines of the song (“Construction is over, tear it all to shreds again, betray your lover and hide your sin“) were actually the first lines I jotted down. I’m not sure I’ve ever written a song back to front before, but that was definitely the case here.
It felt fantastic to write. I have been called emo, indie, folk punk, etc over the years, and I definitely have influences from all of those genres, but I started writing music because I wanted to be a folk singer. My earliest writing influences were always towing that line of folk, even if branching into something else. I never hide the fact that I was very influenced by the stomp-clap movement of my middle-high school days. Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Of Monsters and Men, etc etc etc. The list always goes on. This song was cathartic, and the first song I’ve written in standard tuning in the last… three releases? That feels crazy to say, but it felt nice to write something that felt like a folk song again. This felt like a great closer to my half of the split before Owen turns it up to 11 on “Scatter Me!”

Scatter Me!
This is my personal favorite song on the split. This was the last song I wrote for the spit and I think it’s a really exciting look into where I’m going next as an artist. Lyrically, the song is a rallying cry to remind myself to take risks and to stop walking into rooms like I’m apologizing for being there. There’s a story in verse two about me accidentally spraying myself in the face with gasoline, which was what inspired the song in the first place. Nothing like being blasted with a flammable liquid to get you to take a step back, I guess.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously, I think it’s the best vocal delivery I’ve given on a track so far, there’s not much else to say I really love this tune. It’s a banger.

This was the first song I wrote for this split, and I’ve been waiting to share it with people for a while. First off, Chandler Swirl did an amazing job on the drums and it was awesome to get to work together again. The song started as a response to the wave of the anti-trans legislation we’ve seen in the last few years. I really wanted to drive home the beauty of gender-variation and make clear that anyone who pushes to eliminate it is a dangerous idiot who shouldn’t get to sleep comfortably at night. When I wrote this song I sent a voice-memo to Emma who pushed hard for it to be included on the split and I just hope that it resonates with whoever listens to it next.

Homebody Modifications

So ever since the pandemic I’ve gone through a few periods of unhealthy isolation where I’ve blinked and realized I haven’t left my house or spoken to a real person in days or weeks. There’s only so long you can rot-away in your house before the monotony of it seems inescapable. The house is too big, it’s too empty and it’s very unsettling.  My producer Daniel Arciniegas came up with the idea to record a bunch of room noise and add that into the mix which keeps everything atmospheric and spooky. In the end that’s what pushed this ahead of some other tracks I was considering for the split, and I’m glad I went with it because I think it works really nicely as a closer for this amazing thing Emma and I and so many other people have helped put together.

Yerba Muerte is out now.

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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