Posts in Merge Records
Jenn Wasner, Wye Oak

There's no doubt in my mind that Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak would be lost without her phone. It's the key to her songwriting. That phone is where she documents all her observations for the day.  She's constantly in touch with her surroundings, and all of her lyrical and melodic ideas that come from this connection go into the phone's voice recorder for later, when she actually writes a song.  Wasner says her "switch is on all the time . . . if you're always looking around and noticing your environment, it's a big help."

What impresses me most about Wasner is that she calls herself a writer, period. And she knows that being a writer takes hard work. Like any good writer, she knows that the time spent actually crafting her words is only a small part of the writing process.  Wasner recognizes that writers are always writing, even when they aren't.  That is, her writing process takes place when she's driving, walking, shopping, anything. During this time, she's inventing ideas, trying out lines, just doing everything except putting pen to paper. In fact, she approaching her writing process with this wonderfully simple mantra: "living is work."

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Patrick Stickles, Titus Andronicus

There were only a few times during my talk with Patrick Stickles, singer and songwriter for Titus Andronicus, that our conversation felt like an interview.  Instead, it really felt more lit an upper-level lit seminar.  This is what we talked about: Camus, Faulkner, reader response literary theory, and whether a text has any inherent meaning.  The depth of our conversation reflects not just Stickles' concern with the songwriting process but the anxiety of being a writer and his concern with whether the audience (and by audience, I mean the people hearing or reading his words) understands his authorial intent. It takes Stickles months to finish a song, and indication of the care he takes to craft that message. The result is an album like The Monitor, a concept album loosely based on the Civil War and civil war: it's about both the historical event and Stickles' existential angst.

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Stuart McLamb, The Love Language

If you are expecting Stu McLamb, leader of The Love Language, to talk about all the drama that led up to his first album—you know, the breakup—you won’t find it here.  After the endless internet fixation on it last year, neither of us had any interest in revisiting that topic.  What we did talk about was how McLamb writes. And that’s an overlooked topic—but one that should be discussed, because the man can write a great melody. 

The Love Language’s new release is Libraries(Merge Records).   McLamb talks about the new release having a “beach vibe.”  We talked on the phone before the band was about to begin their tour in support of Libraries.  I was impressed by the focus with which he approaches the melody side of the writing process.  With McLamb, the melody always comes first, in two ways.  One, it’s the first thing he writes.  And two, it’s the most important part of the song.  To say he is meticulous in the crafting of his melodies would be an understatement.   In his own words, he “obsesses” over them.  

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