Not two days ago I published a review of ‘Waging War‘ the upcoming album of Toronto-based band New Row, set to drop on the 25th! I was lucky to get that sneak peek at the full album before release. I even managed to get some words out of the band about the work they’ve been doing. There’s something about getting a little insight into the work that really opens up an album to some fun discoveries. So, let’s dig in!
Swept: What is your writing process? Do you all get together and jam, or do you all bring separate things to the table?
There are three main routes. Some songs like ‘Our Song‘ or ‘Waging War‘ start with Bewlz figuring out a song on acoustic. Then as a band we unpack some of the quite complex stuff he does on acoustic into guitar lines, and structure the song out of that – it’s a lot of fun as most of the huge guitar lines in these songs have started with subtle things he’s created on acoustic, and then we make them big and build an entire song out of them. Some songs are brought in wholesale by Tim as he does a lot of writing of lyrics, chorus and arrangements all instinctively – he says he gets ‘bolts from above’ and the entire song just kind of ‘appears’. But the best is when we work it out together. ‘SandSlide‘, ‘Let Go‘ and ‘Dreamtime‘ are the best examples of this – Jim brings in a killer riff, Tim adds either a verse or chorus, or a weird key change, Steve does some lyrics, and Troy really makes it move.
Swept: Let’s talk about Waging War. What made you decide to name the album after this specific track?
WW has always been a big song for us, but due to the nature of playing live, where everyone wants upbeat stuff, we haven’t played it as much as it deserves. We’ve always seen it as a signature song, and I feel like it’s an organizing thought for the rest of the album. WW is a Big Idea, and while we don’t want to go all ‘Pink Floyd’ about the album concept, the album is definitely structured to illustrate the highs and lows of life, love, and much else. It’s about making a fight of it – taking a stand every day whatever it takes.
It starts with ‘BINARY‘ and ‘BELONG‘, which are both companion pieces to WW, kicking off the battle with squalls of rage and anger, but they show what’s coming next with shards of hope. ‘Male Order‘ and ‘Home‘ are more introspective. While dealing with similar themes of alienation and loss, ‘HOME‘ and ‘MALE ORDER‘ raise the possibility of salvation – and continue to ask the question whether you can save yourself or if you need a savior to do it for you. I think we all find ourselves asking this at some point. Beams of hope and joy then emerge – ‘OUR SONG‘ is Bewlz’ vision of cosmic love, a transcendent moment that for one gasping moment shows the peaks that might be available if we can burst through the clouds. As the album lightens we have the humor of ‘SANDSLIDE‘, with Bewlz alternating between farm-boy and diamond miner in the chase for an elusive melody – one he is still searching for in ‘DREAMTIME‘, though this time through a fog of alcohol, weed and phone messages from strange girls. After the dismissive irony of ‘THINGS YOU SAY‘ we finish with the pathos of ‘STARS‘, whose final line, drenched in double-meaning, fails to resolve the emotions in defiant fashion, eternally questioning.
Well, that’s what we think anyway
That final line, since none of you readers will have been able to hear the song just yet, is as follows: “Light the night sky, with me. We’ll be the stars.”
Swept: What is the track Waging War inspired by? What’s it about?
Bewlz writes: The song WW is a manifesto of liberation from a relationship that begins in passion, asphyxiates into addiction, and results in self-loathing that blocks the potential of either party leading to a mutual crisis of identity.
Swept: Do you have any upcoming gigs?
We actually took a bit of a break, well – a long break – from playing live while recording and mixing, so we’re actually a bit rusty. We are starting back with some semi-acoustic shows. We’re calling them “NEW ROW – Hollowed Out” as Jim and Tim will be playing their Gretsch and Haggstrom hollow-bodies with no effects. Then we’ll be getting some full-volume shows together as soon as we can after that. For anyone familiar with what’s left of the Toronto live music scene, playing live in this town can be quite a dispiriting experience – since we started 3 years ago literally half of our regular venues have closed, and many others seem to have ‘changed direction’.
Having spent several years in Toronto, playing the bar scene, even as a solo musician, I can attest that the live music scene has been having its issues for sure. I can think of several places I used to play that have shut down as well. Plenty of arts to be had in Toronto and plenty of people getting involved…it’s just not always easy to build on any sort of foundation. It’s like building on a pile of sand.
Swept: What are your plans for right after you make the album public?
I don’t know – we’ve really been targeted on the completeness of this album for a long time, so there’s a bit of a void in where we’re going – I feel like we spent a lot of artistic credit on the record – maybe a lot of artists feel this after a big release. I think we’ll do another show in Chicago where there’s still a really vibrant music scene going on – a lot of people will turn out to hear indie music in that city, as we found out last time we were there. We’re hoping for some support from Canadian radio to get the album out, but we’ll see!
It’s always saddening to think about Canadian artists feeling that pull South in order to find the audiences they need. Especially when based in the metropolis that is Toronto. One might think that it would be fairly easy to get by, but the Toronto arts scene really is full of many niche markets and those niches have mostly been created by artists who couldn’t find solid ground to build their foundation in the first place. Fingers crossed that one of these markets opens its doors to New Row and their kickass new album ‘Waging War‘!