“Fifteen Steps and Draw” is a laid back lo-fi gem that depicts the complicated context of Northern St. Louis—and beyond that—contemporary America. Rather than an endorsement or condemnation of 2nd amendment rights, Lolito’s sharp eye focuses in on what’s left unresolved by easy gun rights narratives. The song ends with a rhetorical question “who is afraid of you?” Musically “Fifteen Steps and Draw” utilizes a tight-four-piece arrangement that undulates with organ swells, guitar stabs, and snare shots to create a sound like Ray Lamontange dropping acid on Beale St.
You can listen to “Fifteen Steps and Draw” here.
SC: This uses a lot of repetition in the verse, e.g., “I still, I still / ain’t let my blood spill”. Can you tell me about that choice? Does it reflect a conflicted narrator? Can you tell me about the shift in tension between the verse and the bridge?
AL: The repetition is there mostly because that’s what the cadence of the verse calls for. The lyrics themselves, however, are about guns. I wrote the song when I was living in St. Louis. I moved to St. Louis in 2014 to teach High School on the north side. Up there, like a lot of places down here, gun violence is a complex, tragic issue. I’ve always found myself dismissive of pro-second amendment arguments. Something about old, white, good old boy senators, who I imagine live in nice neighborhoods, talking about how they need to protect themselves always rubbed me the wrong way. In St. Louis, I was working with a lot of people, kids and adults, who claimed to own guns and felt the need to protect themselves. I heard firsthand accounts of gun violence and knew people who were shot while I was living there. There’s a certain lawlessness in some parts of America where the state has failed and where on a personal level it is hard to argue with someone who thinks they’re safer with a gun. I tried to write the song about how guns can make us feel safe, but never really resolve the underlying insecurities that exist in the first place.
SC: What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Do you hold off for inspiration?
AL: I’m definitely more of a hold off for inspiration type of writer. I can’t approach songwriting like a full-time job. I can’t sit at a desk and whip something up on command. Melodies come to me sometimes when I’m washing dishes or waking up or using the bathroom. Really, anywhere. I try to capture the melody, recreate it on the guitar, and I go from there. With “Fifteen Steps and Draw”, I think I was cleaning my room when the melody came. It was real simple so I wrote it down. We ended up recording that song live in one evening. My friend, who is an incredibly talented producer, Thomas Avery, invited me over to help guinea pig some new equipment for a session he was doing with another band. I was floating through Atlanta at the time and threw together a little band the day of—Matt Pendrick played bass, Paul Stevens played keys, Zack Falls played drums. Those guys are good friends and great musicians, so I was fortunate to have that opportunity.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence you?
AL: I moved back to Atlanta about three months ago after two years in St. Louis and a year living in Sicily. In both of those places, I was pretty isolated. I knew musicians, but never had a “community of songwriters” the way I do in Atlanta. As a result, I was writing a lot of songs alone. I brought those songs back to Atlanta with me and I’m currently developing a new project tentatively called “The Titos”. We’ve built up a nice set list with the songs I wrote while I was living away. It’s been great playing with old friends-- Zack Falls and Ian Mastrogiocamo who I used to play with in the Space Time Travelers. Daniel Kirslis, who is a good friend with a great ear is also playing some keys with us. Paul Stevens has been helping out, too. We’re starting to really collaborate on the song writing process now, which is how I prefer to write in the first place. It really feels like the creative chakras are open in a way they haven’t been for years.
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