Blood On the Harp’s single “My Note To You” is a moving reflection on friendship, loss, and grief. “My Note to You” rides a laid back communal tableau of banjo arpeggios and train beats reminiscent of Dylan’s “wild mercury sound” on Blonde on Blonde. Lead singer Miguel Olascuaga pleads, “it’s another long night / another sunrise without you / when the drinking starts the hell takes over”. Blood On The Harp deliver a single that’s a part-party, part-wake, with heaps of Southern Gothic charm packed concisely into three minutes and thirty seconds.
Blood On The Harp’s Ghosts Vol. 2 will be released on June 1st.
SC: Tell me about these lyrics: “The rain is falling on the mourners head / will the memory of my smile help them to forgive / When they find me in the morning I’ll be dead”
MO: This is very difficult for me to explain without the social frown that comes with anything suicide related, this song is about a really close friend of mine that fell victim to her depression.
The end of suffering, minus absolution, I want the pain to end, but the shame of consequence lends no comfort towards the aftermath of my decision. We all want to be remembered for our sincerity and kindness, not the mental illness, especially not one that carries much ridicule from our peers. Even after death we fear social response and judgment. It’s much easier to say that there’s always help, but help isn’t always what someone in that state of mind needs, “help” is the generic dollar store version of Tylenol for cancer.
SC: I love the break between the first chorus and the second verse. Can you tell me about that dynamic choice?
MO: It felt very atmospheric, a sweetness that reminded me of her, gentle and patient. The folks in Blood On The Harp write beautifully, and everyone does something vitally important to make the song feel right, not only for me, but for themselves and how it translates to them; everyone feels it completely and in return makes us one.
SC: A lot of these songs are about resurrection or the un-dead - “Woke Up Dead” or “Cursed By Love” and this song is pretty final in its depiction of death. Can you comment on that?
MO: It’s no secret that death is my topic of choice, but it’s because I’ve dealt with a lot of it and refuse to let their memories fade. I hold it in and over-obsess, being OCD1 has it’s benefits oddly enough, its a cup half empty, half crazy thing.. The song is final in its description of death, the exuberance of her life is memorialized and explained in a way I hope everyone can relate to. It’s not up to us, the living, to cast judgment upon the dead and make our grievences more important than the meaning or value of their life.
SC: Tell me about writing “My Note To You”?
MO: I had spoken to my friend that had moved away to California, she had been there about a year and was feeling a bit blue. After hours of talking on the phone I could tell her demeanor was in the positive, we ended on a great note, or at least that’s what I felt. This being back in the days of MySpace, I had visited her page early the morning after, in her “about me” section she had wrote “Thank you Miguel for being there, I wouldn’t have made it this far without you.” I remember thinking to myself, what a badge of honor it was to have had the chance to change a friend’s life, how in love with the notion of “being there” I was. At around noon that same day, her father and brother walked in my shop and told me she had taken her life the night before, I was in complete shock, and so you see… Help goes way past the notion of listening, or the understanding of the weight and darkness someone feels, she wasn’t looking for my help, she was preparing me for what was coming next, she was planting the seed, leaving me with the laughter and love I had spent so many years admiring, not the sorrow and weight of her decision to leave. Sacrifice has many layers, as I’ve experienced.
SC: What’s next for Blood On The Harp?
MO: We’ve been talking about a music video for one the tracks off the new record. We are presently speaking with a few folks about the creative process, and hope to have that finished by the end of the year. We’ve been writing a lot and trying to stay busy with booking. With Wildwood Revival approaching, we are preparing ourselves for the biggest show we’ve ever been a part of and just want to make our mark. I can’t stress how important is to let everyone know that Blood On The Harp is a six piece band, although it was my writing that brought us together, its everyone’s input and co-writing that has kept us together, it’s “We”, not I.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
MO: By just simply writing and never giving up, dedication and support from one another lends to more fruitful relationships. If I had to mention a few that I’ve really gained inspiration from lately, you wouldn’t have to look any further than Evan Stepp, Ben Trickey, and Casey Hood. Atlanta continues to blow my mind, it's a city that provides you with all the material you could ever need or want, good, or bad.
Thank you again for the chance to be heard, the chance to reach people beyond the melody and let them know that nobody is free from pain, or turmoil, constant support and unconditional love is all the tools we need.
The Tito’s "IDWTBA" is a powerful song about codependence decked out with AM transistor radio splendor. Lead singer Alex Lotito's vocals shift from croon to growl as he offers reflections—“apologies never seen to change a thing / I can sing pretty words but they never mean a thing”. Although IDWTBA has big singalong choruses, don’t be fooled by the track’s breeziness. The bittersweet lyrics about a relationship that has soured offer a heartbreaking narrative. However, this is all sweetened by organist Daniel Kirslis’ Hammond Organ which creates a soft soundbed you can ride towards some happier future.
Pick up a copy of Standard Electric Sessions EP here.
SC: I love the sentiment of the line “I believe our greatest fault comes when we forget to laugh”. Can you tell me a little about the meaning behind this?
AL: This song is essentially about sustaining a flawed relationship out of fear of being alone. The line about laughter is a bit sarcastic in this sense. Even when relationships have run their course it can be hard to let go. Sometimes it is easier to put on a smile, laugh, and shoot the shit like nothing is wrong. It’s not the healthy option, but it can be easier than facing facts. We all rely on delusions a little bit, right?
SC: Can you tell me a little bit about writing “IDWTBA”? How has your writing process changed since the last time we spoke?
AL: I spent a year in Sicily teaching English and I tried to write some songs when I was there. This was the first one I wrote when I got back. The melody actually came to me when I was in the bathroom. I started humming it, then I went and matched it to guitar. I kind of strung some words together to fit the melody and slowly some semblance of meaning started to take shape.
SC: What’s next for The Tito’s?
AL: Well, we released this EP a while ago and I think it’s time to start recording some new songs. We’re going to try to record some stuff at (our drummer) Zack’s house as he has a pretty decent set up. We’ve been writing some new songs this year and I’m really excited to capture these new sounds.
Other than that, we’re playing what might be our biggest show yet Friday May 11th opening for Cicada Rhythm at The Earl and then we play at Avondale Towne Cinema with The Last Tycoon and The Threadbare Skivvies. We’re also doing a little run through the South East in late June early July with stops on the Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina coasts.
Photo credit: Kati Balwin
skeleton's music is a soothing liniment made of empathy and insight. On “Mariposa” skeleton offers a fingerpicked pop devotional that includes dreamy woolgathering reflections about commitment and the transcendental possibility of now. Pedro’s Expressionist descriptions are finessed to their most poignant elements; “everyday when you awake / the orchestra all takes its place / your brain conducts a symphony / of muscle and bone, with each line pushing the narrative. skeleton joined me for a brief chat about inspiration, songwriting, and how fortunate we are to experience love.
Pick up of a copy of skeleton was on the radio here.
SC: This song shifts quickly from meditative to declarative (“love make me blind”) can you tell me about this choice?
PLdV: It's always difficult for me to keep a song slow. This song is the latest example of this struggle. The sonic story still had somewhere to go, and I couldn't help but take it there.
SC: I love the lyrics “Cause everyday when you awake / the orchestra all takes its place / your Brain conducts a symphony of muscle and bone”/ and you know I’m not alone / grace take make home” Can you tell me about writing them? How did you devise metaphor?
PLdV: Mariposa is a song that's about being in awe of someone or something. In this case, it's about a lover whom I found to be incredibly graceful. Her movement was always deliberate and even in her stumblings she was elegant. Something as simple as saying her name would have her crane her slender neck and look at me—and these moments would always leave me alight. The mechanisms in place to produce such grace were so complicated and yet simple—sinew bone muscle etc all working in perfect concert.
It's grateful, too. The overcome odds of meeting someone like that here on the infinite expanse of space/time are something to hold precious.
So, it's a love song. It's an awe-song, and an "aww" song, but ultimately a love song. I love you, you're something precious and rare, and I'm so glad you've managed to flutter down to be next to me, you mad mechanism of beauty.
SC: Can you tell me about writing “Mariposa”?
PLdV: Writing this was easy because it was just a gut-check. Each line would ask that I check it against my feelings and it would be true.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
PLdV: My community of songwriters is great and I'm pumped to have other local tunes to listen to.
Adelaide Tai’s latest offering “Blue” is an evocative patchwork of montages about whiskey soaked nights and missed connections. The narrative is interspersed with dynamic shifts highlighting its gossamer accompaniment. It’s a song that evokes Cat Power and Ryan Adams lovelorn anthems. “Blue” ends with a marvelous turnaround; the speaker’s eyes—which were clouded by smoke in the first verse—are now brimming with starlight as they reflect on the end of their relationship. It’s a watercolor reverie. Adelaide joined me for a brief chat about songwriting, repetition, and process.
You can download a free copy of “Blue” here.
SC: I love how this is a song that moves in images—blue eyes, white shirt, etc. Can you tell me about the use of the visual in this song?
AT: Blue is a scrapbook in song form. In processing an event or relationship I recall a collage of visuals. The object’s textures and colors serve as a raft in a sea of abstract feeling. The melody, I hope, strings the images together in order to create a story.
SC: There’s a lot of repetition of eyes and seeing throughout “Blue”. Can you tell me a little about that?
AT: When I wrote this song I was thinking about how you can have such a strong connection with a person that it feels cosmic and at the same time have an impossible time communicating with them in an earthly way. That’s what “Starlight in your eyes” refers to—a cosmic connection only accessed through the eyes and the soul, but any time you try to reach one another some other way it is a disaster.
The eyes are the subject and the voice in the song. As a subject it is powerful—the focal point about which the action moves around. As the voice, it has surrendered—a witness to the experience and at the same time unable to affect change. This is the sense I had in writing the lyrics, a sense of being at the mercy of an outside force and numb to it.
SC: I love the biting turn in the chorus of “you’re gonna bring me down / right where I wanted to be”. Can you tell me about this chorus?
AT: If where you are is down, that’s where I want to be also—that’s the idea. It turns out in real life that’s not a recipe for success :)
SC: What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day? Or wait for inspiration?
AT: I usually write while I’m practicing. Inspiration finds me usually when I already have the tools handy.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
AT: I am most inspired by everyone’s varied process. There’s not one way to write a song and I love to see how my friends begin in a place that I wouldn’t think of—like starting with structure vs. melody, or planning the chorus before the verses. It helps me to be free.
Book Club’s hand woven pop songs feature imaginative music with inventive lyricism. On “Space Between the Days” songwriter Robbie Horlick offers touching meditations on the diurnal cycle, juxtaposed with musings on a relationship. Horlick’s lyrical devotional is complemented with banjo plucks and intermittent train beats that evokes a charmed morning budding with a sense of the immediate and the possible.
Pick up a copy of Dust of Morning here.
SC: There’s repeated images of morning, dreams, awake, peace throughout the song—can you tell me about this choice?
RH: I wish I could say something eloquent here. I mean, I could, but it'd be a little bit of Monday-morning quarterbacking. I'm not sure I had all of those words and themes in mind when I started writing the song. Honestly, the lyrics to this song were written very quickly, and the only thing I knew when I started writing was that I wanted it to convey the heaviness or ambiguity of what can seem so mundane if we don't look too closely at it.
SC: The title “Space Between the Days” suggests night—yet the songs scenes are in the morning—can you tell me about this choice?
RH: Space Between the Days suggests night? I actually never thought of it so literally. I see the "space" between days as something much smaller and harder to measure, more a feeling than a time. So I guess I never noticed that it was set in the mornings and suggestive of night. I appreciate that perspective though. Who knows? Maybe my subconscious was thinking that all along.
SC: Can you tell me a bit about the dynamic shift between the verses and the chorus? Do these relate to the reflective themes in the song?
RH: Definitely. I wrote all the words at one time, and set it to music a little bit later, but I remember thinking how naturally the chorus chords and words seemed to fit together. I think reflective is a good word for the verses, and I actually think the chorus is a bit reflective . . . of that reflectiveness. If that makes sense. When I say, "if the dust of morning shakes / itself off you in great escapes / it will return to say it's peace / rearranged but thick as thieves", it's like the chorus is meant to reassure the verse. Like every day is the same dust, but different, gathered up and shaken off, and there's comfort in the pattern, even if it's full of doubt or questions.
SC: What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day? Do you write on a schedule?
RH: I don't really have much of a writing schedule. Sometimes I enjoy getting up early, drinking coffee, and busting out the guitar and notebook – before all the distractions of social media checks and email etc. I think my thoughts are more pure when I haven't had to fight them through distractions. But that's a tough discipline. And also, there are always distractions, so I try and think of writing more as an exercise too – one I should be able to do without a magical time or place to channel that energy. Recently I've been writing words during the day, in random coffeeshop sessions, and working them into music with the guitar at night. But really, wherever I can find little patches of time to think or work on something, I will. I might write a song in 10 minutes, and another might take me 10 years. It's fun not knowing how it's all gonna go.
The Sound Connector is an online magazine for songwriters. We feature songwriting challenges, monthly interviews, and the opportunity to discover new songwriters. We are interested in all things related to the craft of songwriting.
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