Saintseneca’s Zac Little has been thinking a lot about memory. Not necessarily his memories, though they creep in often, too. Rather, he mulls over the idea of memory itself: its resilience, its haziness, how it slips away as we try to hang on, the way it resurfaces despite our best efforts to forget.
Memory is the common thread running throughout the Columbus folk-punk band’s fourth album, Pillar of Na, arriving in late summer via ANTI- Records. Following 2015's critically lauded Such Things, the new album’s name is rooted in remembrance, referencing the Genesis story of Lot’s wife who looks back at a burning Sodom after God instructs her not to. She looks back, and God turns her into a pillar of salt. “Na,” meanwhile, is the chemical symbol for sodium. "Nah" is a passive refusal and the universal song word. It means nothing and stands for nothing. It is "as it is."
Like Lot's wife, Little cannot help but revisit where—and how—he grew up. Raised in church in southeastern Appalachian Ohio, he took up preaching when he was still a teenager, sometimes in small country settings and other times to congregations of thousands. But these days he's more interested in listening. And questioning.
Musically, Pillar of Na is Saintseneca’s most ambitious album to date, with Little aiming to incorporate genre elements he’d rarely heard in folk. “I wanted to use the idiom of folk-rock, or whatever you want to call it, and to try to do something that had never been done before," Little explains. "To reach way back, echoing ancient folk melodies, tie that into punk rock, and then push it into the future. I told Mike Mogis I wanted Violent Femmes meets the new Blade Runner soundtrack. I'm looking for the intersection between Kendrick Lamar and The Fairport Convention.”
“You're always going to be situated in the folk legacy,” Little continues, acknowledging his past recordings, which include three albums (the aforementioned Such Things, 2014's Dark Arc, 2011's Last) and three EPs (2016's The Mallwalker, 2010's Grey Flag, and 2009's self-titled). “But let’s move forward. I'm not trying to make the lost Velvet Underground B-side. I want to find something that has never been heard before, or at least go down trying."
Field Medic is the lo-fi folk project of Kevin Patrick. His first release on Run For Cover Records, Songs From the Sunroom, compiles material he’s recorded and released over two years from a small sunroom in San Francisco which doubled as his bedroom. At eighteen, Patrick discovered the music of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, who changed his perspective on what a song could be and led to him developing his own style which he describes as “freak folk/post country with an emphasis on finger style guitar and lyrics.”
Patrick initially embraced lo-fi because he felt that his home recordings were a truer method of expressing what he was creating than anything he could do in a studio. Drawing inspiration from new wave and rap, Patrick pushed the boundaries of what a folk song could be, incorporating new elements in each subsequent release from analogue drum machines to Casio keyboards to banjo. The immediacy of that recording process and the freedom of experimentation inherent within are central to Field Medic’s character, extending through his music to his freestyle, improvised mixtapes and his poetry.
The tracks on Songs From the Sunroom were recorded during a heightened creative period and released as an almost non-stop flurry of EPs, albums, and singles, all of which have been shared via Bandcamp since 2014. As Field Medic, Patrick has released every song he has ever recorded, a conscious decision summed up in his philosophy that “all expression is valid”. “I don’t believe in perfection, I learned that perfect wasn’t real” he explains, continuing “To me [the tracks on SFtS] aren’t demos, they’re the finished songs because no one was waiting on any other versions, so why would I?”
This past January, Patrick gave up his sunroom in San Francisco to travel around the country playing music. Along the way he has joined up with acts such as Pinegrove and The Neighborhood as well as appearing at Outside Lands 2017. The coming year will find Field Medic recording his debut full-length for Run For Cover Records and touring heavily.
Trace Mountains is the personal folk project of Northeast American songwriter, Dave Benton. The band was formed in 2013 and the current lineup features Jim Hill on guitar and synthesizer (Slight, Painted Zeros), Greg Rutkin on drums (LVL UP, Cende) and Sean Henry on bass. Trace Mountains' record, "A Partner to Lean On" is out now via the newly founded label, Figure 2 RC.