This past March, San Francisco punks Western Addiction released Tremulous, their first album in 12 years, on Fat Wreck Chords (order yours). Vocalist Jason Hall has now written us a track-by-track breakdown of the whole album. It’s worth reading and you can do just that, below.
Western Addiction are also touring this summer with their labelmates Night Birds. That tour includes a Jersey City show on July 27 at Monty Hall.
Night Birds also have a run with the band Love Songs that includes a Brooklyn show on July 14 at Cape House. Tickets for Cape House and Monty Hall go on sale Friday (5/12). All dates are listed below.
Western Addiction’s track-by-track breakdown of Tremulous (by vocalist Jason Hall)
1. Clatter & Hiss
We’ve been playing this song in our live set for quite some time. We previously recorded a demo version for an E.P. and this is the final realization. I particularly like the bridge because it almost feels like a different song. Overall it is a nice balance of melody and toughness. The lyrics are a bit nonsensical because they date back to our first active period of the band but mainly center around general anxiety about mass destruction and the environment. I often take a concept from one world and place it into another to bring new meaning. For example, throwing salt in the air is something that sumo wrestlers do to cleanse a ring of evil spirits and it seemed like an awesome visual to represent throwing your hands up in frustration and despair. The title came from a line within Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential. I greatly respect him as an authentic person. And best of all, he loves punk and rock n’ roll. A first hand witness to the Stooges, Johnny Thunders, etc. What a wonderful pocket to be in the know.
2. Family of Boys
I was reading a story about Freddy Mercury and how open and loving he was, in addition to being an incredible singer and showman. He basically threw all regard to the wind in terms of feeling everything life had to offer, regardless of the consequence. It was also a reminder of what a gift living in San Francisco was for me as a person who desperately needed some evolving. There is every type of person here and I quickly learned that it is not my job to judge anyone, but to try and love everyone, feel empathy and see life from their point of view. I think one of the big problems in the world is the basic understanding of people that are different from you. Once you know someone personally, there is no turning your back on the human spirit. I also love the title of this song. People are a bit put off when they hear it. It’s unsettling and unnerving to some.
3. Masscult, Vulgarians and Entitlement
I wanted to have a song that started with a chorus, just like Social Distortion. I think the chorus has a really nice vocal melody that I’m proud of. I tried to channel the song “Shut You Down” by Motorhead off the 1916 album but I don’t know if it entirely worked. This is about being able to walk through this horrible world and somehow ignore the suffering. It’s about our endless cycles of war, seeing humans as disposable, subterranean creatures, corrupt officials and the fragility of life. It’s also about the decline of my city and the sense of general entitlement that keeps people divided and promotes financial inequality. I’m definitely from the “all boats rise” camp and I just can’t understand why everyone can’t have a little versus some people having it all as others starve in the streets. It also references those television singing competitions (“minstrel shows for deafened jays”) which I just don’t care for. People always assume that I watch these shows because I “like music” but this is the farthest from being in a band and “music” that I understand.
This song is very special to us because it features one of our favorite singers, Todd Kowalski, from one of our all-time favorite bands, Propagandhi. They are the living embodiment of everything I respect and strive for as a human. I want to be a better person because of them. It is an homage to The Four Horsemen by Metallica. Each verse begins with a group vocal and it is fairly aggressive. This song also highlights anxiety about the state of the world and the environment. It was originally called “Taedium Vitae,” which is Latin for “the weariness of life.” I quite like the line “You’re cynical is what they say, how could there be any other way.” How cynical.
5. Ditch Riders
I drove my family absolutely mad trying to figure out the intro to this song. I’m not the strongest vocalist in terms of actual singing but I tried pretty hard on this record and this was challenging. Similar to Cognicide, I will have a theme for a song and the theme is usually exemplified by a character. In this case, the character is an actual real person who was a local country western star in my hometown. He sang classic cowboy songs in the style of Hank Williams Sr. on a public access show. He was a real life, vintage cowboy and always looked like he was enjoying himself. My brother and I watched his show, talked about his music and even looked for him around town. The spirit of this song is about pursuing what you love no matter what. It was interesting to put a twist on this idea by imagining the real life insecurity and resentment of never quite making it but not letting anyone know. “Ditch” references my hometown which was on a ridge in a county known for “methamphetamines.” I really like the breakdown in this song. It is far from ground-breaking but it embodies a classic punk song where there is no choice but to pit. We call this type of part a “grandma puncher.” It’s so powerful that you had no choice but to punch your own grandma. Sorry grandma, it was the song, not me. That sounds horrible. I would never punch my grandmother, I love her, but you get the idea.
My wife’s family is Irish Catholic and I attend church on the big occasions and I guess I’m an amateur ethnographer as it’s happening. I realize people are quite opinionated about church, and oftentimes closed-minded, but I do like classic renaissance art, I like music and singing and all the stories at church sound like one big black metal song to me. It’s incredibly fascinating and I try to realize that the point of it is helping others even though people often lose sight of this and use it in the name of unsavory behavior and judgement. I guess I try to take the good aspects of it and leave the divisive parts behind. This is quite odd but there is always one man in church that is absolutely riding the lightning and just trying to maintain a normal life but it’s obvious that it’s just not working. He’s slightly sweaty, his clothes are ill-fitting, he may or may not have been up for a week straight and just looks nervous and uneasy. I’m not trying to make light of someone struggling, it’s just an observation that I keep recognizing. Maybe this person’s vice is drugs. Maybe it’s women. Maybe it’s something far worse. A “honeycreeper” is a type of bird but it seemed like a perfect description of this person that is dancing with downfall. In the end he’s just trying to be a good person like we all should be doing. I love the blast beat at the beginning and the trippy Fugazi bridge. This is quite a departure of sound for the band and I’m proud of it.
7. Righteous Lightning
This is actually a very old song with an updated chorus. I don’t want to say who it’s about because it is just plain awkward and unnecessary. Again, these are characters carrying out a theme, which is being attracted to someone you ultimately can’t stand. I’m a firm believer that the smartest person in the world is absolutely helpless when it comes to love. There is no logic, there is no reason. It chooses you and sometimes you behave absolutely terribly. There is some sadness in realizing that you want to make something work but you just don’t have the ability to do so. I was reading The Sun Also Rises by Hemmingway on our European tour and they kept saying things like “oh rot” and I found it so funny and peculiar. One thing I always do is put in too many words and syllables. Our producer, Joey Cape, was really great in helping me realize and remedy this and the song is a perfect example. Righteous Lighting is another obvious nod to the masters, Metallica.
8. Red Emeralds
Our songs are pretty weird and I sometimes wonder why I can’t just make a normal song with a normal topic. This is my first attempt at a real love song. I wrote this about my wife who I greatly respect as a caring, giving individual. She is incredibly private and would absolutely hate that I’m even discussing it. One thing no one in the music world acknowledges is the person maintaining the family while you’re driving a van through the night from some crappy club. Watch any big music documentary, like the Johnny Cash movie or the one about Bob Marley and there is always an unsung, rightfully bitter hero in the background and I completely understand why. It’s actually not fair. Therefore, we do what we can to play music and also celebrate the people behind the scenes who keep the machine running. This song was originally called “Parisian Gore” (a genre of horror film) which is a metaphor for public affection, which is highly frowned upon, ha ha. I make a poor attempt at speaking French and I had to ask Paul, the former bassist of toyGuitar, to make sure I had the proper translation. Ultimately this song is about having someone that will stick by you, even when you have nothing.
9. Humming Bars of White Light
I often get ideas from completely unrelated places and this came from a children’s book. I imagined these humming bars of white light as some type of god-like structure that people worshipped for no apparent reason. The collective intelligence has degraded so tremendously that it made sense to worship these glowing rods. Similar to Taedium, the masses would rather worship something so false like greed, war, the destruction of our habitat than salvage our fellow man. This song is about walking into fire. Sometimes I’ll bring a song to the guys and they will just shake their heads and go, “What the hell is this? This isn’t a song and these parts aren’t what any human with any proper sense of music would deem acceptable.” This is an example of that. I wrote it as a song that never repeated an idea. Luckily the guys helped shape it. They are incredible at translating what I cannot properly express. The opening riff was more robotic until Tony made it sound like something that Stillwater from Almost Famous would play. It’s like a dirty classic rock riff in a hardcore song. I love it.
10. The Rockery
We’ve had a few arguments over the years but nothing like what this song made us go through. It was a true divisive moment in the band and I can understand why the guys get frustrated with me. I wrote the intro riff without any sense of time and they just said, “Dude, this doesn’t even fit into an 8 count, what the hell is going on, and why does the intro sound like Kickstart My Heart?” However, we wrestled this into a song that I’m very proud of. I wanted the verses to sound like a James Brown call and response. Again, this is something I dream up but not very realistic or executable in real life. I love the blazing solos at the end by Kenny and T. It’s very simple but the song is about being thankful for music and as silly as it sounds, thankful for rock and roll and the people who like what we like. It was inspired by a trip to St. Jude Children’s hospital in Memphis. There were small children with cancer roaming the halls. And they were tough. I guess I felt small and guilty that children were fighting for their lives and I was worried about the petty aspects of life. It was a grounding moment. I won’t forget them and I admire their bravery. Memphis is also the home of Sun Studios which I visited. To stand in the same space as my all-time favorite singer, Johnny Cash, was truly magical. I breathed in the ghosts and realized I was lucky.
11. Your Life is Precious
This song is very special to us for a number of reasons. It is about our friend, David Jones, who passed in 2015. Ken and Chicken played in Enemy You with Dave and Chicken had a big hand in helping shape this song and making it better than it was. Tony, and our new bassist, Mitch, were also great friends of his. Dave was a truly kind soul and a restless spirit. I loved his intensity and strange behavior and absolute worship of music. Dave and I would talk about Simon and Garfunkel and Jesus and Mary Chain in excruciating detail. In fact, when Paul Simon’s last record came out, I saw him on one of the late night shows and immediately had an urge to tell Dave about it but I couldn’t, because he was gone. Sometimes I get so upset that it had to turn out that way but other times I feel he’s finally at peace. Every single word of the song is true. I did write him a letter when he was going through a rough time in the past and I did make his mom cry when I told her how special her boy was at his memorial. I’ve saved that line “Sound good like music in a record store” for years. That’s when music sounds best and it’s an incredibly warm feeling. This was the opposite of that. It’s the hardest song I’ve ever had to make and I’m thankful for my bandmates and all the experiences we’ve had together and our chance to just know Dave.
Thanks so much for reading this and checking out our new songs.
Night Birds — 2017 Tour Dates
July 14 Brooklyn, NY- Cape House*
July 15 Washington D.C. – DC9*
July 27 Jersey City – Monty Hall^
July 28 Phiadelphia – Boot & Saddle^
July 29 Cambridge – 55 Bishop Allen Drive^
* – w/ Love Songs
^ – w/ Western Addiction