The National Lights are set to release their debut album, The Dead Will Walk, Dear, on February 27 through Bloodshake Records. The album is cohesive and stunning, filled with 10 beautiful, dark folk songs that creep around down by the river and come home with new secrets. According to their website:
“The National Lights is the primary song-writing project of Jacob Thomas Berns. Assisted by the arrangements Ernest Christian Kiehne Jr. (The Bland Allisons, Sonya Cotton), Jacob Thomas sets out on his full-length debut, The Dead Will Walk, Dear, to forgive the past while compounding its wrongs.
The National Lights marry traditional American folk stylings - acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins and lap-steel guitars - with beautifully hushed harmonies, and lyrics that owe as much to Flannery O'Connor as to the 1980's slasher film.”
The band sent me an advance copy of The Dead Will Walk, Dear last week, and it hasn’t left my cd player yet. I was interested in finding out more about the band at this exciting moment in their careers, and lead singer/songwriter Jacob Berns was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us here at Pop Headwound. Here’s what he had to say:
What inspired the album's dark subject matter?
The American Gothic genre, particularly the writing of Flannery O'Connor, is one that interests me a great deal. This was especially the case at the time I began writing the songs that would become TheDead Will Walk, Dear. Once that tone was established, and seemed to be working, it made sense to continue developing whatever was there.
Is there any actual narrative happening on the album, or is it more like a series of conceptually related stories?
There certainly is a story happening here, though it may be interrupted by a tangential ghost tale or two. The anonymous river that shows up in a number of the songs plays a major part in the narrative, but it occasionally flows off into other narratives as well.
It seems BloodShake Records is a close-knit group of musicians. How
did you all meet and decide to work together?
We all met at college. Chris and I had been in a band prior to the National Lights, and we had been friends since early our first year. Sonya and Chris began dating not too long after. It made sense that we would all work together, seeing as we all enjoyed the music each other was writing. I would like to think we all pushed each other as well, creatively, though I can really only say with any certainty that Chris, especially, was of great help to me.
Why was the album's release date pushed back several times over thecourse of 2006?
The easy answer would be to say I was overly insistent on how I wanted the finished songs to sound, more often than not to the added frustration of Chris (Kiehne), who was producing and arranging the album. Other factors did contribute to the release date being pushed back, though, such as we were in our final year of college and trying to graduate with respectable marks, and we also moved to a new city right before mixing began, which took up both time and energy.
The painting on the album cover really fits the theme of the songs. Where did it come from?
The cover on the album now was not actually my first choice. I ran into some trouble securing the rights to reproduce my initial choice, and after that I began searching for artists whose copyrights had long expired and whose work was now public domain, which was how I came across the current album cover. The image of what appears to be sirens in the water appealed to me and my idea of what the record was ultimately going to feel like. Unfortunately, I have no idea to whom to attribute the painting, which I suppose fits in with the anonymity of the notion of 'public domain.'
How much touring will you be doing to promote the record? Who will bejoining you?
The original plan was to do a national tour with my good friend Chris Maher, starting out in L.A. and leaving us in New York. But as is the case with all best laid plans, this one didn't work out, at least on my end. Chris will still be touring, to support his debut, and I ask everyone to go and see him play. He's a great performer and even a better dude.
Check out these 2 songs from the upcoming The Dead Will Walk, Dear: