With their third album, Paper Moon, Kansas Bible Company tightens its approach, adding pop hooks and sharply focused songwriting to a sound that was once wildly experimental. Kansas Bible Company haven’t lost the unpredictable edge that pushed albums like Hotel Chicamauga into Frank Zappa territory, but Paper Moon shines a light on the melodic core that occupies the center of their music.
“We were listening to pop music by bands like The Beatles and Wilco,” says bassist Nathan Morrow. “We wanted to focus on good pop writing, then make those songs a little bit weird and interesting by adding different textures. Whereas before, we’d start with the textures and then figure out the song, we decided to do the opposite here. We wanted to make sure we could play the song on an acoustic guitar first.”
Recorded and produced by Skylar Wilson (Justin Townes Earle, Andrew Combs) during the band’s fourth year in Nashville, Paper Moon finds Kansas Bible Company dealing with a rapidly growing hometown and a revised band lineup. It’s an album about change — about looking back on the past; taking stock of the present and making decisions that will affect your future. The group’s three songwriters all approach those themes from different angles, resulting in an album that remains focused while still covering a wide range of ground.
“It deals with a changing landscape,” says trumpet player Charlie Frederick. “We had 11 guys in the band when we came to Nashville, and we all of us moved into the same house. Over the process of writing Paper Moon, some people left the band. I think changes like that are happening not only with our band, but with our audience and our city.”
Glide Magazine is premiering “Back in the Day” off Paper Moon (below) a emotive track with hints of jazz and sly soulful vocals. If there ever was a misleading band name Kansas Bible Company is it, as they usher in a sound that is more Kansas Experimental than what their conservative name might otherwise suggest. Charlie Frederick (Vocals/Trumpet) shared a few thoughts with us on this track that would makes for an Ira Kaplan or Jeff Tweedy double-take.
What is the song about lyrically?
Now I don’t want to give too much away because I like the idea of someone listening to a song and imprinting their own experience on to the song. I know I wrote the song and it means something very specific to me, but it could mean something very different to Joey in San Diego and that unique interpretation is very important to me in any kind of art, whether it be music or painting or whatever. That being said, the gist of “Back in the Day” is a romantic relationship that lingered through late high school into young adulthood. It was something that seemed to only work out during brief moments when we were in the same place together. It’s that reminiscence of younger love, summer love.
Stylistically, what influenced this song? Were they any influences that came into play with “Back in the Day” that maybe don’t exist elsewhere on the record?
As far as stylistically, when I wrote this song I had Yo La Tengo in mind, specifically the record I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, which I was listening to quite a bit at the time. There are a couple songs on that record where the bass really stood out to me and the rest of the instrumentation seems to ebb and flow around that. I’m not sure if we pulled it off, but there is also an atmospheric quality to a lot of those songs and that was something I tried to stress to the rest of the band when we were recording.
What was the process of creating this song (writing and recording)?
I wrote this song playing the bass in my bedroom. Once the rhythm section was fleshed out I sat down with Jimmy and Snyder to work out a cool verse horn part, kind of a bop bop bop, with Two Against Nature in mind and then the bridge was a fun kind of “soli” if you will. The horns lay back most of the song and then have this sectional piece that’s really pretty and opens up. Maybe that’s the epiphany in the main character’s mind.