When it came time to cut their new album, the members of LA-based roots rock band Jason Heath And The Greedy Souls had a lot on their mind. Like many of us in America, they were shocked by the results of the U.S. presidential election and left wondering what the future had in store. Their reflections on the divisive state of the country and all of the events that have led us to this point became the focus of the album But There’s Nowhere To Go, which is out on October 13, 2017 via Industrial Amusement. It is the band’s second album for Wayne Kramer’s label.
The record is a cry from the broken belly of the American Dream, where time, neglect, and corruption have taken their toll on this grand experiment called the U.S. of A. The music seems to rise from a restlessness that there’s nothing left to do but howl at the moon, and set out through the wilderness of the unknown in search of a new direction. But There’s Nowhere To Go builds on the same foundation of fiery roots-rock heard on their previous albums, a collection of songs that shows the band’s skills at creating a tight cohesive sound that hits the listener hard.
Today Glide is premiering the song “Postcards From The Hanging”, a forceful demand for us to remember that something is broken in this promised land that has been divided for 400 years and is a stark exposé on racism. The song carries a serious tone with a straightforward rock sound that feels as explosive and potent as the lyrical content. Most importantly, the song and its message come at a time when more artists should be speaking out about the social and political turmoil our country is currently bogged down in. Listen to the song and read out chat with Jason Heath below…
What is the story behind this song? What prompted you to put pen to paper to write it?
I was watching a DVD of this guy talking about American history and how we often think of the horrific crimes against African Americans in the early part of the 20th century (e.g. lynchings, hangings, etc.) as being committed in the darkness of night by just a few misguided zealots, when they were often done in the light of day with the entire town present and fully aware. In fact, not only were they aware, but it was practiced as some sort of macabre celebration with the family after church on Sunday in the town square. Participants would actually take photos with the hanging corpse and then send the photo out as a postcard and some would even cut off body parts for souvenirs. It’s hard for most of us to comprehend this level of barbarism and savagery, but it’s as much a part of our history as a nation as is apple pie, Babe Ruth, and the locomotive.
Walk us through how it was to work on this one in the studio. Any great stories about the process to share?
An interesting thing happened concerning the title of the song. We were working on this song and a song called “Dead Stars” with producer Harry Maslin – he produced “Station to Station” and “Young Americans” for David Bowie – and he mentioned that Bob Dylan was talking about the song “Desolation Row” and his connection to the lyrics of that song and the distance between then and now. And then Harry said something to me to the effect that I should understand about the lyrics. And I said I didn’t exactly know what he had meant by that. And then Harry said, “Well, the title of your song, ‘Postcards from the Hanging,’ is the opening line of ‘Desolation Row’!” I’ve listened to that song hundreds of times since I was about 13 years old, and I hadn’t put that together. I was just thinking about the history lesson I had heard about the lynchings and the postcards.
Your music toes a fluid line between roots-rock, Americana, folk, and even straight up rock, with elements of all of those things populating your songs. How would you describe your sound to people who haven’t heard your music?
Ha ha, well I often like to tell folks we play a style called “Post-Amerikana, Agit-POP, Acoustelectric, Arena Folkountry Rock!”… that about covers it. People oftentimes refer to us as Americana or roots-rock, which is fine, but we never set out to preserve any type of historical sound. We’re just influenced by what we like and hear. This record is definitely more rock ‘n’ roll and is influenced by a lot of the ’60s garage rock and also other elements of Motown, punk, and blues.
Let’s pretend there’s a covers album being done of your music. You get to pick which artists do which songs. Who would you choose – from any era or genre – to cover this particular song and why?
Hmmmm… Probably The Alarm. I think they’re one of the most underrated bands of the ’80s, maybe ever. I’ve seen a lot of GREAT live bands in my time, and The Alarm definitely ranks up there among some of the most high-energy live shows I’ve ever seen. Mike Peters is an incredible songwriter and delivers his songs with such an honest intensity that is really not that common. His music has always had a strong influence on me. We got to do a show with him a few years back when he played for the fundraiser/tribute concert Jason Federici did in memory of his father, Danny Federici (E Street Band), for the Dannyfund (www.dannyfund.org). He was incredibly generous with his time and spirit.
Have you played this song live a lot? What kind of audience reaction does it get?
We actually played it quite a bit on our last tour, before we went in to record. We got to do four shows with Steve Earle up in Canada, and we had it in the set for most of those dates. People really seemed to enjoy it. There was this guy who lived in Toronto, he was a local leather craftsman, said he loved the song because it didn’t sound like anything he’d heard recently and enjoyed the energy so much. He gave me the bracelet that he made right off his wrist. His girlfriend said it was his prized possession. So I appreciated that immensely. A true honor.
Your songs all have really strong messages. What do you hope people take away from hearing this song?
We seem to have sanitized our history to the point of denial. I would hope that a song like this could open up a dialogue or some opportunities for these things to be discussed openly and honestly. I hear too many folks say things like, “Oh that was in the past,” or, “It was so long ago… move on,” but it wasn’t really that long ago. And as any good therapist will tell ya, if we don’t discuss the wounds of our transgressions, if we continue to deny and suppress them, than we will never truly heal as a nation. I believe we can and should begin to face these things with compassion and true remorse. Then we can actually become the sort of people and nation we aspire to be.
Jason Heath And The Greedy Souls release But There’s Nowhere To Go on October 13, 2017 via Industrial Amusement. For more music and info visit jasonheathandthegreedysouls.com.
Photo credit: Esben Melbye