Having written and released fifteen albums of sparkling, literate, jangly-distorted indie rock since his band the black watch’s inception in 1987 (as well as four works of comedic literary fiction and one book on the early films of Wes Anderson), John Andrew Fredrick found himself confronting an issue frightfully prolific types like him often face quite late in their careers: how to do something new, something different. A further dilemma: he knew he wanted to make a quiet acoustic and electric guitar record, psychedelic, of course, but with minimal drums, if any; yet he fancied writing and recording a dance record.
Witches!, the new the black watch album (due out July 27), was written around a song called “The Beginning of the End” — a sonic acoustic saga of a newly-shacked-up-with girlfriend who claims she sees a ghost in the singer’s apartment, one who looks “exactly like” her. “True story,” Fredrick says. As he was already, much to his surprise and delight, putting the finishing touches on a novel about a witch (a modern one who’s a big fan of Irish-English indie legends My Bloody Valentine), he thought he’d write a record around the same theme, but with a twist.
Speaking of themes, one that crops up in the course of the record has to do with magical, inexplicable happiness. Mysteriously happy, then: as are many of the songs here. With an edge, of course. They float, and sting. They’re heavy and airy. Scary, yes, sometimes—but one of them is as poppy and soaring and bouncy as the black watch can get, and has gotten.
One of those songs is “Legerdemain”, which we are excited to premiere on Glide today. Beginning with an ominous acoustic guitar hook, Fredrick’s vocals boom in over a jagged electric guitar line and tambourine shaking to turn the song into a full-fledge anthem reflecting the songwriter’s own views on relationships. He effortlessly merges dark brooding pop with a psych-tinged British folk sound to create a song that captures his gift for both lyrical and instrumental craftsmanship.
John Andrew Fredrick describes the song in his own words:
“‘Legerdemain’ is a French term for ‘sleight of hand’ and I think it’s a perfect metaphor for the jiggery-pokery—sometimes, mind you—of relationships. The song really distills or reflects the aesthetic of the album as a whole, I think, on account of it’s essentially a spooky acoustic dance-song-without-drums. I had a mad notion that I wanted to make a record that imagined, as it were, what it would be like if Syd Barrett had joined New Order — and this is what I came up with first. So just as ‘Georgette, Georgette’ was the last song written, so is this one the first one I penned for ‘Witches!’ Scott Campbell (producer) did the greatest job, I think, making it at once very pulsating and eerie, and Rob Campanella’s piano echoes are, for me at least, chilling. I love reading French—just don’t ask me to speak it unless you want to have a laugh at my expense, which is okay, I suppose. Go ahead. Every time I go to France the French seem to queue up to poke fun at my atrocious accent anyway. “
Witches! by the black watch is set for release on Atom Records on July 27. For more music and info visit johnandrewfredrick.com.
Photo: Steve Keros