Almost a decade since releasing their last record, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians’ new album Amerikana presents their signature folk-psychedelia sound with notable tracks like “Holy Life” and “Love is Big Light” which are saturated with warm, expansive chord progressions speckled in sunlight. Messages of encouraging individuals to look within themselves and not mindlessly conform to those around you are interwoven throughout this record, making it one of the band’s most lyrically complex works yet. With its lush, strummy riffs, Amerikana brings to mind sprawling, dewy countrysides and the feeling that the time has come to be your own hero and trust in your purpose on this earth. Embarking on their European tour this October 4th, Dwayne Segraves talked about the inspiration behind Amerikana and the creative process that led to its fruition.
It’s been about ten years since your last album was released. How was the writing process similar or different to that of the last record?
The process for this one was similar in that all the songs were born out of me just strumming a guitar until the melodies arrived. Where it differs is that in the past I would present those strummings and melodies to the band and we would play them together until the songs were fully formed. This time I didn’t have a band so I basically did everything by myself which was good and bad; good because everything was exactly as I wanted it; bad because it took me well over a year to write and record the thing.
A strong message throughout Amerikana seems to be one of persistence and standing up for yourself amidst tough times. Can you speak to that?
Yeah I suppose there’s some of that in there somewhere. I haven’t given much thought to any kind of theme. I see it more as a collection of songs about very different things.
Holy Life is a glorification of humanity and the human spirit.
Love is a Big Light is about the supreme power that love and light have to illuminate and initiate change in a sometimes very dark world.
Hard Livin’ was just a completely spontaneous expression of frustration. Frustration over what exactly I can’t say.
Binary Bop is basically about indecision, the grey areas in life.
Om g is another completely spontaneous expression, with words that have no discernable meaning whatsoever but somehow express more frustration and disappointment in the absolute complacency and learned helplessness I see in a lot of people.
Psyop is obviously about LSD.
The Highest Meadow is a melody that I unintentionally borrowed from an old hymn I used to hear in church as a kid. When I realized what it was I just went ahead and borrowed some of the words too. It’s a meditation of sorts I guess.
Pillow Sittin’ is basically just my perception of a general apathetic complacency that I see in a lot of people but with a little humor to lighten it up a bit.
How did the band form- were you all mutual friends growing up?
Well, there have been a few personnel changes over the years but the original core of the band was myself, the original lead guitar player, and our current bass player. The guitar player and I were high school buddies who moved from Denver to LA where we met Jessica right away. We’ve since gone through multiple drummers, guitarists, percussionists, etc over the years.
This album feels especially poignant in the current political unrest we find ourselves in. It almost feels like Amerikana is a call to action, asking for people to renew faith in themselves and their purpose in this world. What do you hope listeners will take away from this album?
That’s pretty much exactly what I hope people will take away from this record. All of my music is meant to encourage and uplift. I want to see everyone elevated and able to realize their maximum potential for love and power, creativity and freedom. So many of us are quite literally enslaved, mentally, by a constant stream of false narratives and bullshit illusions that are being fed to us by people who are at best content to rip us all off and at worst, want to destroy everything that is good and would probably just assume see us all dead. The sooner people realize this, the better off they’re going to be.
In terms of sound, Amerikana feels like a natural progression from your previous records. What were some things you did musically different that you didn’t do on the last two albums? If any?
In terms of sound, the first two LPs were mostly recorded in a great little studio in West L.A. which no longer exists. It had very good mics, preamps, and 2″ tape machines which we recorded the basic tracks to and then dropped into Pro Tools for overdubs. We then took everything back to our little home studio and mixed it ourselves. Amerikana on the other hand was literally just me in a room in my house with a 20-year-old Pro Tools setup and a couple of mid-grade mics. I played and recorded 99.9 percent of everything you hear on the record myself and then sent it all to be mixed by the same guy who mixed the earlier LPs. So, it’s very interesting for me to think about it as a natural progression. I suppose that it is in some ways but sonically, I personally don’t necessarily feel like it’s our best sounding record, which is due to the gear that was used during tracking essentially. I do feel that it is our best sounding record in a stylistic and even spiritual sense though. It was honestly a very intense time for me personally and the spirit of that period definitely comes through.
What do you find yourself listening to these days?
Let’s see. Right now I have the first Roxy Music record in my car which is amazing. Before that, I was listening to a Gordon Lightfoot mix someone burned for me which isn’t exactly amazing but it is very pleasant to listen to on long drives.
You guys are about to embark on a pretty exciting European tour. Is this your first time overseas? What places are you most excited to play at/explore?
It won’t be our first time across the pond but it will be our first time playing music there. I’m personally very excited about Northern England. Manchester and Liverpool to be specific. Some of my favorite music came out of that area and I’m just super excited to go soak up or drink up whatever is in the atmosphere or the water there. There’s also a little village called Seagrave just south of Sheffield that I want to visit. Seagraves is not a common name so I want to pop in, maybe flash my ID around a bit. Maybe there’s some old unclaimed family manor laying around or something.
Catch one of their upcoming European shows coming up: https://thestevensonranchdavidians.com/happenings