SONG PREMIERE/INTERVIEW: Arms of Kismet Blur Lines Between Anthem, Pop Song and Lullaby with “Potter’s Field”

Write-up by David Haynes

After the past year, it doesn’t take much to move me. Humans have this incredible knack to perfectly capture the mood of the times, whether that’s through music or film or the written word. Somehow, Arms of Kismet merge all three in their new single “Potter’s Field.”

Led by songwriter, author, and label-manager Mark Doyon, Arms of Kismet is a celebration of rock and roll’s storied past. Their last record, 2018’s Ballast & Bromides, combined sounds from the 60s, 80s, and today with ease. There’s an other-worldly quality to Doyon’s songs, even though they aren’t spacy or futuristic. In many ways, they feel like they belong in a better version of this world.

Today Glide is excited to premiere “Potter’s Field,” which starts off with a pounding rhythm section and piano. As the song builds, background vocals, strings, and organs filter in to add a symphony-like quality. Doyon’s voice is so well practiced and performed. His voice sounds tired, as if the character in the song has just been through the wringer. Taking all of this into consideration, the opening line “now that I’m free” feels like the perfect place to start. Doyon perfectly matches the tone of the lyrics with the tone of his voice, which takes a busload of skill but feels very natural on “Potter’s Field.”

While the lyrics are certainly mysterious, they feel as though they are reactions to current events. During the first chorus, Doyon sings, “a lost lament on the screen / each to his own guillotine.” Many of us living now are having to re-evaluate our relationship to social media so well. Doyon’s words describe the tension and stress of these cultural conversations so well. After a brilliant, momentary key-change, a spoken audio-clip comes through. I believe it is a reenactment of Louis XVI’s speech just before he was executed by guillotine. This was a major event in the French Revolution. Perhaps, Doyon is trying to tell us even more.

In many ways, the song blurs the lines between anthem, pop song, and lullaby so well. The mood remains restrained, but feels like at any time it might burst into something bigger. Doyon’s patience and commitment to this controlled and steady brooding makes the song all that much better. The swirling textures of “Potter’s Field” bring to mind songs like The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” or Elbow’s “One Day Like This.” But, those songs feel unabashedly triumphant. “Potter’s Field” feels like a lament for the world. And whether it’s the small events of your own life or the macro cultural death that feels inevitable right now, we could all use a little space to lament. Through a deconstructed three minute pop song, Arms of Kismet allow their listeners to do just that.

Next time you feel like you need to take a second and feel a bit of sorrow, spin “Potter’s Field.” It’s a peculiar proverb for the modern age.

Listen to “Potter’s Field” below, and check out an exclusive interview with Mark Doyon below…

When I read the phrase “Potter’s Field,” my mind instantly went to Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Was that film part of the inspiration for the song?

I like that Capra’s villain was named “Potter.” A potter’s field is a cemetery where they bury indigent people. These graveyards have existed since at least biblical times. When the apostle Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver for betraying Christ, he was overcome by guilt and gave the coins to a church. The church used the coins to buy a plot of land to convert into a potter’s field. These cemeteries often contain graves without markers. They’ve been used to bury thousands of bodies during the pandemic, an example being the mass graves on Hart Island in New York City.

You’re something of a time traveler. How do you think the past, and the future, play a role in your music?

New music is effective when it’s fresh or surprising. But all music is informed by the decades — centuries — of music that came before it. “Potter’s Field” might evoke the late ’60s, but it has an airy harmonic distortion that is very 2021. If you play it after something from, say, 1969, it sounds totally different. Yet it’s still reminiscent in a way.

The song feels like it is personal, but also could be universal about current events. Do you often try to give voice to that dichotomy in your songs?

Carl Rogers said, “What is most personal is most universal.” If you’re going through something difficult, it’s likely others are, too. We each have our own emotions about the pandemic, but they are not that different from those of others. We’re all in this freakish, horrible mess together, sharing unique personal experiences, finding our way out.

Am I right in assuming that the sound clip in this song is a reenactment of Louis XVI’s speech just before he was executed? What made you select that?

Yes! I took some license, but that’s the source. Louis XVI was someone who presumably “got what he deserved,” and not what he wanted, and so his evident well wishes to his executioners — “I hope that my blood may cement your good fortune” — are intriguing. Who is wrong, who is right, and who decides? The song suggests we each operate “our own guillotine,” a tool of personal justice we can use to “cancel” others. Is that a good or bad thing? It’s for the listener to decide.

What’s next for Arms of Kismet?

More and more new music. And then more still. New album out next year.

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