VIDEO PREMIERE: Massy Ferguson Deliver Honest Americana Rocker with “Miles Away”

Photo credit: Rich Zollner

For more than a dozen years, Massy Ferguson has proudly planted their boots on both sides of the country-rock divide, carving out their brand of amplified Americana along the way. Based in Seattle, they’ve become international torchbearers of a sound that’s distinctly moody Northwest Americana, with a touring history that spans fourteen different countries. On their sixth full-length studio album, Joe’s Meat and Grocery (due out February 25th, 2022), they double down on their rock & roll roots, mixing bar-band twang with a raw, guitar-driven bang. Gluing those sounds together is the songwriting partnership of bass-playing frontman Ethan Anderson and guitarist Adam Monda. Their songs spin stories of small-town adolescence, big-city adulthood, and the long miles of highway that stretch in between.

Long before Massy Ferguson played their first show in 2006, Anderson spent his childhood outside Seattle in the rural reaches of the Pacific Northwest. His parents were strictly religious, and he found himself at the local Pentecostal church almost every weekend, watching as his fellow congregants beat their Bibles and spoke in tongues. Unfortunately, the spirit didn’t move him in quite the same way. In search of clarity, Anderson turned to music: first to the country and folk artists whose songs reminded him of home, and later to the hard-edged rock bands who ruled the roost in Seattle, where he’d eventually relocate as an adult. Those two stylistic extremes — country and rock & roll — continue to rear their heads in his music. Anderson’s past continues to rear its head, too, and it’s woven throughout the moody offerings on Joe’s Meat and Grocery. Massy Ferguson’s records have always sounded cinematic, like a Springsteen-worthy portrayal of blue-collar life in America’s northwestern pocket.

Joe’s Meat and Grocery, named after the family store Monda’s grandpa ran in early-1900s Wenatchee, WA, continues that tradition of northwest blue-collar and does so in montage-form, zooming into various scenes from the lives of co-writers Anderson and Monda in four-minute increments. The details are rich, the context implied, and the writing is stunningly simple, like the literal minimalism of Anderson’s favorite authors: Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, Dennis Johnson, and Willie Vlautin. Songs like “Miles Away” and “Save What Couldn’t Be Saved” give dual blasts of heartland-worthy hooks and the kind of minimalistic honesty that the album title suggests.

Don’t mistake Joe’s Meat and Grocery for an Anderson solo project, though. Adam Monda, who helped launch the band in 2006, plays an integral role in the songwriting process, contributing melodic ideas and other launchpad ideas. Made complete by contributions from bandmates, drummer Dave Goedde, and keyboardist, Fred Slater, Joe’s shines its light on dark memories, pivotal moments, small details, and the wisdom gained by years of doing foolish things. Looking to capture a raw and immediate sound, the band kept things loose, throwing together arrangements on the spot and finishing lyrics moments before recording them in the vocal booth. As a result, there’s an urgency to Joe’s Meat and Grocery, from its widescreen-worthy anthems to its mid-tempo highlights. It’s the punky, half-cocked confidence of college rock mixed with the hungover honesty of alt-country. In short, it’s Massy Ferguson — a band whose electric stomp sounds like the soundtrack to the American Everyman.

Today Glide is excited to premiere the official video for “Miles Away,” one of the standout tracks on the new album. This moody and heavy rocker carries a sense of hope as the band launches an infectious, soaring chorus that feels like a true anthem. Lyrically, the song examines idealogical beliefs and the way they can drive people apart, a theme that directly resonates with our current political and social climate. Ethan Anderson delivers the lyrics in his straightforward, everyman style and you can feel his urgency as he pushes on through the darkness. The song culminates in a blistering wave of shredding guitar, piano and drums, bringing to mind the Drive-By Truckers, Lucero, and even a touch of Springsteen.

The band reflects on how the song came to fruition:

“Miles Away” was written by the Massy Ferguson band songwriting team of Ethan Anderson and Adam Monda in Spring of 2020. It was mostly composed over crummy iPhone voice memos texted back and forth during a time in the pandemic when Seattle was on complete lockdown. The song channels the past few years and the growing divide between people of differing idealogical beliefs (we’re miles away from each other) a kind of societal social distancing made worse by a global pandemic. It also looks at the human condition and why we choose to live this way when we could clearly do better. According to Anderson, “this might be the most urgent song we’ve ever written. It’s something I think that came out of the collective trauma of the past few years. This song was a way to fight against the forces that kept us apart, the pandemic but also the worst instincts in ourselves. That may sound dramatic. Adam and I were feeling really defeated and overall scared in late Spring of 2020. We hadn’t practiced or played in a few months. So writing this song together was like saying we were ‘still alive’ as a band, as people, as humans — and let’s take a good hard look at ourselves while we can.”

Massy Ferguson has long prided itself in presenting a more loud, brash, distorted and dark take on Americana true to its Seattle roots and everyman ethos. This song doubles down on that ethos, sonically and thematically. “Miles Away” is moody and heavy, though somehow still remaining empathetic and even hopeful. While the line “you can’t expect greatness when the leadership is cheap” takes aim at the Trump administration, many lines of “Miles Away” contain more universal themes core to humanity at large “you take what you’re owed and you give what you can spare/just be honest with yourself and the rest just might be fair”. The song manages to be brutally honest without getting too preachy, saying plainly, “we were broke before this sickness and I don’t think that will change” an indirect reference to the pandemic and our society beyond it.

WATCH:

Photo credit: Rich Zollner

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