Courtesy of the artist
The new Water From Your Eyes album, Structure, opens with a perfect love song. Sweet and bubbly, “When You’re Around” flows with the kind of hazy melodies that follow two loving characters in an early ’70s black and white romance. Close your eyes and you can see the couple holding hands. , glide together through the misty streets on a moonlit summer night. There is an intimacy in the way the words unravel – warm and generous, straight out of the open heart of singer Rachel Brown – and has there ever been a phrase more devastating than ‘J’ hear your voice and I’ll save it for later ”? But according to the group themselves, this is all just an illusion.
“It was supposed to be a fall in love song, but it’s really a fall in love song,” admits Water From Your Eyes musical architect Nate Amos. “It’s billed as a love song, but then it’s like ‘Gotcha!'”
At Structure – a bit like in love – nothing lasts forever. You still wipe away your tears when track two, the abrasive “My Love’s”, suddenly hits a black wall of squeaky, avant-garde noise. Brown’s tender voice turns dark, vacant. The band members both agree that the album is inadvertently “scary,” but it was never meant to be just one thing. Changes and surprises abound, from industrial ’90s freak-outs to haunting lullabies and solemn lyrics.
Completed just before the pandemic amid an actual love break between Amos and Brown, Structure is dramatic and mysterious new territory for the New York duo – both magical and menacing. Its only real intention is for the anatomy to be completely involuntary. Like a dream, nightmare, or scene from your favorite movie, it’s what you want it to be.
Despite their own cinematic-style split, no divide exists between Amos and Brown – the remarkably connected pair spoke with NPR Music about the creation of their weird and whimsical masterpiece ahead of its release on Wharf Cat Records on August 27. .
NPR Music: Nate, you said in the album press release that Structure is made up of “two corresponding halves”. How did you approach this idea of structuring the album? Especially considering its title …
Nate Amos: It was not intentional. A lot of the songs were written very far apart, so the idea of matching the two parts was around long before we decided to call the album. Structure. The album existed without “Monday” or “‘Quotations'” for like, three or four months …. This one has this strange duality with “When You’re Around” … textually and sonically, they are very similar.
So we decided to do a second version of “Quotations”, which made it eight songs. So we had both versions [of “Quotations”] that were a pair, “Monday” and “When You’re Around” were another pair, the lyric tracks were a pair, then “Track Five” and “My Love’s” were both sort of … everything also relentless.
It’s the same with “Quotations” and “” Quotations. The odd thing about these two songs is the version without the quotes – and that was also an accident – actually has quotes in the waveform. If you watch it, there are these drone periods at the very end of the song. This is one of those strange coincidences that happened.
It sounds a little scary.
Amos: It’s definitely a scary album.
Was something really planned, or is the whole album made up of these weird coincidences?
Brown: Nate conceptualizes the music before writing the lyrics – well, I guess “When You’re Around” was different, because we wrote it when we broke up. [Laughs.]
Wait what ?!
Amos: Yeah, we were dating.
Brown: We’re not together anymore, we’re just best friends. In fact, this album helped us to become friends again.
Most of the lyrics were written after we broke up and parted a bit. The writing of the lyrics was the first time that we were alone together. But “When You Are Around” was from before. It was created for a student movie my friend was making that was never shot.
Amos: It was supposed to be a karaoke song. This is how “Monday” went too … “When You’re Around” went so well, I had this idea to write a whole album of songs for movies .. specifically, films that do not exist. “Monday” is taken from a scene from a movie that exists in my head.
In addition to “two matching halves,” the press release also mentions Mark Rothko. I wondered if these two ideas were related.
Brown: It’s a Nate thing, but one time I was in a bookstore, and I found this book on Mark Rothko. I was like, “Dude, this guy really knows what he’s talking about.” His quotes really resonated with me, so it’s interesting that Nate likes him.
But I’m not really an art person … to be honest, I’m not even really a music person. [Laughs.] I love music, but I’m not a musician myself. I’m just someone who makes music.
Amos: I think the great thing with Rothko is f ****** with the perception of time. His paintings do it for me. It’s something I’ve played with for a long time, dating back to 2016, when I lived in Chicago. I would take super high definition .jpegs of his paintings and turn them into raw data, then turn them into audio files.
Did you do this for fun?
Amos: [Laughs.] Yeah, I did.
Brown: Nate is a musician of musician!
Amos: Longer songs [on Structure] ended up being in dance music format. Extending songs like this was an attempt to blur the perception of the length of a song as I find a lot of Mark Rothko’s art does.
Seems like the structure of the album, if you will, ended up being quite intentional in a totally unintentional way.
Amos: It’s like writing. Instead of saying, “I’ll write this idea down,” you’re just creating chaos. And do you do the editor. Then it’s like you don’t even write it down.
“My Love’s”, the first version of “Quotations” and “Track Five” – I was trying to think of them as sculptures. I would make this big eight-minute sound block where everything was happening all the time, and then scale it down for days in small increments. This is how the forms began to emerge. Like an improvised sculpture.
Brown: It was the same with the lyrics. I really took out my notebook and started writing sentences.
Amos: Everything was presented in a very mathematical way. I had the approximate number of syllables for each line, and then we would start riffing inside. It was a very quick process. By developing the lyrics very quickly, it took away some of the pretense that would have happened if we had given it too much thought.
Brown: We try to avoid being pretentious.
Amos: Which is funny, because this album is pretentious! But we laughed about it all the time.