Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write about some of the music that I’ve found through my search for Arkansas’s music scene. Thankfully, it wasn’t a shortage of amazing artists that I’ve found, only the fact that I’m hopelessly inept at keeping track of all the various things I’ve planned on doing.
Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s get started.
Of all of the various music that I’ve been fortunate enough to receive for consideration in this feature, William Andrew’s EP, PreTragedy — A Narration, has for a while now been the one that has attracted both my attention and my admiration. Beautifully crafted and performed, PreTragedy is a four-song narration that treats each song as a chapter in the story of a person that is drifting in and out of consciousness while struggling with the way we deal with death.
Speaking as someone who has lost both of his parents within the past five years, the notion of someone having to struggle and come to terms with death and how it affects all of us left alive in its wake, is one that I connected with immediately.
Wanting to know more about the EP, and about William himself, I found myself asking him if he’d be willing to answer a few of my questions. Thankfully, he said yes, and saved me from having to grovel.
Here, then, is my interview with William Andrew:
On your myspace page you describe your EP, PreTragedy: A Narration, as being chapters of a story that deal with the way someone, either consciously or not, deals with death. Speaking as someone who’s recently lost someone very close to them, it has me wondering whether or not the EP is coming from a place of personal experience or not?
Honestly, its not coming from a personal experience. I wanted to explore death and follow its aftermath. On the other hand I found many of the needed emotions and struggles that helped make this in the disappearance of a whole side of my family after my father decided to continue to follow his dreams. It was sad to watch them "die" in our lives and almost haunt us with the knowledge that they are still here. It was in this that I gathered emotion.
I wasn't sure if I should email just to the generic editor email, so I sent this to you as you were the one that published it for me.
Not that there is any way to truly deal with the loss of a loved one from your life, but did the act of putting pen to paper and eventually words to music, make you feel any differently? I suppose what I’m asking is whether or not it helped you get to a point where you’ve acknowledged what happened in a such a way that it has allowed you to keep living your own life without dwelling too much on how different is may or may not be without someone in it?
Yeah, it was good to get these struggles out of my system. The whole situation was really tense and this gave me a way to deal with it. I still think that there is a way to fix it. I am convinced. I can’t keep it on my back, though, or else it will ride me down. A Knot in Hell sort of speaks to that feeling.
“Are you still here now?”
I wanted that to relate to feeble hopes for things to end better. This is all my personal side of it. The PreTragedy story actually follows death in sequence through burial, in “Colours;” shock realization and dreaming of the way things were, in “PreTragedy;” reality itself, in “Anchors;” and questioning in “Knot In Hell.”
Through it, I was able to embody my situation, and turn it into something that more people could relate to.
Why led you to choose the title of the EP, PreTragedy: A Narration?
Well I wrote “PreTragedy” first, “Colours” and “Knot In Hell” next, and finished with anchors. After sequencing them all together and sort of getting a feel for how they interacted, I started to realize that the real tragedy is found in “Knot In Hell.” Most would assume that the tragedy is found in “Colours,” since it’s about the burial, and they get confused chronologically.
Since it was an EP I wanted the single of it, “PreTragedy,” to go at the forefront and then follow it with a little explanation. Ultimately, after some thought, it seemed obvious to title it a narration, because it gives it a sort of romantic feeling that I wanted to develop.
Thus, PreTragedy: A Narration.
Listening to another music project that you’re involved in, The Growing Robot Population, PreTragedy stands out as a departure in terms of song-structure and staying in an acoustic format. Was that a conscious decision on your part to keep things simple and direct?
Yeah it was. I was in the middle of working on my project and was recording with the drummer for tgrp and he said that I should come try out. I’m a big fan of experimental stuff and it seemed like a cool idea to be a part of something crazy. I naturally write simply and directly and for me to be able to perform and record with these guys has given me a little more diversity, musically.
No question it influenced my project because it rid me of the longing to go experimental, because I had that avenue filled already with tgrp.
Another thing I noticed on your myspace page is that, while PreTragedy might have very specific meanings for you, people who listen to it, whether on your page or by purchasing it on iTunes, are encouraged to take these songs to heart and allow them to have them mean something personal and direct, to themselves. Is this how you approach music in your own life and CD collection?
Yeah, the two things I enjoy most in music is interpretation and progression of the artist. I wanted this EP to be personal, something that people could talk over some wine or a good cigar. I wanted people to use their imaginations and to dig deeper into the music and its meaning. A lot of albums these days are a collection of individual songs instead of a family of songs, which is fine — it just doesn’t make for good conversation, imagination, or interpretation.
I approach music first for sound and then for the puzzle of the story that the artist has fleshed into the song. As for my own collection of music, its crazy: Wes Montgomery to Omar Rodriguez, Mars Volta to Arcade Fire, Minus the Bear to Peaches.
Speaking of “approaching” music, can you remember when music became something that made you sit up and take notice — when it made you realize that being a musician was something that you’d want to do in your life?
Yeah I remember. I got a boom box when I was around 12, and I was always “face into the player” with a cd spinning, singing along. I started off with my parent’s collection of U2, David Bowie, Roxette, The Police, and Cream. I began to differentiate their talents and then to admire them. Admiration led to aspiration and I found myself wanting to express my heart like they had, musically.
When did you write your first song? Once you’d written it, did it make you feel different? Like you’d taken your first step on the path that would mark the rest of your life? Or, am I being way too melodramatic, and was it something that just made you happy?
Ha, I wrote my first song about 2 years ago. I had been stuck into doing covers for far too long and I was finally fed up with it. Its like running up a hill, you can walk around it if you want but you will never get to see what its like from up top. I finally climbed it and it was hard, painful, and embarrassing. Nonetheless, it was my greatest accomplishment to date. However, I guess it would have been too perfect if it would have been a decent song…
How has it changed, the feeling of writing a song now versus your first song?
It’s much different now. I don’t try and force it. During the writing stage I may go for a week or two without looking at my guitar, just taking in ideas, experiences, and thoughts. This yields a fuller song and feels a lot better than trying to make something out of nothing.
In the case of PreTragedy, is this something that you consider finished? Or, is it something that you wish you’d have had more time to flesh it out into an album?
I don’t know. I wanted it to be short and sweet. I wanted to get my feet wet. Now, however, I’m ready to write an album. Eventually I might try and write a song then expressed the deceased but I don’t know…
Earlier, while I mentioned that you’ve got all the songs from this EP up on your myspace page, I also mentioned that it was now available for purchase on iTunes. What was that like? How difficult was it for you, as an independent artist from Arkansas, to be able to get your music to a place where people across the world will have access to it?
Getting the songs up onto Myspace was a cinch. Getting people to listen to them, that’s another story. I don’t want to be a band that adds hundreds of random people a day just for the sake of pushing listens up. I would rather give people the chance to discover this stuff, however, I'm still trying to find ways to help guide people there and to advertise without being to predictable like the majority of myspace musicians.
ITunes was pretty difficult. It’s a long process in which they review your music and decide whether or not it’s fit for their market. It took me 2 months to get PreTragedy up there. Being from Arkansas hasn’t really had much of an impact, yet. The Internet makes Arkansas and Belgium neighbors, it makes a global community a reality, (word check tells me that internet is a proper noun, that’s messed up).
In the future it will impact me as I try to set up a “home base” in Arkansas and get together with other bands to perform.
What are the plans (or hopes) for the future for PreTragedy? Is there any chance that it might see an actual pressed-cd release? Of course, I’m only asking so I can stand in line for my copy, but I’m curious as to how those steps are taken. Is that even something you’d want for this release, and instead using its place on iTunes to help you achieve that next step, with your next project?
There are hopes for a real cd, there are hopes for radio play and for airtime on VH1, but I have to think practically – which is more difficult that I had ever imagined. All those things cost, and thanks to friends, the money made from PreTragedy will be able to get me started. All of my listeners are far too kind to me and I'm very thankful for their help financially, but I couldn’t have done it without their encouragement. I want to release PreTragedy as a cd but I also have to think ahead toward the time when I release an album, which needs to be available as cds. PreTragedy does exactly as you stated, it helps me achieve my next step, my next project.
It does that admirably, by the way. PreTragedy is, I hope, the first step that William takes on what promises to be a lovely career. For the one or two of you that randomly decided to read this article, there is nothing better I could do to tell you how lovely his music is, than to direct you towards his myspace page. On it you will find all four of the songs that make up his EP, which is amazing really. What other artist allows you to freely listen to their music instead of forcing you to purchase it, first?
Once you make your way there, though, you’ll find yourself wanting to do just that — to purchase his EP. At that point, I’d like to ask that you aim yourself in the direction of iTunes and purchase it. It’s not everyday that you’ll get the chance to not only download some damned good music, but also know that you are helping to pave the way for more music to follow.
Okay. I’ve said my piece and now I’m babbling. Go. Shoo. Go listen to William’s music, and I’ll see you in a week or so with another taste of Arkansas music.