We all can agree that the past handful of years have made many of us succumb to the crippling weight of depression. It’s hard not to feel such; the glaring divide between all things political, economic, and simple human decency has only worsened over time. Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Drew Patrizi (who goes under the musical moniker Trumpeter Swan) latest effort, Fast We Fall, delivers an engaging indie rock sound that’s also filled with urgent, crackling energy and a sense of weariness. Today Trumpeter Swan has shared a single off Fast We Fall, “American Dream.”
Patrizi said on the single: “I wrestled with ‘American Dream for a long time, because tonally the music felt big and exuberant to me, but then lyrically what came out was this intense, confrontational conversation between two people on the opposite sides of the political spectrum. I kept trying to change the lyrics to something brighter and more celebratory, but it didn’t feel as honest; the original lyrics ring true for what our country is going through, so I stuck with them. The song also feels anthemic and hopeful in my mind –but not in a big celebratory way. Rather, in a way, that reminds us to look for the humanity in each other. To rally for change because we’re all in this together. In ‘American Dream’ there’s an adaptation of a Woody Guthrie line, which poses his iconic title/lyric “This land is made for you and me” as a question: “Is this land made for you and me?” I was raised in a small town in Oklahoma, so growing up I heard a lot about Woody Guthrie, who was a fellow Oklahoman. With so much division in our country right now, I wonder what types of protest songs Guthrie would write if he were alive today? I’ve always been intrigued by songs that juxtapose different music vs. lyrical themes, for example, happy songs with sad lyrics, which make you think the song is about one thing and then later you realize it’s about something else entirely.
As a kid, I remember listening to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA,’ and on the surface, that song was this big, exciting rock anthem; it felt celebratory, and people would wait for the chorus to scream out, “Born in the USA!” But on closer inspection, later, I realized that the song is actually talking about a Vietnam vet returning home and falling into despair. Then the song takes on a completely different meaning. Is it sad? Yes. But is there also a little bit of hope in there, in the choruses? It’s a complicated song which makes it interesting, and it’s an honest reflection of a time in our country. Bruce made people feel patriotic while at the same time reminding them that people are struggling. It’s the bitter pill in a spoonful on a honey trick. I didn’t set out to write ‘American Dream’ in that fashion, but it did take on a similar trajectory –triumphant music juxtaposed with lyrics about a country in turmoil.”
Thematically, the title Fast We Fall reflects the multiple layers of meaning stitched through the record. The fragility of relationships. The fragility of democracy. The fragility of…everything really. It is an album that documents the shared experience of getting older and glancing up at the rear-view mirror from time to time, trying to take stock of relationships that still mystify. It’s also a reflection of a troubled country during a moment of reckoning.
Patrizi elaborates, “‘Elections have consequences’ as the saying goes, and now those consequences are playing out in real time. There’s a feeling of ‘I’ve seen the end of this movie and it does not end well.’ Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Because I was hoping there was more.” The songs grapple with how to confront and understand both of these realities. The title track “Fast We Fall” underscores this sentiment “when the wolves are hatred are released / when the righteous scale the walls / how far we’ve come / how fast we fall.”
“I think a lot about what America means today, what it stands for,” Patrizi reflects. “For a while during the pandemic, I lived in Connecticut down the road from the legendary artist/painter Jasper Johns. I would walk by his house hoping to catch him on a winter stroll, and just in case, I had my Jasper Johns questions prepared: ‘If you painted the American flag today, what would it look like? What colors would you use? Does it inspire you the same way as when you first painted it?’ I never got to have the conversation with him, but I did have it with myself.”
Fast We Fall was recorded in Brooklyn, NY, at The Creamery with Quinn McCarthy (Antibalas, Sleigh Bells) and Good Danny’s with Danny Reisch (Wye Oak, St. Vincent)—both longtime friends and collaborators —with additional tracking at Patrizi’s home. In addition to Patrizi on vocals, guitar, piano, and keyboard, the record features McCarthy on bass and Reisch and Brad Wentworth (Howie Day) on drums. Sam Howden (Soul Food Horns) played trumpet and flugelhorn. Mixing duties were split between Reisch, McCarthy, and Alex Lipsen (Phosphorescent, Santigold) of Headgear Recording.