True Nature is the project of New York City-based singer/songwriter Lou Barlow. Barlow was able to recruit three industry legends to play on his latest release, titled “You Shouldn’t Have to Shout So Loud” (which can be found on iTunes and is reviewed here on the blog below). Enjoy this record, as well as an interview with Barlow, after the break.
‘You Shouldn’t Have To Shout So Loud’ opens the EP of the same name with an interesting, clean guitar tone. The band’s sound is immediately likable and seems very well put-together even from the beginning. The band’s big, sophisticated arena rock vibe is done well and coupled with intelligent lyrics and a well-developed story line. Awesome backing vocals and incredibly solid instrumentation contributed to the song’s direction to create an emotional, expressive feel which was even ambient at times (due to the use and inclusion of unique tones and notes). On this track especially, the supporting instrumentation plays around nicely behind the main focus, the bass beginning to walk around as the song progresses ushering in a captivating (tone-wise) guitar solo that led to an extended outro that closed the track with a very different feel and tempo to it. ‘Only Love’ followed (my favorite song of the bunch) with a very classic, traditional tone and rock and roll vibe. The drums are so solid, and the bass provides a great foundation for the rhythm and lead guitars to play out over top of. The band made nice use of breaks and stops within the song, and things like huge choruses (the choruses were very different musically from the rest of the song) and an extended lead-in to the second verse contributed to the track’s drawn-out and expansive feel. The lead guitar in the second verse is extremely ambient and ethereal, and each instrument was performed fluently and beautifully with a major emphasis on good, clear tone. ‘One Soul’ opened with a much softer feel in the introduction, and while drums entered at 45 seconds in, the the smaller feel remains. The song was very lyric-centric, focusing much more on the vocals (that flowed overtop chords that were chosen so well with great care and attention to detail) than any other singular instrument, the chorus vocal parts performed especially well. The song included a big transition out of the first chorus (which was the highlight of the song for me); the guitars are bigger from this point on, as are some of the other instruments’ parts, yet the pre-chorus and chorus sections remained more reserved.
‘My Freedom Lies Behind the Sun’ opened with an ambient, drawn-out introduction that featured echo’d vocal parts over haunting background chord progressions. This rather dark introduction began to build, welcoming the song in full with a smaller-than-expected entrance that repeated the vocals from the original opening. The bass play here is excellent, the rhythm guitar and the bass guitar being part of the main focus; the chorus features backing vocals and great vocal harmonies, and the vocals overall were excellent on this particular track. The lead guitar work is tasteful and well-placed, building in a powerful way towards the final chorus. ‘New Father’ closed the EP in a musically-suppressed manner; the song maintained a quiet, reserved vibe throughout, picking up in the chorus, but certainly not by any large standard. The staccato bass lines played off the again intelligent and expressive lyrics, and the lead guitar parts in the pre-choruses and bridge sections were very melodic. There is lots of depth and meaning to the lyrics on this record, each song with a relatable, modern story line, overall likable sound, and similar closing. Barlow’s influences were clearly heard at times, and the music grew more and more on me with each successive play. Barlow’s final three songs were much different than the opening two, showcasing his musical diversity and intellectuality; while the vocals could have been improved minutely in places, overall they are very, and the mixing and production on this album was fantastic, making this an overall well-done collection of songs.
Could you give us some insight into your musical background?
“My musical background is pretty simple; there are no musicians in my otherwise highly-artistic, creative family. I’ve always had an original band or have been in the process of forming the next one pretty much non-stop (since 7th grade). True Nature is the fruition of many original rock bands I’ve made to achieve a certain sound and lyrical quality. I studied classical composition and theory at NYU and in fact was awarded Composer of The Year; it’s funny, though, I was talking with Tony Levin in our recent sessions (about the fact) that I’ve somewhat forgotten all that, with Tony affirming that he’s seen that happen to a lot of musicians he’s known. I guess music just becomes more second nature or intuitive rather than an obsessive awareness of the rules of harmony. I’ve just been committed to playing my guitar and writing original songs and really nothing else. The most interesting thing to me is that my singing voice came into its own much later in life; Aaron Comess really got the most raw, honest, and powerful vocal out of me yet!”
What life experiences or events led to the writing and recording of your album “You Shouldn’t Have to Shout So Loud”?
“The songs on (the album) are all about different cultural situations and different people in the process of becoming self-empowered, which is a basic right. On the title track, I tried to to paint a picture of someone who was originally fearless in their childhood, able to ‘face the void’, meaning they were not overwhelmed by the unknown. They were also able to ‘see far ahead’ and able to feel their soul’s dreams. The story in the song deepens, but I’d like to jump ahead to another song and another character. ‘Only Love’ (reads as such):
“Love used to be all that I dreamt of. Life was simple with less of us around. I feel a shock from her dark eyes. She’s tearing down underground singing, this is our world…”
It’s very loaded. The first line referring to ‘less of us around’ is a statement about overpopulation as a serious global problem. The lyric quickly jumps to a scene, perhaps in a third-world country where a young girl with ‘dark eyes’ is terrified, questioning how she could even belong in “our world”. The EP goes on to explore this theme of individuals in diverse settings struggling to become self-empowered. I can’t say exactly what motivates me to write about these topics but I can say that none of this is actually based on my travels or specific observations but by feelings I’ve had myself.”
“Something shifted in my understanding of how music can be made during these sessions and I felt understood as a person through my songs, speaking a language of their own that was obviously being heard. It was the best feeling in the world to me. Once we got into playing the songs, the focus and unique knowledge of what would make each section of my songs work more powerfully was thrilling beyond words; in fact, these were the ‘easiest’ sessions I’d ever experienced (from a creative perspective). The ideas pouring out of Gerry, Tony, and Aaron were just so connected to my writing; I felt like these guys we’re just reading my mind, so to speak, and there was (a sense of humility) that was refreshing. They all were quite focused on my songs; not on me, but on what the music required. Believe me, I was challenged, as these sessions took everything out of me, yet everyday I said out loud, “Wow, I could really get used to this”. I couldn’t believe how natural this “level” was for each of them. As a songwriter, I’m one person with one voice and one guitar, yet every little thing I did was picked up on by them, each of them making the very most of every moment in the music. On a more humorous note, before our very first session I literally couldn’t sleep in my East Village Apartment. I ended up dozing off about an hour before I needed to wake up and overslept! The session was in Woodstock, NY and I had to rent a car from Hertz and all they had on their lot was a Mustang V8 which they gave me for the “budget” price. I drove over 100 M.P.H. the whole way there, and the universe was with me because I didn’t get any tickets. I pulled up all sweaty, the Mustang hood steaming, and the ever-charming Gerry Leonard, who was unloading his amp from his Subaru, said “Oh, Lou you’re all rock star today, aren’t ya”.”
What was it like working with Glen Wexler on your album’s artwork and visual concept?
“Well, just considering the question of imagery leads me right back to your first question about my background. I come from a family of prolific, accomplished artists all in the visual and theatrical arts fields. Upon completing the music for the first True Nature EP (“Feels Like Centuries”) I kept questioning why I couldn’t come up with at least a concept for the album art that felt believable, even after the amazing studio experience I had just come from. I then found Glen in an interesting way: I was at the CMJ music festival here in NYC watching a band called ‘Oslo’ that the promoters I was working with at the time recommended I check out. I really dug Oslo’s set very much, and they had a guitar player from No Doubt in their band; they had come all the way from California to play for a small audience in Brooklyn. I went up to them afterwards with my praises and their lead singer gave me their CD. I couldn’t stop looking at their album cover, a surreal, futuristic yet ultra-realistic image that just spoke to me immediately. Oslo’s album artwork was of course created by Glen Wexler, and thus Glen became the missing element (in terms of completing the vision visually) to release True Nature’s music. Once Glen and I were eventually connected by phone we began an amazing, on-going conversation about the meaning of the songs and especially about the meaning of the album’s title. When I first received an ‘image’ from Glen (which required him hiring a model, hiring a crew, finding locations and then doing his signature ‘magic’ to create a photo real image from it all), I was absolutely moved to see a visual concept. His work really feels like a ‘still’ from a Hollywood film about my music, (and to make things even better) the album’s cover was just admitted into the permanent collection of The George Eastman House Photo museum, which is something I never would have imagined!”