Portland songwriter Justin Ringle’s evocative vocal twang and sharp lyricism are at the center of Horse Feathers’ bedroom Americana. The band’s second album House With No Home, which follows 2006’s Words Are Dead, finds Ringle’s vision fleshed out by multi-instrumentalist/composer Peter Broderick and his cellist/vocalist sister Heather Broderick, aka Heatherwoods. House arrives 9/9 via Kill Rock Stars, but the heartbreaking final track “Father” shows up in this week’s Drop. We asked Ringle about it.
“Fathers”‘s lyrics are intense. Were they inspired by an actual relationship or is it fiction? If fictional, how’d you decide to write it? It feels like Greek Tragedy.
Well it is actually inspired by a very awful thing. A friend of mine who I had known for a very long time had taken his own life that spring when I wrote it. I was mostly responding to my feelings about the situation by expressing it in a song. Although it’s not so much about my father or his for that matter, I think the mood of the song is a response to what happened. The words are fictional but very much rooted in life experience.
In the song, what are the son’s failures? His father’s?
I think the son’s failure is really not being what his father wants him to be. The son has just followed in his father’s footsteps against his father’s wishes and is being punished for merely learning by example. I don’t really want to go into it too much though because it means something for me, but if I tell the whole story I think it steals the potential for someone else’s interpretation to mean something to them … everyone’s got a father and has feelings about their experiences with them, hopefully they’re mostly good ones, but there are negative feelings people have about their fathers too…
Do you truly believe lost grace is impossible to regain? Or do you say that in “Father”‘s lyrics for the sake of the song’s narrative/message?
I think it is possible to return to being virtuous or good after the fact. However, I thought that in terms of the song, grace was extinct…
In case you missed it, take note of Horse Feathers’ under-the-bridge performance in MTV’s Portland scene report. Pretty.