New Jersey rock underdogs Roadside Graves follow the “Liv Tyler“-spawning You Won’t Be Happy With Me EP with We Can Take Care Of Ourselves, an expansive, at times cinematic album featuring 11 songs, a couple instrumental, about S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. If you remember that Quit Your Day Job from three years ago, vocalist John Gleason’s a teacher, a proud one at that. He brings up his vocation in a text he wrote about the new collection:
My wife and I are both teachers, but we rarely talk about teaching beyond a good day versus a bad day. After a few years together and a few hundred dinners I realized the one exception was when she taught S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. During her Outsider unit our dinners were always punctuated with tales of students who hated reading suddenly being transformed and bright eyed at the prospect of reading a novel that related authentically to them without being dull.
We were careful to not retell the plot in song as bad broadway; rather we focused on making more nuanced allusions to characters, themes, feelings, and settings. We tried to emphasize the sensitive, frightened sides of the characters, instead of showcasing their thick skin and greaser toughness. Musically and sonically, we avoided a retro sound and kept it thick and modern, with only occasional glimpses of melodies and tones that might have pumped out of their radios at night.
The album was recorded in various states of physical distress for the band — a broken thumb, a break out of hives, fever, and coughing fits all graced our time recording and mixing at Strange Weather in Brooklyn with our handsome engineer Daniel Schlett. Some tracks were recorded by Rich Zilg and his mobile studio in a basement in NJ where a heavily-medicated Jeremy did some overdubs while recovering from an appendectomy. In the end, we cooked up eleven songs, ranging from anthems, pop songs, and ballads to a dark synthesizer instrumental to little folk ditties.
Our hope is that the listener, if so moved, can easily tie the songs to particular characters and events of the novel, but that familiarity with the story is not a prerequisite for enjoying the music or personally relating to the songs. Perhaps it will even inspire some people to read the book, or revisit it. Maybe some teachers will use it, kids will hear it, and we can contribute, in our small New Jersey way, to the legacy of one of the greatest stories about pals and trouble ever written.
Here’s the pretty, heartbreaking “Love Me More.”
We Can Take Care Of Ourselves is out 7/19 on vinyl (and as a download) via Autumn Tone. It’s difficult not loving an Americana band who knows its Outsiders and its Sun City Girls: