Thursday, May 30 2024

Welcome to our exclusive interview with Che Arthur, the multifaceted musician hailing from Chicago, whose illustrious career spans across various musical landscapes. With notable contributions to post-hardcore outfits like Pink Avalanche and Atombombpocketknife, as well as ventures into electronic projects, Che Arthur now unveils his latest solo album, ‘For That Which Now Lies Fallow.‘ This album, his fourth solo release, serves as a testament to Che Arthur’s resilience, delving into themes of personal struggle and the relentless pursuit of artistic expression. Join us as we delve deeper into the creative process behind this powerful new release.

Thanks for joining us, and congratulations on the release of the new album. As you know, at TIG, we really enjoyed your last single, ‘The Sliver.’ So, it’s great to now be chatting about the new album, ‘For That Which Now Lies Fallow.’ The album explores themes of struggle and resilience. How did you approach translating these personal experiences into your music?

Hi, thanks for having me!

When I started writing this album, I knew it was going to look at the past three years of my life, so I knew it was going to deal with dark themes. I’d had ‘This Lost Champion,’ the opening song, since summer of 2023 and knew I wanted it to be the first track on the album, and I felt that lyrically it set the tone for the album pretty decisively.

In Spring 2021, in the immediate wake of a year of pandemic isolation (I live by myself, so it was literally a year spent alone), I was hit with a cancer diagnosis and underwent treatment. I was prepared for the physical difficulty that recovery would entail, but I did not know about the emotional difficulty. I had, essentially, an emotional collapse that lasted a year and a half. My state of mind affected every aspect of my life and strained certain relationships to a near-breaking point. As I began to try to pick up the pieces I came to realise some of the reasons I’d fallen apart, and I knew from experience that it would help me if I wrote about what had happened. So that is why I wrote these songs.

I wrote a majority of these lyrics after recording the music for the album. In some instances I wrote the lyrics right before I walked in front of the microphone to record the vocal track. Since the music was already there, I sat and listened to it and wrote pages of thoughts, and let those set the direction for each song. A lot of this happened in a very short period of time – about two weeks to write the majority of the lyrics on the album and record the vocal tracks. I tried to just go, and not stop to overthink too much. I wanted the pure feeling to come through. I noticed later a few words that came up several times each throughout the album, which was interesting to think about.

Che Arthur 1

What inspired you to return to a more post-hardcore sound with ‘For That Which Now Lies Fallow,’ after your previous solo work and projects?

Though most of it has the sound of a loud full band, this album was written specifically to be played in a solo acoustic format live. That type of performance is something I used to do a lot, back in the early 2000s, but I kind of got burned out on driving around America by myself for months at a time playing solo shows. So I’d stopped doing acoustic stuff years ago, and we started Pink Avalanche and I also did a lot of ambient / loop-based / improvised solo guitar shows and some electronic albums and such. 

But last year, mid-2023, a couple of times I was asked to play acoustic sets opening for friends’ bands that were coming through Chicago, and when I did them I noticed that the emotional release of playing that way – when I play solo acoustic shows I’m kind of loud, I hit the guitar hard, I sing loudly – helped me feel lighter, less encumbered. It was the first thing in years that had helped me feel less awful, to be totally frank. I decided then that I needed to go back to playing this way, but I wanted to have new songs if I was going to do that. So, I decided to write an album of new songs I could play on the acoustic guitar and hit the guitar hard and sing loudly. That’s basically it.

Che Arthur 2

As a touring sound engineer, you’ve worked with a diverse range of artists from Silversun Pickups, Bob Mould to Battles, Minus The Bear, Manchester Orchestra etc. How has this influenced your approach to producing your own music?

I think that after doing sound for a living all these years, be it on tour or in local venues as a house engineer, the hope is that there’s a trade-off between the physical damage we subject our hearing to on a daily basis just to do our jobs, and what we’re able to learn about what can make things sound “good” (though that’s 100% subjective) and the nuances that can make music “interesting” or not (again, totally subjective).

Myself, I definitely see a thread between things I’ve seen and learned in a live sound context and the ideas I’ve brought into mixing my own albums. But on the other hand, live sound and recording are very different realms, and what works well in one may or may not work well in the other.

Have some of the artists I’ve toured with influenced my songwriting? Probably so, to one extent or another. I’ve been quite fortunate over the years to mostly tour with artists whose music I admire, so I’m sure some things have seeped in.

Going back to ‘The Sliver’… you mention finding a “sliver of hope” amidst struggles. How important is it for you to convey hope and resilience through your music?

So, ‘The Sliver‘ and another song on the album called ‘The Garment‘ are meant as companion pieces. A couple of years ago my therapist asked me to name a physical object to represent the depression, the anxiety, the negative feelings I experience and I said, “it’s like a shirt or a cloak made of chain mail, like in medieval armour. It’s very heavy, it weighs us down yet it can protect us from injury to some extent.” She then asked what could get through that armor and I said, “Little slivers of hope. Small arrows are hitting us all day long, and some of them get through the holes in the chain mail, but so do slivers of hope.” 

I think it’s important that that song is there, because while there are a lot of very bleak messages on the album, ultimately the sheer fact that I made it is a gesture that I haven’t completely given up – just that it exists implies hope and resilience on some level, and I think I wouldn’t want that to be totally overshadowed by the dark stuff.

That said, I don’t think I intentionally set out with this album to paint a picture in which there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But, I think that on it I am saying that I hope there is a light. 

‘No Harbor’ touches on the sense of not belonging, particularly in the music industry. Can you elaborate on how this theme resonates with you and how it influenced the album as a whole?

I wrote ‘No Harbor‘ because of a conversation I had a few months ago with a person in their early 20s in which they told me that people my age (I’m 51) have no place in live music venues or at shows, saying, “no offense, but you’ve had your time already, now get out of the way and let the young people have their time.” It was jarring, and stayed with me. I was thinking about how I might have had similar feelings when I was in my early 20s and how things repeat themselves generation in and generation out, and how to this person I’m a relic but in some ways they’re also a ghost of 22-year-old me. We’re both ghosts, so which of us doesn’t belong? I don’t think that gets answered.

Another song on the album, called ‘The Heart Follows,’ touches on this concept of alienation / isolation too but explores how my tendency to stay up super late at night by myself is at once a rejection of the outside world and a shield that protects me from it. I literally wrote it in 20 minutes and it’s probably my favorite on the album, because the lyrics are very intentional, and yet it flowed out basically exactly as it is on the album.

I’ve dealt with feelings of not belonging for most of my life, but for years the one thing that did give me a sense of belonging was the punk / indie music community. It’s the way of life that we age out of things, though, and we grow apart from friends as life adds on responsibilities, spouses, children and such. As time passes I grapple with where I’m “supposed” to be at my age, and that comes up a lot on this album.

Following on from this, how do you see your music evolving in the future?

I think in the semi-near future I’ll probably be doing electronic stuff again. I’m wanting to do another Ha Subliminal EP soon, and another Professor Downfall EP. I have some pieces of songs started for both of those already, and I also need evenutally try to flesh out a live situation for those two projects for the first time (neither have been played live before at all). But for right now I’m having a pretty good time just doing solo acoustic shows, playing these new songs and trying to get out to as many areas of the US as I can doing that.

I’ve got a lot more fragments / skeletons of guitar-oriented songs waiting around too, so I’m sure I’ll revisit those eventually. I’m always having ideas and thinking about things to try, which results in a lot of half-finished things sitting around for a long time. That’s where I’m at right now. So I think the near term goal is gonna be to turn a lot of that half-finished stuff into finished stuff.

Finally, a fun question… If ‘For That Which Now Lies Fallow’ were a soundtrack to a movie, what genre or type of film do you think it would complement best, and why?

I think a romcom, but a super dark one, haha!

Wrapping up, a sincere thank you to Che Arthur for sharing his insights into the creation of ‘For That Which Now Lies Fallow.’ Through our conversation, we’ve gained valuable glimpses into his journey of resilience and artistic exploration. As he navigates the complexities of life and music, Che Arthur’s candid reflections and raw lyrics offer a deeply personal connection to his music. Here’s to his continued evolution and the stories yet to be told. Keep up with Che Arthur via the social channels below.

Website / Facebook / Spotify / Bandcamp / Instagram


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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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