Jordan Wagel, the emotive force behind Somewhere South of Here, admits candidly that creating “Leave Me for the Crows” was akin to navigating an emotional tightrope. Jordan not only writes most of the songs but also bears the weight of vocal delivery. In his words, “In a way, a large part of my personal being is tied to creating in this band. It is one of my most uninhibited avenues to be vulnerable and cathartic.” This is not just music; this is his very spirit made audible.
The journey to finalize the LP was not without its hardships. From the inception of the project to its conclusion, Jordan faced an internal struggle that proved to be a veritable quagmire for his mental health. The obstacles were manifold: a painstakingly slow recording process, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the looming pressure of deadlines. Each step was fraught with self-doubt, making him question his place in the music landscape.
As Jordan reveals, “I still haven’t exactly gotten over such feelings. There were, and still are, moments and feelings that make me second guess my continual involvement in this group, production, and music more generally.”
“We are an entirely DIY group – I have run a home studio for years and do lots of recording/mix work. This places the onus on us (but really me) to push forward and keep momentum through all processes of production.”
For Somewhere South of Here, DIY is not just an acronym but a religion of sorts. A year into their journey, they’ve managed to stay true to their ethos, even amidst the relentless hammering of reality. The whole journey has imbued Jordan with a profound respect for the band’s DIY roots, a philosophy carved in the walls of their makeshift recording rooms.
Not just a sonic enterprise, the visual element of “Leave Me for the Crows” was crafted with equal earnestness. Partnering with Adam White of Natureborn Media, they painted a subdued, atmospheric backdrop for the album. They opted for a more serious visual tone as compared to their generally playful content, creating an aesthetic that captures the essence of a “depressingly quaint mountain town.”
As for what the future holds, the band is keenly setting their sights on their second LP. They’re about halfway through writing new tracks, fueled by an inspiring workspace that Jordan is setting up at his new property. The band’s burgeoning studio space will soon become a playground for creative freedom.
The somber tone of their journey has been balanced by the bright notes of community support, particularly from the folks at Sputnikmusic. An active member of the community himself, Jordan found his album garnering favorable reviews on the site. This kind of encouragement, along with the enduring support from his partner, Lilly, became the buoying forces that kept his musical ship afloat in rough seas.
As they prepare for future projects and nurture their DIY essence, Somewhere South of Here marks a year of their debut album not as an end but a comma in their musical sentence, taking the listener along on a ride through Jordan’s intricate mental and emotional landscapes.
I remember this track coming together almost instantly – wrote the entire thing in an afternoon, which is antithetical to our normal path of having an idea and then sitting on it for years until it just sort of evolves into an entire song.
Content-wise, it’s a bit of a heartbroken cry for help and soul-pouring to my partner, Lilly. The subject matter still can leave me uneasy with my thoughts about stability, expectation, and adequacy. Lilly and I have been together since late high-school – a bit of the sweetheart cliché, yes, we always talked about how desperately we wanted to establish ourselves and live together, play house, whatever fantasies young adults have about bonding throughout adulthood. A few years into our partnership, she went away to school on the other side of the state.
Not far enough to not see each other for multiple day stretches a few times a month but still not an easy arrangement to maintain. We did it, though, and when she moved back nearer me after graduation, we swiftly reignited the thoughts of us finding our adult jobs and finding a home together. I was in the process of finishing my degree at University, but already had a decent job and could afford to take the brunt of the home-purchasing duty while I let my partner try and gather her professional footing post-college.
We searched for homes for a few months, and my anticipation continued skyrocketing as we grew nearer. We saw plenty of spots that I was perfectly content with as a young and eager dude who didn’t care as much about neighborhood or location but we waited until we found one that was more fitting for both of our desires.
I bought the house, signed the papers, and it was ours. Move in date came, but she didn’t. It was a huge step that we had both seemingly been so eager for, but feelings of guilt over the thought of for-good moving out of her childhood home and thusly feelings that she was abandoning her parents kept her from moving in. I’m sure there was also some cold-feet going on, it is a huge jump to actually pack up all of your shit with no intention on ever moving it back and with every intention on some bloke you say you love having to be in close proximity for what may be the rest of your life.
I understood, but had no mental route to feeling the same, and in turn was bombarded with feelings of resentment towards myself for pushing what seemed to be a failed fantasy, resentment towards her for not following through on what we had so long fantasized about, and feelings of inadequacy – I did what we said we wanted, and it isn’t enough? I was wrecked for months.
This song is a bit of a look into those feelings in that context. She eventually took the jump and moved in and we’ve since moved from that home and brought in a little dog to our partnership. Things are great, but that was a rough time.
I am proud of the imagery of the lyrics in this track, more-so than many others. Also, this is the first look into some of my favorite lyric-poaching – I love hearing a turn of phrase in a track that can’t escape me and then reincorporating that into a story/lyric of my own.
“We’re treading water, it’s leaking through a keyhole“, is copping an Aesop Rock bar the track, “Churro”, from his collaboration with TOBACCO, “Malibu Ken” – “maybe sunbeams leakin’ through a keyhole”.
In a way, this is somewhat of a rebuttal to July, with the same undertones of inadequacy. Reminiscing about our younger years, being entirely smitten and in young-love, spending weekends in her college apartment playing house, and me feeling incredibly lucky to have what I have – desperately so, feeling it necessary to try incredibly hard to make sure it lasts. Just relax a little, okay, bud? This is about as sappy as we get – but at the very least it is all drawing from real experiences.
“Your eyes still flicker the same as they did when I met you – still the same little kid inside. We’d skip our class to spend all our money on breakfast just to talk away our appetite”
We did that, yes. Probably not the best educational decision, but what love wants, love gets.
I have no clue how we ended up writing this song – it’s got a super country/western vibe at times, though it was long before I was super into country musics. I was definitely drawing a bit from PUP’s track “Yukon”, as well as the drop from “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will”.
It’s a love song of sorts, drawing from a few experiences while camping in Northern Michigan where the pines do give way to the sand (for me it is one of those images that you can close your eyes and remember in perfect photographic detail – walking through rows of pine trees, the ground going from dirt to sand, and the tree line ending and revealing a such a massive and beautiful bay).
I just remember laying on the beach looking at stars with my partner feeling overcome, euphoric (long before experimentation with the funnest of fungi), and so deeply appreciative. Of course, the nihilist creeps back in to end the track by saying, “hey dude you’re not actually escaping your corporeal form, we’re all still just people”. I guess there’s beauty in that, too, though.
Oof, this one is tough to talk about. I’ll give as much detail as I can.
Dead Friends is about the suicide of my dear cousin/friend. They suffered from anxiety and depression, experiencing their own friends having taken their own lives, and battled with the constant struggle of feeling senses so dulled while on medication, all the while feeling the world so unbearable without them. They did not have much (if anything) in common with most of our extended family, and I’m happy to know that I was considered a friend amongst familial strangers, albeit stricken with guilt. The verses are a bit of a posthumous dialogue with my late friend at their funeral – as if they could hear me… I wanted them to know that in their time being alive, I did hear them, knew what they were going through, saw the car accident that preceded their suicide, knew of their friends who met the same fate, etc.
Being close enough to know what they thought about religion and the afterlife, it was difficult to square the circle of how the death, funeral, and remembrance were treated. I am often troubled with the coping mechanisms for those truly afraid of death – religious or otherwise.
Claims to everlasting punishment or glory from the pious and often claims of some ethereal “freeing” from the body from many irreligious folks can cause glossing over the reality of loss and the grief therein, and that was the experience surrounding the tragedy of my cousin. I can’t imagine being so struck with grief and loss but simultaneously believing that someone is in a “better place” – unless the only point of reference for grief is that you no longer have the ability to interact with that person anymore.
“The righteous man claims eternity for your impiety. The sympathetic folks claim that you’re now free from your skin-suit of anxiety”, is a lyric that I feel adequately demonstrates some of the phraseology that people use to ease their feelings of loss – it also steals the term “skin suit of anxiety” from the song “Telos”, by Between the Buried and Me. Now no one can claim we aren’t metal…
Also, at the time of mixing this record, I had fallen so deeply in love with old country music – the “Satan is Real”, by The Louvin Brothers, sample at the end was something that felt so unbelievably fitting. We pitched it down to get into the key of our song and added a bunch of tremolo and other effects to make it more menacing, but either way, I like it as a reflection at the end of the track.
Fed up and angry SSOH 101. From the furthest vantage-point, this is indeed a song about being done with the people and circumstances around you and wanting to grab your lover and run off and isolate. With a little more detail and personhood, the song is a bit more about the angst of an aspiring real adult human being growing up being told what to do, how to think, and what is right or wrong by so many figures of authority, from professors and therapists to family and peers, who either haven’t thought about what they are foisting upon you with the due thoroughness and veracity of said foisting, or don’t even embody the ethic or virtue that they so virulently espouse.
“Upper-class communists with nothing to give and paper men who fold at the thought of their fathers”
Also, who doesn’t love a good post-rock instrumental bridge (with a wonky extra bar tacked on to each chord-progression) in their punk-tune??
This next 3-track stretch of the record is comprised of songs that we had written and recorded in some capacity upwards of 5 years before the LP. This track in particular was on a little two track single release we did in 2018, along with “Punching the Steering Wheel”. This was the 2nd track that we had ever written together as a group, which really feels strange to think about, though it is one of our staples – our group of fans seem to love it and the earworm chorus follows us wherever we go. Funnily enough, usually everyone sings the first lyrics of the chorus wrong, but we’ve just been rolling with it (it is “Pick me up…”, not “Wake me up…”.
Jack sings background vocals and after performing this song for nearly 6 years, he still sings “Wake me up…” – I like to think that he’s just appeasing the diehards who want to revise the lyrics). There was also an era of some of our friends and fans supplanting the first few words of the first verse, “You’re not…” with “FORT-NITE”. Chuckleheads…
The narrative here is pretty straightforward. A little bit of a “trouble in paradise” moment – an interrelationship fight over some intoxicated words, inevitably leading to out-of-proportion cataclysmic thoughts about the relationship in general. This was an actual fight and there are some verbatim quotations strewn about. The era of driving across state to visit my partner yet blowing her off to get obliterated with my friends after arriving was fun, but obviously a pretty dumb young-adult thing to do…
Falling Asleep in Public Places
This is the first song we actually wrote together. We had already worked on some of our first EP tracks but those were all solo-crafted and hack ideas that I had before even wishing to do the full band thing. I can remember the very moment of the melody and lyrics of the chorus of this track popping into my head while I was rolling silverware while serving at a bar – I was looking disheveled due to a late night of underage drinking and my manager at the time was poking a little fun at me… “how old are you anyway?…. Old enough to know you’re up to no good, I can tell…”.
We did a pretty shitty demo and released it however many years ago and then revived it and reworked a few parts for the LP. The infamous “EXPOSE HIM” during the bridge is one of our longtime friends, Ben, who (very drunkenly) insisted on hopping in front of the mic during a late night recording session – it’s a stupid reference to a meme video of a high-school(?) basketball game and someone yelling “expose him” as the defender gets crossed-over and the crowd goes wild. Dumb, I know, but it was hilarious and band inside jokes are always a good time.
We like to have been come on stage and scream it when we play live and he can make it out to catch out set – if he is unavailable, we never fail to find some other stupid SSOH fanboy to scream it into the mic. A bit of a signature thing we have – goes to show how dumb and easy to please we are.
I have always seen this track as a resentful love song towards alcohol. It was written during and about a stage of too-young alcohol abuse escapism – (not so) slyly getting shitfaced at some family gatherings, knowing that type of behavior is not particularly responsible, but doing it anyways.
Punching the Steering Wheel
A song in drop-D! Another sad love song – this time about a very specific relationship bickering session wherein some harsh realizations about the (at the time) current state of said relationship. The, “’how would you like to feel, my darling’ – ‘not like this’” hit me like a ton of bricks as we sat parked in my car and I fantasized about the vehicle self-destructing and taking me with it.
There is a very deliberate glimmer of hope to end the track as we inevitably realized that we really don’t have it too bad, and actually have a bit more fulfillment in each other than we ever really thought: “’how will you stay forever, my darling?’ – ‘just like this’”.
Funny story about this track (and Opposite Shores as well) – as mentioned, we recorded them years ago, and when I went back to mix them for this LP, I has some corrupted files on my drive. This caused me to reach out to the friend who we recorded drums with to reacquire said tracks. He didn’t have them, but his at-the-time studio partner likely did. What a trip that guy was (and that is putting it nicely).
Over the course of 4 months, I had politely reached out to him to bail us out but was often ignored, and when I was responded to, it was sadly not very friendly conversation. After figuring out that this guy was just not going to put in the effort to even look for us, I spent weeks scouring old drives, restoring old MacBooks to previous backups, and was eventually able to find most of the things we needed. I made it work, but it was all came to fruition in the very last few days of the final mixing. This did not help my anxiety…
It’s What It Is
ANOTHER somber little yearning love song – get a new interest, dude. Most people likely experience the feeling of wanting someone to leave them alone, maybe even leave their life, but not for good.
I am super proud of the sequencing of this song – how it builds, calls back to previous parts, etc. Also, I am an abysmal guitar player, theoretically and in practice, so I am super proud of the little ditty that comprises the bulk of the verses of this track, despite it being super simple for most non-terrible players.
We had no idea what to title this track as release was approaching – “Leave” was the working title, but it was a bit of a meme/joke as my partner would blurt out “LEAVE” in the most obnoxious of voices as that was all she heard for days as we tracked vocals… The door imagery in the track was deeply influenced by some of the solemn feelings and passages of the film “The Irishman”, so it just made sense to title the track, “It’s What It Is”, which is the verbiage used when something (usually the decision to murder someone by the mafia) was no longer negotiable, despite pleading from interested parties – this mapped on so thoroughly to my feelings of finishing production on this record (the need to throw my hands up in the air and call it quits, learn to deal with the feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness with final products, and inability to continually change and tweak things).
Oh man… “Starting”, the ending of the record. Austin jokingly called this track “…Only Sleeping part 1123214” because it is the classic SSOH song in 3 rather than 4. For some reason, I gravitate towards that feel when writing – whatever!! The idea of this song lived in my head for so many years (the intro chords were so graciously gifted to me by Andrew from Locktender, Pack Sounds, Men As Trees, etc. during a recording session nearly 7 years ago – WAY too heavy for most of the material SSOH dabbles in, but cool enough to need to be shoehorned in!), but really only came together in the final stages of recording. I think only half of melodies were assembled but I knew I wanted it to be excessively cathartic, have many callbacks to previous lyrical themes, and end on a somewhat hopeful and triumphant note.
“Trying sometimes won’t be quite enough”
“Slept on the beach by the sands and the pines”
“Let’s run away and dream”
“..watch the plants die”
“…’how bad could it get?’ but I don’t think I was listening”
“Still an open room for you and your mind”
“We’re not human anymore”
There’s also a nice easter-egg of lyrical homage – “chain wandering endlessly” is totally stolen from Envy’s track “Chain Wandering Deeply”.
The theme of inadequacy severely creeps back in throughout bulk of the song (always “starting to think” about every possible issue) but gets slightly quelled with the major-key change at the end and words of “something isn’t nothing and I’m something and I’m someone…” and “I’m enough to be enough for now”. Performing these vocals was super. They’re super shouty and angsty, but on top of that (and because of the late-blooming of this song with respect to the entire process), this was a very emotional look back on our struggles in reaching a ready-to-release block of songs, my personal relationship issues, mental issues, emotional strife, and inadequacy. We’ve only performed it live once, and I’m sure it will very seldom be brought back out, but it still holds a special place in our hearts.
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