Album:

Bent Denim

Town and Country

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introduction by sammy maine

words by ben littlejohn and denis sager

Town and Country exists in a confined, solitary space. One that allows our speckled ruminations to gush out of our confined selves, allowing us to stop acting for others, to drop the strained smile for a split second. There’s a certain relief that comes with saying exactly what you want to say, even if it’s in the middle of the night, too quiet for anyone to take notice. With each member living in different states – Nashville and New Orleans – Town and Country saw Littlejohn and Sager record demoes separately, sending them back and forth via email. The album is the result of two friends expressing these insular confessions, knowing that the other would not only listen but build upon them to understand and to amplify the words they were hearing. It’s giving each other a leg up in a world that barely offers a hand.

The record isn’t out until Friday but you can stream it in full right here, and scroll a little further down the page to read a track-by-track guide to each song on Town and Country as well as some exclusive recording photos, courtesy of members Ben Littlejohn and Denis Sager.

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Track-by-track Guide

Selfish Thoughts

Ben: Definitely one of the jealous breakup songs on the record. Deals with the feeling of someone not being in your life anymore and wondering if they still think about you the way you think about them. Also very candidly states that there are parts of people that you truly never let go of which I think took me a long time to figure out. I’m still amazed at the lack of drums until the second verse it’s like you don’t realize they’re not there until they come in.

Downtown El Fenix

Ben: Takes place in one my favorite tex-mex restaurants in Dallas. It’s where my grandmother and I go when I am home visiting family. My friend Sara Beth tracked some beautiful backing vocals on this song.

Denis: Our good friend Hunter Kuhlmann wrote some songs about divorce and that pushed me to write songs about divorce. So much of a social focus is placed on the start of a marriage and that leaves me curious to the details of how they end.

Askance

Ben: Another jealous breakup song off the record. Written just after a relatively nasty breakup and mostly recorded after a night of drinking too much. I was able to use my family’s upright piano at the end of this playing that descending melody line which is slightly out of tune but turned out to be charming in this context. Went up to Cape Cod for a week with my mom and finished up overdubbing on a lot of these tracks using the piano and my grandmother’s old organ both of which are up there. It was really nice to get away from the noise of Nashville where the only distraction was to go to estate sales or my mother asking me to go on walks with the dog and our neighbor Nancy.

Denis: ‘Askance’ is definitely a word learned from Faulkner, who definitely learned it from Shakespeare. The intro/pads came from Arturias Jupiter plugin. I moved to Brooklyn in July 2015 and basically had to leave the majority of my hardware synths and become a laptop ‘soft synth’ rocker. Plugin life drastically increased my work flow letting me to quickly create a sound, find a groove and chords, set it to set BPM (or not) and just spit it out. Plug and chug. Cut a few of them up and send them to Ben. Forget about it.

St. Augustine

Ben: Inspired by a magical day/night in Pensacola, Florida staying up really late and drinking Old Grand-Dad whiskey. This song was treated with a healthy dose of spring reverb from my vintage Fostex spring reverb unit that used to belong to late Dallas musician Carter Albrecht. He played in Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians and few other wonderful Dallas bands. After his tragic death due to gun violence, this unit and few other studio goodies of his ended up in my posession.

Denis: I swear Ben wrote this verse in the second round of Bent Denim songs (the first being most of Epistolary EP) maybe around January 2014. Time is such a character in this record, as are physical and geographical locations.

Pageantry

Ben: The skeleton of this song was made on a Teenage Engineering OP-1 on a flight home for Thanksgiving to see my family. The song addressed the dread of going home to where i grew up. The place that both Dennis and I come from is a very Republican and elite area of Dallas and I didn’t always feel like a fit in that box. Kind of a fantasy of not being from “the bigger the hair the closer to god” Dallas but those beautiful sunburnt small towns that you see driving around rural Texas.

Denis: I didn’t realize how tied to the town of Dallas this whole record is until doing this write up. We are self-exiled Texans writing songs about the place we left, attempting to bridge the gap between who we are now and who we want to be. Your creative spirit rarely grows in your shitty apartment and favorite dive bar. Surface area is so important to creating. Traveling always provides some sort of inspiration. Sharks constantly move until they die.

Song Called Sex

Ben: Our friend Christian plays drums on this and we had a lot of trouble tracking this because the cute boston terrier puppy that was at my house wouldn’t leave us alone. Also went wild on a old Fender Mustang bass that i recently picked up off craigslist. The second owner, whom i bought it from, purchased it in 1972 and it had already been repainted and the pickguard was changed out to this beautiful handmade leather one. It’s seen some love and it sounds like butter.

Denis: I wrote this song back in 2011 on guitar and have tried recording it probably a dozen times and always been unhappy with it. Ben ended up just taking some good vocal takes and building the song around, essentially ‘saving’ it from my point of view. Sometimes all it takes is your bandmates new view on your old song to flesh it out fully.

My Mother Knew

Ben: Inspired by the fact that some mothers have this innate knowledge of what’s going on in their child’s life and often they just don’t say anything. I have the most wonderful mother in the world. She’s who I learned to stir the pot from and who I learned to antique and thrift from. As I got older I realized that all the time I spent when i was younger getting fucked up or fooling around with girls, she was for the most part aware of it. Parents are people, too.

Denis: I’ve spent most of my life thinking about the lines to the Beatles song “Your Mother Should Know’
‘Let’s all get up and dance to a song that was a hit before your mother was born’

Idiot

Ben: Kind of a visual mix between a Carver-esque me being drunk and disenfranchised with adulthood and a childhood me still being in wonder with the world around me. The lyric in there about foreskin will probably haunt me for the rest of my life but I’m committed to it. The first half of this song was done for like 6 months before I added the second half. Everything that sounds remotely messed up is thanks to a Shure Level-Loc I found at the Nashville Flea Market.

Denis: The intro/pads came from the roland D 10 synth. It’s the budget version of the very famous D 50, full of cheesy but beautiful digital non-sampled sounds. It was introduced in the 1988 and is actually a standard in 1990s Italian House music. The working name of the song was ‘choir’ but while we were working on it suddenly we had multiple songs with working names of something to do with ‘choir’ which definitely says something about the sounds of pads we like to stack and how we build our songs.

Chasing Catherine

Ben: Had a lot of fun sampling my voice into a old yamaha vs330 synthesizer for that strange sound in the turn. Also sampled the drums off a drum machine my grandma had with her Hammond organ.

Denis: I guess the song is originally a bit of a pun on so many women in my life (prominently from southern states in US) named variations of proper nouns Katherine & Elizabeth. What’s in the power a name? And when you are given a name, what do you do with it? Do you demand a nickname or some colloquial shortening of this monarchical Victorian staple?

Admiral of Excuses

Ben: The premise of this song appeared after a goofy night where my grandmother’s ex-boyfriend called asking me to go to her retirement home to see if she was okay because she wouldn’t pick up her phone. My brother Chris played drums on this song. The only real thing that sticks out is that we used a pair of my crocs to mute the the drum heads. My other grandmother’s Hammond organ is featured on this track and makes me feel close to her.

My Own Breath

Ben: One of the simpler songs of the record. My friend Will, who plays in Hovvdy, kept on telling me how he missed hearing my voice less obscured and high. Those words definitely inspired the production of this song. Deals with feeling really lonely and trying to feel better but ultimately not feeling any better. This entire song was tracked with one microphone (a Sennheiser 421) and ended up sounding really cohesive because of that. Went overboard with a tremolo pedal my brother made for me also.

Denis: This song ended up being so telic, being constructed in its meaning.

I Digress

Ben: Found that ridiculous chorus guitar sound by running my guitar thru a vintage roland synthesizer to get a chorus effect and then running into another vintage chorus pedal. The pleasant/dreamy guitar sound is a nice juxtaposition from all the talk about anxiety and running away from it.

Denis: We build bright songs with dark lyrical content.

Corkboard

Ben: This song took a lot of tries to get right. Inspired a lot from the first bit of Sophie’s Choice. The bleak, lonely feelings of being alone in a new place. I tracked the piano for this at my old neighbor’s house. They have a beautiful Yamaha grand piano and would have me occasionally handle Airbnb guests at their house. Before the guests would arrive I would abuse their espresso machine and try to track as much piano as possible on that thing.

Denis: This is definitely the oldest bent denim song on this record. I wrote three different verses and I think we ended up using the original? It feels so good to finally release this one. It’s always been a favorite of the people close to us. And it definitely is pretty defiant of the situation we were/are in where/when we started this band. We are child trapped in adults bodies trying to make the best of it, and figure out what to do next/now. I guess it’s like a ideal catch up song- bridging this awkward gap that being human is all about. Learning how to compromise expectation with reality.

Town and Country is self-released on May 11

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Bent Denim play The End in Nashville, TN on May 24

Grab tickets here

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