Mon April 5
1001 SE Morrison
I'm trying to ask Iron and Wine's Sam Beam about the darker overtones in his music, the threads of foreboding that makes his music so much more resonant than just about every other Drake-influenced, soft indierock/folk act out there. But what comes out of my nervous mouth is, "How do you make your songs so spooky?"
Beam thinks for a minute, and says, "Well, I don't really intentionally set out to write, you know, Halloween songs."
I release a jittery, high-pitched laugh.
"But yeah, I'm interested in that kind of stuff," Beam continues. "Some of the things I end up writing about are scary--how people treat each other, mortality... a lot of times the musical element is more spooky than the words. It comes from old blues stuff. That's what interests me the most about those old blues recordings."
On "Free Until They Cut Me Down," from his new album, Our Endless Numbered Days, Beam sings, "When the wind wraps me like the reaper's hand / I will swing free until they cut me down." It's just one of a seemingly endless supply of gorgeous lyrics (replete with perfect melodic hooks), but I realize after our interview that it is indeed the old-school blues influence that makes it truly haunting. With his great, bushy beard, rickety banjo licks, and whispery voice, one can almost imagine Beam as a Civil War soldier's spirit, opaque and quietly restless, rocking and singing for all eternity out on the porch.
Beam's amazing debut, Creek Drank the Cradle, was recorded on a four-track in his basement, but for Endless he was awarded studio time. The transition is seamless, with the breathtaking intimacy of Iron and Wine intact, but with strains of piano and guest vocalists like Beam's sister Sarah filling out the cracks. The result is lush yet ghostly; in my opinion, the most perfect kind of music. It impresses me so much, I just can't let it go.
"Will Iron and Wine do anything, you know, kind of creepy at your live show?" I ask, hopefully.
Again, Beam thinks. "You mean... do we wear capes or something?"