Another Age is the debut album of New York’s Robert Earl Thomas. Released back in February on Captured Tracks, it is a record which envelopes the listener in a blanket of warm guitar tones, expansive synths and meditative lyrical content.
We caught up with Robert to pick his brains on what is an incredibly reflective and explorative collection of songs.
Many people will know you as the lead guitarist of Widowspeak, who are also on the Captured Tracks Label. What made you decide to make a solo record?
“I’ve been noodling in bands for years, but I’d always wanted to step out in front and have my own project— I just couldn’t really settle on the right vibe. Finding my sound turned out to be a slow process spread over a handful of cities and homes. By the time I felt ready, Molly was looking to take a break from Widowspeak and everything just kinda fell into place. I’m really fortunate that both Molly and Captured Tracks have been so supportive of my solo endeavours.”
I’ve heard that the foundations of ‘Another Age’ were written and recorded at home. It seems like a lot of artists are choosing to record at home rather than in a conventional studio. Why do you think this is, is there something about home-recording that can’t be recreated in a studio?
“For me, recording at home was supposed to be a beginning step, a way to find my sound before heading into the studio. But I spent so much time and invested so much of myself into the home recordings that it felt foolish to throw them away and start from scratch. I think this is a common sentiment among my peers. Plus, it’s pretty easy for anyone so inclined to make professional recordings at home. The clock is never ticking so you can really explore without constraint. Of course, with no financial or time restraints, it’s just as easy to continue tweaking and changing things until you’re totally lost.”
There are a few stylistic nods to Dylan, Springsteen, and even the great Arthur Russell throughout ‘Another Age’, and yet it avoids all the clichés associated with those artists. Do you believe that new music must always have its roots in the past, or is there an alternative? I’m reminded of your comment that the whole album is about “looking backward and forward at the same time.”
“I don’t really have any dogmatic views on “new music.” I suppose my strongest beliefs are in earnestness and sincerity of voice. I tend to gravitate towards decades-old aesthetics — so do a lot of people, we live in a cultural archive of sorts — but then my songs, and maybe a lot of songs, are about relationships and feelings. Things that are forever.”
Most people who I’ve shown ‘Another Age’ to have said that it’s one of those records which is perfectly suited to walking and exploring a new place. Why do you think this is? Is the album is a product of its surroundings?
“That’s cool. For me, making the record was an act of personal exploration and I’d love to think that mind-set has been woven into it. Plus I’d describe a lot of the textures on the record as “opening” or “evolving.” Synths, unraveling guitar solos, that kinda thing.”
The album has been described as one which is concerned with small moments of big emotional impact. To what extent would you say that over-thinking, or rather, analysing situations, is important to the art of song writing?
“Well, I guess I’ve found that the real meat of song writing occurs when you try to take all the analyzing and over-thinking and shave it down to core emotions and observations. They don’t have to be super literal (in fact, it’s probably best if they aren’t), but vivid and engaging. I’m no master at this, I’m flying pretty blind.”
I feel like I’m getting a little too deep here, so let’s take a step back: What plans does Robert Earl Thomas have for the coming year, are you planning to tour the album?
“Haha, well, I’ve got a really great band together, I’m calling them The Sharper Image, and we’ve got a handful of Northeast dates planned so far (Bk 2/16, Philly 2/17, Boston 3/9, Northampton 3/10, Bk 3/13). I do plan on doing a lot more touring in 2018 and hopefully get back into the studio, this time with the band. Stay tuned!”
The new album, ‘Another Age,’ from Robert Earl Thomas is out now – and can be purchased/streamed here.