Published Jun 01, 2016It's with both pathos and humour that Daniel Romano skewers his generation on his new album Mosey, but he's not joking around when it comes to the emptiness of modern being. In fact, it was his lyrics, born from poems about "the issue that there's nothing to represent the culture and there's no culture to have representation for," that really drove the creation of his latest record (or second latest if you're counting his surprise Ancient Shapes record).
"[Mosey] basically started from poems first. I usually write songs, like intentionally, and then poems sort of separately, but this time, the music was really an afterthought," he tells Exclaim! These songs, he says, "felt more directed at something than you know, the sort of ethereal universal sob ballad or whatever."
The grittier songs on Mosey — particularly "(Gone Is) All But a Quarry of Stone," which features an "Official Premix" video where he crudely eats a hamburger in an industrial yard, and "Dead Medium" — suggest that Romano is frustrated with the "quantity vs. quality" nature of art and its value in the digital age, and how longevity has become an afterthought, if even that.
"Maybe it's an unintentional nod at the last sort of people's generation — I mean, that's convenient, but I don't think it was intentional. [This is] sort of a generation of lost identity, an identity crisis, and that kind of goes across the board — excluding hip-hop, you know," Romano explains.
Mosey is an honest release that pines for authenticity, and he's keen on not having it be mere fodder or mindless listening. But despite his new approach here, he's not sure he's changed as much as people may think — and certainly none of it is put on or forced.
If anything, it seems that he's searching for a connection.
"I just want [people] to react — all of it came out of honesty and whatever fear, and all those other great things, but any sort of alteration stylistically or anything like that is never really on purpose, it's conceived as it's happening. So it doesn't feel different to me, it feels relevant and current. I'm basically the victim of the people beyond that. But I hope that they like it."
Mosey features the country tunes that he's now known for, but they're contrasted by what feels like homages to 1960s songwriting, complete with symphonic horns, female shoo-bop vocals and a deep, Lee Hazlewood-style vocal delivery. Romano's dropped the embroidered nudie getup in favour of an Adidas track suit, though it certainly does play into the idea of him finding an ugly side to the seemingly gleaming and glitzy country scene.
"I do feel like that scene is kind of imploding and destroying itself again, so if there's anything intentional, it's distancing myself from that particular 'movement' that speaks of nothing. It's more about what you're doing than what's within it, you know. That's the way I see it, from the outside, from having been inside — it's very much look the part, play the part, all those kinds of jail type scenarios."
As of press time, Romano currently in Europe on tour, having arrived there by boat — a seven-day trip aboard the Queen Mary 2, to be exact. This might be seen as a slightly unconventional method of travel to some, but to Romano, it's another way of slowing down the world to forge connections with those around him.
"The Queen Mary 2 is a really nice ship. It's not like a hokey kind of cruise ship — kind of like a nice hotel. It's pretty slow-paced on the ship, it's full of people to talk to, and you can hang out with the captain and all those things — and also, worse case scenario, there are other little boats that you can get into. So you've got a chance."
He attributes his aversion to airplanes as being less out of fear and more of a discomfort in how removed and unfriendly the flying experience can be. His passion for a human and tangible aspect is evident in not only his music, but in his feelings towards simple, oft overlooked things like travel.
"I remember being on a little Cessna from Moncton to Halifax, something like a 20-minute flight, and it was the most enjoyable flight ever because there was no door to the cockpit. You could talk to the pilot and co-pilot. It was technically one of the sketchiest flights I've ever been on, but because it was sort of communal and there were human beings that you could see and talk to and understand their reactions to the whole scenario, it just felt comforting. It felt like a human experience as opposed to a strange kind of like science fiction vessel type scenario.
"It's basically designed to not be personable, the whole flying system. You rarely get to see the captain until the end of the trip, so you don't know whose hands your destiny is in and things like that. I find that to be a little unnerving — but also the entire process, the cattle herd at both ends, and all of that."
So is the aesthetic change and penchant for Adidas track suits (including ample use of the amusing hashtag #stripeup) a jab at what kids are wearing today, an act of satire?
"No, I don't think so," Romano claims. "It's just what I happen to be digging at the time. I mean, there's a certain between-the-lines aspect of it, I suppose, but it came from an honest place."
And besides, he's still the King of Mosey.
"Of course. Mosey conveniently morphed right beside me."
Mosey is out now on New West Records. Watch the video for "Valerie Leon" below and see all his upcoming tour dates over here.