The August Light is:
Chris Marshall – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Keys, Harmonica, Hand Percussion
Patti King – Violin, Vocals, Electric Bass, Keys, Hand Percussion
Ryan Reetz – Piano, Wurlitzer
Joel Swift – Drums
Willem Joersz – Acoustic Bass
Chris Casarez – Lead Guitar (Tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8,9 & 10)
Randy Bemrose – Drums (Tracks 4 & 7)
John Whaley – Trumpet (Tracks 1, 8, 9 & 10)
Album design & cover photography by Adam Perry
Interior photo taken by Ryan Reetz
Management: Alex Steininger, In Music We Trust
STORY OF AN ALBUM
by Ryan White
Chris Marshall and Patti King are sitting in the back of a Portland bar disassembling Marshall’s new record, Some Kind of Dream, breaking it down to its parts to pinpoint the source of its genre-bending punch.
“I gave Patti some … what’s the word?”
“Directives?” King says.
“That’s why we’re a team,” she says.
“I wanted to make sure there was someone reminding me there were no rules for where a song could go,” Marshall says.
Unless it was somewhere he’d already been.
Marshall is a preacher’s kid, which means he grew up with preacher’s music: Keith Green, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant. Elements of those earliest influences have been hard to shake. Marshall wanted them shook—because preacher’s kids become teenagers too, and so Marshall met Black Flag, and Minor Threat.
“I showed up at school 9th-grade year with this whole new look,” he says, laughing. “Got shunned from the preppy table. Shaved my head. Hung out at the weirdo table. Started a band.” There was Overmilked Cow. Putz. The Shimmies. Some were bands; some were concepts living only on T-shirts scribbled up in marker. And now King, not having heard any of this before, is laughing.
He discovered emo – the likes of Fugazi, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Mineral. He discovered country. He worked his way to soul. Found an insatiable love for hip-hop. He dug into Sam Cooke, and Jerry Lee Lewis, The Staples Singers, and Jackie Wilson. And then came Elvis.
Marshall drifted enthusiastically with his interests, but could never quite find his own musical anchor. As he built a discography, he played with acts like Tift Merritt, Elizabeth Cook, and Richmond Fontaine. But never did he feel fully comfortable. He felt … restless.
Then in 2009, he needed a fiddle player. He’d made an EP, Starting Out, and the guy who’d played on it was in Canada. Like one does, Marshall turned to Craigslist. He found an ad King had placed offering lessons. Thinking she was likely a middle-aged woman giving lessons out of her living room, Marshall called and asked if she had any students who might be good with Americana. King told him to send her the tracks.
Five years later, theirs represents the longest, most meaningful musical relationship Marshall’s had. She’s become the anchor in The August Light, which features Ryan Reetz on keys, William Joertz on bass, and Joel Swift on drums. Forever in search of someone who could make sense of the sounds in his head that Marshall couldn’t quite describe, King became the translator. Best known as a member of Radiation City, King produced the record. She enforced the directives.
Out went the old. In came the rest. Most notably, the rest includes an array of synthetic sounds. “These Days,” its shadowy emotion buttressed by the lyrical realization that “these days, I prefer the night,” leans toward doomy trip hop. “Castle” owes to producer Clams Casino, an artist that has played a significant role in shaping the sound of modern hip-hop.
But “Break Bread” cuts closest to folk. And “Go Straight Home,” written after the death of Marshall’s grandfather, is just a gorgeous soul song with the uplifting horn arrangements to prove it.
Listen close, and you can hear Some Kind of Dream unlocked on its second track, “Feel Like Running,” when Marshall sings about being knocked down “to the place where all the honesty comes out.”
The record was difficult to sequence, because the songs sound so different. But they’re tied together by struggle, each representing a moment in a difficult couple of years where Marshall felt like his career, his life … everything was in limbo and on the line.
“I was usually the voice of optimism,” King says. She would remind him what they set out to accomplish, that they promised not to rush it. When he worried no one would understand the diversity of influences, she said, “I don’t care. This is what we wanted to do.”
That is what they did, and that diversity of sounds is who Marshall is. When they were done, he sent the tracks to his brother to get some outside feedback, and waited. “He’s always rooted for me,” Marshall says. But he kept waiting. And waiting. And when the rhapsodic response came, it was 2,011 words in length, but it could be cut to one sentence:
“You’re a guy who loves Johnny Cash and A$AP Rocky,” his brother wrote. “Deal with it.”