“I hope you know,
white knights and heroes are wasted in middle America.”

So the phrase goes. “Great Lakes” was born out of watching a relationship die. Or maybe a couple. Midwestern images tumble and fly around like birds, but the essentials are: what does someone do when they are with someone who has (had?) the best “heroic” intentions in the world, but has no ability, focus, or even desire to carry them through? Years into a marriage, maybe we need more than the white knights and heroes. We need someone to take out the freakin trash and make dinner for a change; to show love in that subtle, non-Hollywood way. Someone who cares enough to argue about stuff and and fight to make a collective life better (“… imaginary fights and words not spoken…”).

This is actually the oldest song on American Sun; at least 10 months. It went through a couple different rewrites before we hit on the vibe that’s on the CD. There was some Death Cab in it at one point, some Police. We kept fiddling with it and fiddling with it until it came together, pretty much all at once. I still remember the Saturday rehearsal when it started to peak its head around the corner. The first time we hit the harmonies. One of those times when everyone in the band immediately knew that the song had “found itself.” That’s how creativity works at times, you just keep approaching songs from different angles: varying tempos, feels, radical new ideas, and then one day everything clicks into place, and there’s a part of you that isn’t really sure how you even got there (but you’re thankful that you did).

Tracking it was another adventure. It was one of the first songs we did electrics on, and then immediately started adding vintage keyboards on it in selective places. Later, we still weren’t really feeling it, and so Justin re-did a part that knit a lot of it together, and then we added the tasty (literally) percussion and—yes, you do hear them—hand claps (courtesy of the Case children, Eric and Nathan).

You can download an acoustic version of “Great Lakes” from the Maida Vale website. You can hear the full version on our CD, American Sun (on iTunes and Amazon.com)


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