“Everyone knows that the world’s on fire”, sings Chris Staples on the opening track of his new album Holy Moly, a line that probably resonates with a lot of us. Yet across his latest album, the Seattle songwriter seems to offer us an alternative path, “what I hope to communicate with Holy Moly is that a human life is full of possibility. There is so much goodness that you can will into existence. I feel like people are resigned to a type of inevitable hopelessness in our culture. Why rule out the possibility that things can get better?”
One thing definitely getting better is the music of Chris Staples, he has been making music since his teenager years, yet with each new release he seems to find something new and intriguing to offer. Signed to Barsuk Records, Holy Moly, due out next month, is Chris’ third album for the label, and the first since 2016’s break-out, Golden Age. The album was recorded in Chris’ garage throughout 2018, in a series of sessions, worked on, then returned to later to see what continued to excite him.
Musically, Holy Moly feels a slightly rougher and more minimal offering that its predecessors. Throughout Chris’ Jeff Tweedy-like way with a melancholy melody is accompanied by an array of intriguing arrangements; the aforementioned World’s On Fire is all burbling electronics and barely strummed acoustics, while the title track has a Beck-like country-funk swagger and Horse And Saddle is exactly what you hope Death Cab For Cutie would sound if they went alt-country. It’s a record that’s always subtle, yet quietly pushes Chris’ sound onward to thrilling new heights.
Today ahead of the release, Chris took some time to answer our questions discussing, why he makes music, quitting drinking and the difficulties in not writing songs about the, “messed up things that are happening right now“.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Chris Staples?
I’m a music maker from Seattle Washington. I tour a lot and make records a lot.
FTR: Your new album, Holy Moly, is out next month, what can you tell us about recording it?
I made Holy Moly in my garage, which is a little studio I built. I spent about a year making it. I wrote a lot of material for it, much of which wasn’t used. I just wanted to make a record that was very selective that drew from a larger well of songs.
FTR: What did you do differently compared to your previous albums?
It’s the first record that I’ve ever played piano on.
FTR: The album’s coming out via Barsuk Records, how did that come about?
This will be my third record on Barsuk. I self-released a record in 2012 called “American Soft”. Matthew from Nada Surf really liked the record and get Barsuk jazzed on it. That’s basically how they started working with me.
FTR: What are your aspirations for this record? Do you see music as a viable career?
Well, music is my career and it’s how I make my living currently. My aspirations for this record specifically are just that I hope some people discover it and take to it. I don’t have a lot of expectation around records coming out.
FTR: Who are your influences? What were you listening to when you wrote Holy Moly?
Lately I’ve been listening to Michael Nau, Twain, Luke Temple, Jessica Pratt, Cate Le Bon, and Sam Evian.
FTR: There’s a line in the opening track, “everyone knows that the world’s on fire, but for a moment we forgot”, is this album written as a form of escapism from the world around us?
No, it’s not an overarching theme of the record. But yeah, music can be that. Sometimes we need to be taken away by a good book, film, or a song. It’s hard not to make songs that only address the really messed up things that are happening right now. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to escape it in art for a moment here or there.
FTR: We read you quit drinking alcohol while writing this record. Do you think that shaped how the record turned out?
It definitely got finished quicker. I spent my evenings reflecting on the day rather than being on a liquid vacation. As a result of that I spent more time writing and playing guitar than I typically would.
FTR: Why do you make music? Do you have any other creative outlets?
I loved songs as a kid, and I love listening to music. I think of making music as just going several steps further in your love of it. To actually make it is very satisfying. I do photography, some video stuff but that’s about it.
FTR: Three album’s for Barsuk in, are you still as passionate about music as you always were?
Well, I started making records in high school, so this is probably my 20th full length or something. Yes, I love it.
FTR: The album’s obviously coming out on vinyl, are you attached to physical formats? Do you see streaming as a good thing or a bad thing for the music industry?
I like all formats. Don’t really have an opinion on that. I think streaming is good and bad. It’s good because it democratized music. Now all kinds of weirdos can make cool records and people will actually come across it. Streaming was good for me because my music gets playlisted often, and people in other countries are listening. It sucks that it’s harder to make money from music, but you find ways.
FTR: What’s next for Chris Staples?
Touring and working on new songs. Moving to Richmond, Virginia. I’m pretty stoked about that.
Holy Moly is out June 28th via Barsuk Records. Click HERE for more information on Chris Staples.