Track By Track: Split Single – ‘Metal Frames’

Split Single is the project of Chicago-based musician Jason Narducy – bassist in Bob Mould Band and Superchunk, and formerly of Verbow and Verboten. Jason was joined in the studio for this record by Jon Wurster (Bob Mould Band, Superchunk, Mountain Goats) and John Stirratt (Wilco), and it follows the first Split Single album which he recorded with Spoon’s Britt Daniel on bass.  Metal Frames is the masterpiece that was birthed from this process, and Split Single’s own Jason Narducy was kind enough to stop by and explain the meanings behind every song.

01. “Glori”

This was written in 2009. I was trying to create a sonic barn burner not unlike Crazy Horse. Lyrically it was a story of a woman who couldn’t handle adult relationships; always attacking those around her. But now when I hear the song I think of America’s penchant for violence. I think of the main character as our country and it’s relentless self-destruction. Happy Holidays!

02. “Untry Love”

My adoration for Cheap Trick and The Who has never been so obvious. This is a really fun song to play live. It may be the only track on the album that has a humorous side. The thought that someone can turn love on and off is absurd to me and yet some humans live life as if it is possible.

Unrelated to the theme of the song, my wife and three kids provided the hand claps in the choruses. My oldest daughter sings backup on the last verse, too.

03. “Blank Ribbons”

I feel that a lot of the unrest in America presently is a combination of fear and entitlement. Politicians are good at playing to these qualities in Americans as a means of generating support. The entitlement I address in some of the lyrics are about trophies, ribbons, and uniforms that are awarded to mediocre or even nonexistent talents. The fear is also apparent in some uniforms – folks who wear camouflage and guns as if they are soldiers. It’s a bleak song but it’s just one aspect of what I observe in current issues.

One of my goals in writing this record was to be more vulnerable and that meant exploring topics that are not easy. So I stuck to the narrative even though I don’t live every day with these dark impressions on my mind.

John Stirratt’s bass line is so compelling that we wanted to feature it for the first half of the song. So we muted Jon Wurster’s drums, turned down my guitars, and added trashy percussion (executed perfectly by Tim Remis). By the time Wurster comes in, the tension is pretty high and his fills in the bridge are a great payoff.

04. “Leave My Mind”

I always write lyrics after music and melody. This song sounded like loneliness to me so that’s where I went with the story. The music came when I was playing around with heavy compression on the guitar – seeing how long I could make a chord ring out. The chord that rings out is a major 7 and I probably borrowed that from a Bob Mould song called “One Good Reason”. It’s one of my favorite songs of his. I’m allowed to be in his band AND a huge fan. I asked.

Nora O’connor found a harmony that i wouldn’t have thought of. She made the song sound even more haunting.

05. “Still Invisible”

I like how angular and twisty this song is structurally. The chorus is so simple and straight forward but Nora O’Connor’s harmonies give it a lot of power. I asked her to sing on this song and “Leave My Mind” and they sounded so good we just kept recording with her. She’s on 8 of the 11 songs.

The lyrics, on the surface, are about being stuck in a traffic jam. I used that premise to expand on loneliness and neglect.

I like how the end section comes out of nowhere. Almost sounds like the start of a different song.

06. “Tried Goodbye”

An exercise in writing a simple song. Three chords.

07. “White Smoke”

It’s about the killing of unarmed 12 year old Tamir Rice – how the media and police department spun the story. Then it turned out there was a video of the murder and everyone had to admit they were not truthful. Through the legal system it was deemed no one was accountable for that child’s death. But you can watch the video and see the police officer shoot him dead less than 2 seconds after arriving.

This is not an easy topic to address but I wanted to speak up. Justice was egregiously ignored. It keeps happening: unarmed civilians getting killed in the streets, there’s video of it happening, no one is to blame according to the system.

I think some people are empathetic to others struggles and some are not. I am empathetic and it more than troubles me to see what happens in our country. Thankfully, most police officers are good people and protect civilians. I wish the ones who are not were held accountable for their violent acts.

08. “Silences Mercy”

This song is about rage and revenge. It’s an appropriate song to follow “White Smoke”. The first version I wrote had a final verse that was about forgiveness. But in my efforts to write from a more vulnerable place, I scrapped it and kept the song about that moment when anger is flowing and present.

John Stirratt, Jon Wurster, and I did not rehearse before recording these songs. This is a first take on drums and bass which means it’s the actual first time we played it together. Tim Remis’ percussion (cymbal swells, bells, floor tom and snare at the end) add a lot to the mood and dynamic for the song. But this song is raw emotionally and sonically. You can hear Stirratt’s amp buzzing, there are occasional slip ups on guitar (that’s me!), and the room mics let in a lot of vocal bleed from the first take.

09. “Perilous Pill”

This is the first song in the death trifecta. I told you this was a children’s album, right? Last three songs on the album address death. Some of us are destined for a hospital bed, an IV, medications, wavering consciousness, and delusion. The character in the song knows it’s the end and panic sets in.

I wrote this the day before we recorded. Jon and John had never heard it because I didn’t even have time to record a demo. I knew they would have no trouble nailing this. It’s right up Jon’s alley and I love how he intros the song. John wrote that killer bass line during the pre-chorus. It’s such a hook. Oh yeah, and I couldn’t sing the pre-chorus because it is out of my range so I called Nora again. It’s nice to have a super talented neighbor!

I was with my family in Barcelona last June. My 6 year old daughter got the flu so I stayed at the Airbnb with her and wrote these lyrics when she fell asleep on the couch watching spanish cartoons.

10. “Evaline Make Believe”

This is a song about me saying goodbye to my wife and kids; thanking them for their love and support and also telling them it will be ok when I’m gone. There’s a lot of wordplay in this one. Evaline is a name that has 3 letters from each of their names, “now do you see” refers to Narducy, “with ease” EASE is the first letter of their names, etc.

My wife sings backing vocals on this one. My friend, Nick Tremulis showed me a guitar pedal that plays your parts backwards (I played with him on Bun E Carlos’ solo record earlier this year). My wife bought it for me for Fathers Day and I used it on this song.

John Stirratt thinks this is the sleeper track on the album.

11. “Goodnight World”

The character I envisioned for this song is wearing a hospital gown – it’s probably not closed in the back – with a captain’s hat. He is ready to go but wants to have one more toast with his friends who probably aren’t around in the physical world but he doesn’t care. He’s inviting their spirits to join him for one more night of camaraderie. He thinks he’s at a tiki bar on the ocean but he’s probably just a couple feet form the hospice bed.

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