While side projects often give artists great opportunities to express their own creativity outside of the confines of the bands they found success with, I find that most of these projects pale in comparison to the artist’s original band. Interesting ideas are explored and new musical directions are taken but I often find myself hoping for them to go back to their roots, to give Robert Frost the middle finger and take the road more travelled rather than split off the beaten track and end up wandering in the woods of musical obscurity. Slaughter Beach, Dog, the side project of Jake Ewald, of Modern Baseball fame, makes me reconsider everything I thought about these kind of musical endeavours. Building on their incredible debut LP Welcome with the newly released Motorcyle.jpg, Jake and company show that they almost have too much talent to be confined to only one project.
When I say that Slaughter Beach, Dog destroys my tendency to doubt side projects, this is not something to be taken lightly. Modern Baseball are a band I frequently tout as my favourite of all time, in fact being the first real gig I attended in a small, 100 capacity basement venue in Cardiff back in 2014. I credit that sweaty, emotional experience as the catalyst that ignited my passion for live music altogether. So when I say that I believe that Jake is surpassing the musical heights of Modern Baseball with his new project, it almost hurts my seventeen year old self to say it. However, as Welcome demonstrated and now Motorcycle.jpg has refined even further, the talent present in Slaughter Beach, Dog’s style of DIY American indie rock is absolutely undeniable.
Opening this new EP is the song ‘Your Cat’, which follows the lyrical style typical of Jake Ewald, rambling through a sprawling series of events, detailing neuroses and exploring romantic feelings. These songs almost leave you with the feeling that the speaker is still trying to figure their thoughts out themselves, as the song opens with “She smoked 100s when I met her, she tried to quit before she left me, I’m not so sure if that’s important, free association gets me dizzy.” The lyrics display an open vulnerability, spilling out a Jackson Pollock painting of thoughts onto the canvas, all of the ideas vaguely connected in some way.
Next up on the tracklist is ‘Glowing’, which I won’t say too much about as it’s a cover of a song by The Superweaks, another fantastic band who you can check out here. Needless to say, this track is flawlessly performed as a stripped back version of the original song, doing it justice while also putting a unique, personal spin on the song’s style.
Carrying on the uniqueness is the song ‘104 Degrees’, which marks a departure from Jake’s usual vocal style. He takes on an almost monotone spoken word approach to the lyrics as he talks us through a love at first sight scenario that seems to progress at incredible speed to talk of settling down into, as Jake puts it, “dull domestication, free from pressure to pursue,” as the guitars slowly build. This song seems like something of an experiment, and a little bit of a gamble, but I think it pays off well as a change in pace. I wouldn’t expect this style to become regular on future Slaughter Beach, Dog releases, but as a talented musician and multi-instrumentalist, I fully expect Jake to continue to explore more and more musical avenues with this project.
The final track on the EP, and my personal favourite, is ‘Building The Ark’. Immediately in the opening chords the song introduces a bouncing rhythm that forces me to sway my head along, as Jake again begins another meandering story that takes us through thoughts of his family, strange, violent dreams and the pressure on students after graduation, mentioning the feeling “When your degree is staring daggers from the wall”. It is the instrumentation on this track that really creates the atmosphere, as it progresses from simple acoustic strumming, to short bursts of an electric lead guitar, into a full on guitar solo to finish. It’s here that full credit has to be given to Jake Farmer (also of Modern Baseball and credited with the fantastic production on this EP) and the rest of Slaughter Beach, Dog as they come into the forefront after the vocals finish. There is certainly a lot more to come from this full band iteration Slaughter Beach, Dog and I feel the rest of the band will have even more opportunities to shine.
I’m conscious that this has become quite long for a piece about a simple four track EP but it’s a testament to the quality of the lyrics, vocals, instrumentation and production. When Modern Baseball embarked on their hiatus, I was worried at the prospect of a lack of music from one of my favourite bands of all time, but if this is what Jake and Ian do with their new found spare time, then they can take as long as they need.
You can check out the new EP Motorcycle.jpg here:
Slaughter Beach, Dog are also visiting the UK for the first time in early September, with dates as follows, which I would highly recommend checking out:
03/09- Manchester, Partizan
04/09- London, Servants Jazz Quarters
05/09- London, Servants Jazz Quarters
Words by Josef Smith