“I can’t believe I wrote some of the stuff I did,” NYC-based talent Andrew Cedermark tells us of his poetic vision for sophmore effort, Home Life. Dropped this past July, the former guitarist of Springsteenian punk stalwarts, Titus Andronicus, had been piecemealing a handful of singles and cassettes around touring schedules and downtime, shaping a fuzzian folk squall of a voice that culminated in a formal split from TA and 2010’s debut LP, Moon Deluxe.
Whereas said debut introduced Cedermark’s sense of twenty-something angst and isolation in curiously refreshing sketches, indie rock-speaking, it was nothing you couldn’t access in a Real Estate or Kurt Vile tangent – giving into the groove rather than articulate the dimensions of middle-class “Hard Livin’,” hiding behind the cryptic reverb of a haunting ‘dream‘ without a verse to labor over, despite the seeds of the meteoric country-tinged swells being planted.
Home Life, on the other hand, is a polished statement of a young man coming to terms with the end of an era of an innocence best expressed in the notion that 30 is the new 20. Opening in the key of Bill Withers‘ “Lean on Me,” Cedermark unravels an arch of accountability in the face of the sadness and meaning of going home to a place and people that will never have halcyon days again, mastering his Neil Young via Crazy Horse guitar work to craft one of the most unique, swathy Americana concept tensions of 2013:
When asked for a resolution to some of these tensions, Cedermark offered: “Genuflect before the mystery of life.” The lyric behind this and more, below, as we picked the dude’s brain on some of the themes behind the record, the Charlottesville, Virginia home that inspired it, his “curmudgeon” jealousy of Randy Newman and what it’s like not being in the shadow of Patrick Stickles’ (TItus Andronicus) pen.
Let’s get Titus Andronicus out of the way – you were a founding member/guitarist, yes? Patrick Stickles is not a man of few words. Nor are you. What was the catalyst to split off on your own and pen your own stories?
The short answer is that I wrote songs before I had joined Titus, so it felt natural to keep doing it once I left. While I wasn’t a founding guitarist, I was in the band at ground level, having joined soon after its inception as well as having known and played with Patrick for years prior. Patrick is more famous than me and his songs widely regarded as better than mine, all of which is well deserved, but I have enough life to me that I wasn’t going to let it all unravel in the light of his flame.
Like many an indie rockster before you with a heavy heart and fuzzy guitar work, Home Life seethes with an existential crisis of faith. Why now, at this point in your life?
Life for most of us is a prolonged existential crisis, which is fine, but deserves some consideration. The song was the form at my disposal. Unlike on my first record, where I sang of any old thing, I had poetic ambitions for this one, and I tried much harder, which people didn’t seem to like, but which felt necessary at the time.
Speaking of the indie rocksters, who are some of your favorite songwriters, and what one album, lyrically speaking, breaks your heart that you didn’t write first?
Has your definition of ‘home’ changed since making the record?
I have moved. So in a strictly literal sense the answer is yes. But I think in writing this album I got something out of my system such that it’s not entirely clear to me, about a year after writing the lyrics and totally removed from the context in which I wrote them, why I was so obsessed with the concept of home. I suppose even flimsy subjects turn to gold in the hands of a master. But, not being a master, I can’t believe I wrote some of the stuff I did. At some point the writing has to be done. Maybe that’s why I wrote about it — it’s as good as I could do in that moment.
Trains man, there are several tracks where we see your protagonist lose it emotionally while in transit looking out a train window. What’s up with the space? Have you thought about working cars into your narratives?
“At Home” features “sedans from 1990.”
Who’s home is on the record cover? What would its walls say if they could talk?
My girlfriend and I lived in that house in Charlottesville. Legend has it they made Civil War uniforms in the neighborhood, and that the plant foreman or whatever lived there with his family. I am sure that the walls would therefore have a lot of interesting stories, but they would have to contend with the general racket (rodents, old pipes, clicking radiators) issuing from within the walls of a 150-year-old house.
Legal concerns! I would have much preferred to have called it that so I could have responded in interviews to questions about Bill Withers as opposed to ones about New Jersey and myself.
Back to your protagonist, he’s kind of this stargazing, ‘drunk as a poet on payday’ type, disillusioned with love and dreams, but able to cope with enough effort and perhaps a friend, culminating in the ethos on “Men in Jail:”
What’s the way out? What’s the hope? Aside from those majestic, Crazy Horse-ian cathartic guitar tangents of yours?
Genuflect before the mystery of life.