Post by Misha
Everything about Al Riggs’ new album is tenderly ominous: its title, the cover illustration of a school bus sinking into a lake – the soft, tenuous opening notes of A Band On Me. Taken together it evokes the feeling of waking up warm and safe on a technicality, watching the world burn from the disconnected comfort of an app. There’s something about it that can’t last.
But one of the album’s great accomplishments is that it captures the fear and uncertainty of living on top of shifting ground, and yet it also quite painstakingly sweeps into the corners where stillness and safety still live.
Al was kind enough to share some insights from We’re Safe But For How Long with me.
On the inspiration behind the album:
Unfortunately, the main inspiration behind the album was an onslaught of reports of sexual assault and misconduct within the music community (among many others) and how the various communities were coping with it.
Riggs was particularly disturbed by the behavior of Ethan Kath of Crystal Castles and the lengths to which some men in the music community have gone to discredit their victims.
Two songs came out of thinking about Kath and men just like him, some of which I have known personally; “Privately Remembered”, which is explicitly about hiring someone to slander or serve someone else and trying to excuse their own behavior, and “A Soft Bed”, the closing track, about someone who lives in a (hopefully not too far off) fantasy world where they have been exiled for their crimes and behavior. No more gigs booked, no more record deal.
When I think about people listening to the album and giving me feedback, and that a lot of people seem to be buying and listening and liking this record, I wonder if any of this comes through when they listen to it.
But despite its difficult subject matter, the album is as sweet as it is dark.
On the brighter side of the spectrum, the two songs on the album that aren’t explicitly about pathetic masculinity and the arbitrary importance of the artist are love songs. “Powerhouse” is a song about two fire-fighters in love, simple as that.
“Revolutionary Costume” was written on the night I had horrible insomnia so I just wrote about the scene in my and my boyfriend’s apartment: I went downstairs because his snores were bothering me, people pulling in and out of the parking lot, and just getting deep into my own brain, realizing that while the other person in my relationships might change, there’s not much I can do about how my brain works.
I keep coming back to this album trying to pin down exactly what it believes about the world, but the beauty of We’re Safe But For How Long cannot be isolated in either its softness or its foreboding, but rather lies in its distillation of all the ways that fear and love coexist.
Buy We’re Safe But For How Long here. Al Riggs is one of my very favorite newly discovered artists, and they’re hitting the road with one of my very favorite bands of all time, The Mountain Goats, this fall. Get tickets here.