On our sophomore full-length album, “No Easy Way Out,” we examine tragedy underneath a bed of pulsating drone-rock following the murder of our bass player Aron Christensen in 2022, inspired by artists like Spacemen 3, The Velvet Underground, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
We do a lot of things: heavy blues, psychedelic, and atmospheric rock. It’s not as psychedelic/jammy as our first record. It’s more dark and brooding. It has some jams in it, but it’s far more focused.
Tragically, the biggest story isn’t our sound but the death of Aron Christensen, who was murdered while hiking with his four-month-old puppy, Buzzo. Inept police work, a lazy district attorney, and many questions that will probably never be answered have led many news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, to write about Aron’s mysterious murder. However, before his passing, we were finishing what would become No Easy Way Out, an eight-track collection of songs that explore, examine, and contemplate life, death, and how nobody makes it out alive.
Listen to the album while reading the text.
Aron knew about the struggles of life and how hard it is to get out of bed every morning and deal with the day-to-day. He could understand the darkness, look it in the eye, realize what it was, and attempt to deal with it. We’d often talk about struggles we were going through and how it’s super hard to get through life at times. He could understand that better than most people I’ve ever met.
I’m not much of a lyric person, but I did put a lot of emotions into the lyrics of “No Easy Way Out.” The album has been an outlet for me in dealing with many personal tragedies that were going on in my life at the time, including the devastating loss of another close friend, which I write about on the album’s final track, “Goodbye Reno.” It’s not really personal, but there is a line in the song “Babylon,” I think it’s the chorus,
I don’t know how I came up with that line, but it captures what people have been observing across America over the past several years. Nothing seems to be working out; everything seems to be falling apart. There is certainly joy to be found, but if you’re like me or a band like us, you get caught in the dark places of life, and it’s easier to reflect on that, at least for me. This feeling permeates the album and is profoundly expressed on the droney opening track, “Judgement Time,” written by the late Mark Lanegan.
The album’s title track is about life and how it’s hard to escape tragic situations, while “Rest My Soul” examines the thoughts and feelings about just wanting to lay down and die. It’s about looking for a place to get it over with, and I think the truth is begging…for truth in society and your circle of friends and family.
Following the death of Aron, I changed some of the lyrics on “No Easy Way Out,” while other lyrics took on a new meeting. They aren’t necessarily about him, but I did change some lyrics, including the lyrics at the end of “No Easy Way Out,” that specifically deal with Aron. Everything else was done before he died. We were mixing it, and near the end of the mixing process was when he passed. If you just listen to the lyrics, they point to the tragic problems of life and questions of What is life worth? What does it mean? Why are we here? And, how do we deal with tragedy because that’s what it was all born out of.
Aron’s death makes the record heavier because he’s not here. It hits harder when I listen to it. It’s our job to carry on his legacy. It’s different than when he was around, and I could tell him, “Great job,” and I can’t do that now. It’s sad to listen to sometimes, at least for me personally.
Other songs take on a more macro approach to life, discussing the tragedies of society as a whole. “Babylon” deals with where we are as a culture as a society, and the clashing of good versus evil, and watching things fall apart and not knowing how to react. It’s about cities in general, but it’s about Portland. The lyrics came out of thin air, but I think about it a lot. We see the crumbling of society, but nobody is reflecting on how we got there. They’re just looking for answers to correct, like band-aid solutions. People fight, and there is no reflection from our political class or anyone else considered a leader. It’s always just moving forward at a breakneck speed.
With this set of songs, Joel came up with many of the core musical concepts during the pandemic when we weren’t getting together much. He would come to my house with a new song concept, and we’d demo it with a drum machine. I’ve never made demos, so this was the first time we worked in that way. He would come over, lay down some ideas, and I would do lyrics the next day or the next week, just making up stuff, and then later try to come up with something more concrete. We’d then take that demo to Mark and Aron, and they’d work up complementary parts. When we could finally get back together again, we’d rehearse at Aron’s house, working to transform the rough demo concepts into something we could present live and on record.
We were gonna call the record “Rest My Soul,” but I didn’t like how it sounded like an individual statement. We’re a band, and everyone always brings stuff to the table. It’s just not my band, I’m just one-fifth of it, so I thought “No Easy Way Out” sounded more like a group. With the loss of Aron, it made more sense. We’re dealing with a painful situation, and there’s just no easy way out of it. The song “No Easy Way Out” is long and has a lot going on, so it felt like the album centered around it.