In the sports world, a head coach takes pride in their “coaching tree”. Similar to the family version, at the top is the one who started it all and below are the disciples or “lineage” – previous assistants who became head coaches. Although no such term exists in music, there should be one, as some great bands have evolved into music factories. The Polyphonic Spree, Broken Social Scene, and The New Pornographers are the most well-known. Shearwater, too, has produced some outstanding talent, including Will Sheff (a.k.a. Okkervil River), Jesca Hoop, and touring drummer Thor Harris. Another name descending from the Austin-based group’s lineage is Lucas Oswald.
Despite releasing two solo albums, including last year’s critically acclaimed Whet, the Missouri native remains a hidden gem to most listeners. But within the music industry, he’s a sought-after multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer. In addition to Shearwater, he’s toured with the aforementioned Hoop and was a member of The Appleseed Cast, Minus Story, Hospital Ships, and Old Canes. Another example of the respect his peers hold for him is recently he was asked to contribute to the popular, twice-yearly, not-for-profit magazine, ESOPUS, and its special music compilation. Today, Oswald officially shares his creation, “Just a Joke”, which we are immensely privileged to share with the world.
As is Oswald’s trademark, the song is beyond categorization. Trembling guitar, percolating beats, and probing percussion collide to form a lush, cosmic soundscape. Its dense layers create the feeling of drifting alone through space and into the great unknown. His intimate vocals, meanwhile, effortlessly move from the foreground to deep in the background. Despite his stunning tones, Oswald’s lyrics indicate something that is the opposite of beautiful. His words are about the world today and how we have allowed lie after lie to become the facts that govern us.
The video to “Just a Joke” reveals more of the meaning behind the song. The audio version is also below. As you listen to the song, take a moment to read Oswald’s explanation of how the track came to being. It follows the audio.
Cosmic Dreamer Music will release the song. It is also in the 2tth edition of ESOPUS, which is in bookstores and news stands now.
The brief history behind “Just a Joke” by Lucas Oswald:
“Tod Lippy is a content director for, ‘ESOPUS’, this not-for-profit magazine thing out of New York. They put out this magazine featuring a ba-jillion disciplines (photography, comics, creative writing, etc.) and each issue includes a comp CD from various artists, all centered around a common theme. They’ve had previous contributions from Neko Case, Grizzly Bear, Jens Lekman, Kimya Dawson, Shearwater, Wye Oak, etc. So Tod asked me if I’d do a song. The theme was ‘jokes’, and he said we should pick a joke and try to relay it through song. I thought that sounded like an awful idea, so instead I wrote a cynical apocalyptic song called ‘Just a Joke’. He loved it and was super excited. Really made my week. Side note: I wrote and recorded this whole thing in just 2 days, which is insane for me. I usually take a million years on all my tunes.”
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