An impressive work of collaboration and proud product of DIY process, the 7th LP from the Brooklyn artist is an act of honesty and generosity: a rich life’s worth of (mis)adventures, relationships and resulting realizations woven into a 15-track story of survival
All art is personal—sourced from the emotions and experiences of the creator; inspired by the things they’ve seen, heard, smelled, tasted or felt; a product of the things, places and people that have defined their time on earth; a result of their realities and product of their imagination.
However, some works feel more personal than others. When the artist isn’t simply alluding to an idea or expressing a feeling with a catchy hook, but drawing directly, specifically and honestly from their own history, sharing individual stories that illustrate the human experience and zooming in on unique details to comment on universal truths.
Listening to Glad to be Alive—the seventh LP from Brooklyn artist Brook Pridemore—is like reading an autobiography. Actually, no. It’s like sitting in an empty saloon one afternoon with a fascinating stranger who doles out fascinating anecdotes and imparts lessons from a life thoroughly, dangerously, desperately and lovingly lived, keeping you even more glued than usual to your sticky barstool as you constantly motion to the bartender for yet another round. In other words, this album is not just a set of songs but a collection of stories, a work of honestly with distinct personality that simultaneously makes you feel like you know the artist intimately and makes you want, need, to learn more.
And here, thankfully, finally, you can.
Brook is as thoughtful as he is talented, and below the artist generously opens up and offers up thoughtful and detailed notes—surprisingly wise, frequently humorous and occasionally heart-wrenching commentary—on each of the album’s 15 tracks. As he writes at one point, Glad to be Alive not a sad album, but it is based on sad experiences, and below he shares what is at its core a tale of survival as he talks flaming mustaches and poverty pasta, long drives and lonely rides, feeling his worst, doing his best, making peace with himself and making music with friends.
But first: a word on the making of the album. Ahead of today’s release, Brook sent over the following background on the creation of Glad to be Alive—a work of collaboration, a product of a very proudly DIY process and an album that seems like it was a true joy to make.
“Glad to be Alive was written in the (literal) dark and Ben Hozie and I brought it into the (figurative) light. The songs poured out of me at 3am (or later), like letting blood. Ben took the skeletal demos and transformed them into big pop songs. What was depressing/depressed became anthemic. If sad songs are nature’s onions, pop songs are nature’s caffeine pill. Most important to me, though, was the DIY aspect of Glad to be Alive. This is almost entirely Ben and I, working together in his bedroom on a simple interface. Making this record proved to me I can make a record at home, with just a couple of mics and a lot of ideas. The future of music is in our hands, and the future is now!”
And now, the main event.
Glad to be Alive—track by track
“Glad to be Alive”
“Early versions of this song swung like Songs: Ohia’s ‘Farewell Transmission.’ It feels more like Radiohead, now. That’s a good thing. I don’t think I ever sounded like Radiohead before. I really almost crashed my car in 1995. Nobody knew about it til I wrote this song.”
“I toured by Greyhound bus a little in 2010 and a lot from 2015-16. Halfway through a 30-hour trip from Lexington, KY back to New York (in the latter third of six consecutive months of touring the US and Europe), I was in the Pittsburgh Greyhound terminal, feeling profoundly lonely. I realized in that layover that everyone who’d told me I couldn’t be a musician was gone. I was persisting in music out of spite, and there was no one left to spite. I had to find a new reason to go on writing and performing. After the tour I took a five year hiatus; I started again only when I was certain I was making music because it made me happy.”
“I have my own neuroses, I don’t have time for your neuroses. Hunt Sales played the drums on ‘Lust for Life,’ and when I’m feeling my finest, that’s how I move. Demos for this sounded like an early M Ward song, transformed into a pop hit by Ben Hozie. We felt there was no better way to pay tribute to Mr. Sales than with the most obviously-programmed drum fill since Ween’s ‘Fiesta.'”
“When you’re a kid, you don’t know you’re poor. We had Maruchan ramen noodles with dinner most nights, and I was shocked to learn we ate them because they were cheap. I still like ramen noodles. I still eat them. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d probably still eat them.”
“The Man Who Tried to Kill Me”
“Another example of the power of collaboration. I showed up on the last day of recording and said ‘I think we should scrap this one, it’s really intended to be a solo acoustic song.’ Ben responded, ‘Ein minuten, bitte,’ and eight or so hours later we had a whole production.”
“Leave the Living”
“I used to have this thing where I was overwhelmed with life, so I’d take the train down to Coney Island. Late at night. In the off season. The long ride would change everything, I thought. I have since realized that, while more painful at first, therapy is a more effective solution in the long run.”
“The house behind ours was burning, in the middle of the night. I was six or so, it was a drug dispute or the house was burning for the insurance money. This song contains some of the only live percussion on the record: I played a floor tom through a weird contact mic I’d acquired.”
“Wore Me Well”
“None of the lyrics in this song rhyme and I think that’s beautiful. This song is about the fantasy of running into the arms of the one who got away in the midst of calamity. Back in the day I lit cigarettes off the stove, and wondered why my moustache was always on fire. It took a lot of running and a lot of calamity to realize that peace always comes from within. And that I shouldn’t light cigarettes off the stove.”
“If You Wanna Die”
“A little number about the simple joy of driving around the suburbs wasting gas. I wrote these lyrics in a hotel room in Slovakia in 2019, but the song was dead in the water until I acquired an OP-1 in 2021. Grooving with that little keyboard and trying to figure it out, I came up with the riff and felt my pupils dilate. I want to make music that feels like drugs, without taking drugs. My paternal grandmother sent me a check with a note that said ‘I want you to do something fun, with this. Be irresponsible.’ I bought the OP-1 and a Nicolas Cage tracksuit.”
“Written in mid-March 2020, imagining the terror of what it might be like when we started tentatively hugging each other again. I had Nikki from Bodega sing this one. I was thinking of ‘These Boots are Made for Walking,’ and how Lee Hazlewood gave it to Nancy to sing.”
“Learned to Play the Drums”
“Ed grew up in a broken home, too. Unsupervised and bored, we had a mosh pit in his front yard to a dubbed cassette of the Nine Inch Nails Broken EP. Ed dropped out of school the day he turned sixteen and moved into a shitty apartment. Drove a crappy old car with ‘Meat is Murder’ painted all over it. People used to yell animal products as he drove by. ‘STEAK,’ they’d yell. ‘BACON.’ Ed died in that apartment by his own hand. He was 27. He’d’ve joined the 27 Club if he’d been a musician. Having no ambition, he’s just a guy some of us remember as the guy we had front yard mosh pits with.”
“I can’t remember if I checked whether ‘chord’ is a synonym for ‘organ.’ It is, though. You can do whatever you want in songs.”
“You Can Have My Blood”
“The working title for ‘Glad to be Alive’ was ‘Nebraska’. Yes, because of the Bruce Springsteen connection, but also because so many of the songs are about drinking and being poor in the Midwest.”
“This is a song about long trips, big moves. Changing locations and hoping it’ll fix things. That same afternoon in the Pittsburgh Greyhound station, I found myself drinking a bottle of nyquil to pass out for the remaining ride home. I was sure I’d find the answer back in New York. I was always sure I’d find the answer when I got ‘There.’ Every time I got ‘There,’ though, I found myself. The chorus of this song, and the bridge, were the first lyrics I wrote in March 2020, home again from a long tour with nowhere to go and only my thoughts. The songs on this album, mostly written in a fever of activity between March and May of 2020, are all about the saddest/most difficult moments in my life. It is not a sad album. These songs represent times when I didn’t die. I could have died. I could have crashed my car for real in 1995, but I learned how to drive. I could go on. Every one of the sad moments on this record represents a time I hit a breaking point and learned to adapt. What doesn’t bend breaks.”
“Our parents’ wishes were to be scattered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We got all the way there before we found out scattering cremated remains in the Great Lakes is illegal. I believe there is a difference between what is right and what is legal. I believe in being a big fan of local bands. I believe in calling my sister once a week, even if I only tell her about what movies I’ve watched. I believe in carefully curating the memes I share to specific friends. I believe in carrying an extra piece of mookaite jasper in case I run into someone who says they’re stuck in a creative rut. I believe in trying the regional cuisine in every place possible. Except the pasty. Fuck the pasty. I believe in black coffee in the morning and seltzer at night. I believe in local bands that stay together for decades and never tour. I believe in collaborative partnerships as volatile and fruitful as Herzog and Kinski’s. I believe in loving your mother even if you don’t like her. I believe in honoring the dishonorable. I believe the Rolling Stones should have retired when Charlie died. I believe you can love someone for a moment or a day or a couple weeks and never see each other again. I believe their effect on me is no less profound for its brevity. I believe in letting other people pick what we listen to on long drives. Not everyone, though. I believe love is an energy. I believe in having inside jokes with people I barely know. I believe in trying to spread the goodness and warmth and joy I haven’t always been offered everywhere I go. I believe I’ve often failed to spread that goodness and warmth and joy, and I believe I’ve tried my hardest. I believe in referring to exactly one of my friends by their band’s name all the time. Tim from Big Bliss played bass and pedals on this session, which was completed in December of 2021.”
If you haven’t realized it via Brook’s words above, the artist is extremely good at giving credit where credit is due, giving props to (and shouting out the projects of)his very talented pals. He shared over email that Glad to be Alive was mixed at Trout Studios by Adam Sachs in March of 2021, while basic tracking/production was done at home in February 2021 by Ben Hozie (of BK art-punk band BODEGA), who—you might not know this—is also a filmmaker. Bonus fun fact: Ben’s third film, PVT Chat, was released in 2020, and Julia Fox’s sex dungeon scenes were filmed in the same room where Glad to be Alive was recorded.
Gotta love it.
Glad to be Alive is available on vinyl via Bandcamp, with the first 100 copies coming with a bonus cassette, Nebraska, featuring the voice demos of thirteen songs written in March-May 2020.
Come for the stories, and then join me in eagerly awaiting the sequels.
Feature image provided by the artist.