In a track-by-track, the artist offers an inside look inside the studio—and their mind—by sharing a bit about the making of the five songs on the new eP
While loss is not necessarily the theme of NIGHT AT THE ARCADE—the new EP from DD Walker—it is a very human experience that has factored heavily into the creation of the artist’s latest release. And in more ways than one.
Like many works of art, thIS record was a product of, in the musician’s own words, a “post-breakup spiral”—the kind of life-rattling reckoning that, depending on the details, can leave one feeling a combination of grief, fear, confusion, craziness, helplessness, hopelessness, sickness, restlessness, recklessness, rage and maybe, on some level, a little relief. So yes, a spiral. Losing someone you love, after all, can often feel like losing part of yourself.
So given the emotional state in which it was written and the experiences and feelings that informed it, you could certainly say that NATA is a breakup album (albeit one you can dance to) (which, btw, is my favorite kind). However it was a loss—or moreso a theft—of a different sort that ended up determining the sounds of the songs themselves. When the EP was released last week, Alex M—the artist behind the project—recounted the crime that altered the album’s trajectory when, as a result, there was no option available but to re-start from scratch. (With, that is, the creative contributions of some very talented key collaborators.)
“I wrote NIGHT AT THE ARCADE after a break-up and getting jumped,” Alex shared. “The getting jumped part left me robbed of, amongst other things, this hard drive with 5 years of music on it spanning from my first EP up through the pandemic. I couldn’t go back and re-tread these other sounds and songs and remake all this music. I wanted / needed to make something loud and direct and maybe less convoluted in production tricks. Getting to work with Josh Freese and Andrew Maury and Mat Santos and Andrew Lappin, these musical people I look up to and who all have these incredible bodies of work, had me jaw-dropped and awe-struck the whole time.”
I’m not going to dive into fate or fortune, throw out some third-party silver-linings nonsense or be the very punchable person who offers “everything happens for a reason” when someone has been busy grappling with loss and processing their pain. But people and their art are undoubtedly a product of events, emotions and experiences. Those which we choose and that which we can’t control. So maybe there’s an alternate reality where an un-jumped Alex has a hard drive, is happily married and is busy, idk, writing a reggae record or something. But in this universe—the only one we have—there’s NATC: a labor of love fueled by loss, an example of bad luck turned good music and, overall, a really rad piece of work.
Along with some intel on the events that shaped NIGHT AT THE ARCADE, Alex offered some details on each of the songs on the EP and the influences, processes and parts that make each of them unique.
NIGHT AT THE ARCADE—TRACK BY TRACK:
“NIGHT AT THE ARCADE‘s EP opener begins with an arpeggiated guitar that combines the waterfall effect of the fingerpicking on ‘Only Two at the Start’ with the propulsion and new waviness of ‘Malibu’. The song ends in a snowballing cascade of drum fills, 3-part harmonies and me essentially yelling the vocal hook.”
“6 IN THE MORNING”
“I combined fuzzy ’90s powerpop guitars with my usual melancholy vocals; all created with a shoegaze-y / garage punk lens. I got some early comparisons to shoegaze on the Malibu EP and I didn’t agree with the comparisons but I wondered what it would be like to lean into the genre references. I love warbling tape-driven synthesizers and this is the only track on the EP that utilizes synths and samples. All the synths weave in and out of the even pulse of Josh Freese’s kick and snare. The story in the song illustrates a post-breakup spiral that informed the whole EP.”
“‘ARCADE’ was written in the same session as ‘WHITE LIES’. I played and then spliced a live hi-hat loop with a drum machine; Andrew Maury and I added blown-out live drums played by Josh Freese. Mathieu Santos came in to play bass live in the same session with Freese at Wax LTD. I love choruses that suck out and enter a different, vacuumed space compared to their verse/pre-chorus and I feel like I found that with this song. I also feel like throughout this record’s making, I’ve been chasing this sound that stands next to my favorite records from the 90’s, and some of the motifs, melodies and feelings within this one feel like they could be intertwined with the records I loved as a kid.”
“IN THE WAY OR DISAPPEAR”
“I didn’t have a plan for this song. It was 2 in the morning and I started playing this part. I stripped back for this one, and jettisoned my usual go-to new wave guitars and uptempo rhythms; I haven’t done an acoustic guitar song yet and this one felt somber enough to incorporate them. I also love the bedroom-pop moments I’ve done and wanted to live in that for a bit longer for a song… I love big hits at the end…”
“‘TEAM’ was recorded as a voice memo and brought down to a Cherry Hill, NJ studio the same day. I made a short drum-machine rhythm, let it loop and a guitar plugged directly into the mixing board, the song was written, arranged and re-recorded in an evening. I brought this version to Andrew Maury who co-produced it to completion with Josh Freese and Mathieus Santos to round out the live rhythm section like the other tracks.”
The release show may have been last month, but the celebration (rightfully!) continues this weekend, so don’t miss out! Grab your tickets to catch DD Walker THIS SATURDAY at Elsewhere Zone One with Mating Ritual and Loviet here.
Feature image provided by the artist.