“Love and some verses you hear
say what you can’t say”
From “Love And Some Verses” by Iron & Wine
A friend introduced me to a really great music magazine recently called Paste. I love the tag-line, “Signs of life in music, film & culture”.
It’s lovingly desk-topped and laid out. The journalism is well researched and engagingly written. It has been a joy to read interviews and reviews of artists whom I cherish and it has whet my appetite for a whole bunch of new bands or singer-songwriters I’ve not yet heard.
I saw an inspiring interview with the editors on the excellent Society Room DVD series produced by the Fermi Project. Clearly, two guys who embrace culture and are excited by the expression of ideas through various means of media. I genuinely commend the magazine to you as the interviews often seem to grapple with anything but surface, fanzine-like, sixth form questioning.
Here’s an extract from a fabulous interview with the wonderful Sam Beam of Iron & Wine:
“What Iron & WIne’s music seems to be urging toward more than anything is innocence, and the touchstones in this quest are frequently religious in nature. Beginning with his very first album, Beam’s writing has often used the specific language of Christianity, in lines like “Jesus, a friend of the weaker ones said, ‘I’m all they stole from you,’” (The Creek Drank The Cradle’s “Southern Anthem”) or the heartfelt prayer of Our Endless Numbered Days’ “On Your Wings”: “God give us love in the time that we have / God, there are guns growing out of our bones / God, every road takes us farther from home.” But while it might puzzle some that a self-confessed agnostic like Beam would find consistent inspiration in biblical images and characters that are as likely to converse with the Holy Spirit as they are to address a love interest, for Beam it’s a natural, essential, part of his writing process. “I like to use [religious images] because it starts you off a little bit further along in the story. You know, you could say Bob and Jerry did this, but then you have to explain who they are. But if you say ‘Cain and Abel’ it carries a certain weight. They have a connotation everyone understands, they symbolise the duality in us all…I like using those, because it’s our mythology.”
Yet Beam has always insisted that the role of religion in his writing avoids propaganda of any kind. “I think there’s always been kind of a subversive quality to the way I use religion. I mean, I try to use it both ways, you know, because that’s the way life is. There are some great things about religion but there’s some really f—ed up stuff about it too.” It seems that part of religion’s appeal for Beam is the down-and-out or desperate state of mind individuals are usually in when they find themselves asking religious questions. Such characters always make for a compelling narrative.
With a second round of mojitos on deck and crackling, dry August heat making its presence felt on Guero’s outside porch, Beam pursues this line of thought further. It turns out that religion is not merely a cultural shorthand or creative prop for Beam but, like Johnny Cash before him, it constitutes one of the only three topics he’s genuinely interested in as a writer. “You have your three big things that you can talk about, basically, if you’re going to write something that actually means something to you as a human being, which is Love, God and Death. That’s basically the thing. Love, which occupies a lot of our time, because we don’t like being lonely. God, because everyone wants to know that there’s a reason behind what they’re doing and what the hell is going on. And death is just the reality of your finite time here.”"
…Love, God and Death…
…What would that sound or look like?