Review by @AuthorGriffin
In the long winter months of early 2014 a record was made in Connecticut, a good one.
With the help of long time co-conspirators Corey Pane and Christian Schrader, as well as a healthy smattering of other local musicians, Connor Zane Millican’s Wise Old Moon recorded The Patterns, the band’s much anticipated debut release.
Produced by Eric Lichter in his Dirt Floor Studios in Chester, The Patterns captures beautifully Wise Old Moon’s most attractive feature as a band, their live act. You could call their sound traditional, but that’s not the whole story. Millican writes in a genre of long-tested Americana music but, perhaps due in part to their youthful spirit, Wise Old Moon manages to transform back-home, familiar sounds into something fresh and new and definitely all their own.
The Patterns opens with a lovely instrumental, ‘The Pursuit’. Serving as a mission statement for the band’s overall sound, ‘The Pursuit’ is not only a brief synopsis of Wise Old Moon in general but also a preview of the tracks that follow. Songs like ‘Day Grifter’, a ballad for the down trodden and a crowd favorite at live shows, as well as ‘Money Right’, a nod to the art of getting by.
And of course there’s ‘The Patterns’, a meaningful and haunting number about self-realization that proves itself powerful enough for the vaunted distinction of title track.
The record closes with ‘Hustler Bound’, a playful to start, tragic to finish, all too familiar tale of struggles with addiction. Something every millennial in this country knows either first hand or vicariously through friends or loved ones.
Wise Old Moon truly manages to deliver with their debut release and I for one couldn’t be happier for Millican & Co. The band will be celebrating the album’s release on July 26th at Arch Street Tavern in Hartford, CT. Doors open at 8pm and a copy of The Patterns is included with the price of admission. For more information visit www.wiseoldmoonband.com
Earlier this month I sat down with Millican to chat about the new record, check it out:
Griff: Connor, thanks for coming by and hanging out today, brother. Welcome.
Connor: Sure, thanks for having me.
Griff: So summer is here, Wise Old Moon has an impressive slate of shows booked and you are about to release your debut album; you’ve got to be feeling pretty good right about now, huh?
Connor: I do. I feel anxious at the same time, but it’s a good anxious.
Griff: What was recording at Dirt Floor Studios like for you? Eric works exclusively in analog, correct?
Connor: No actually, he does offer full analog recording but we recorded digitally. The costs of analog can be prohibitive for one thing, but it was still a very organic process that had a lot of depth to it and I think the tracks came out with a great feel to them, even digitally recorded. We used a lot of older microphones, it was the middle of winter with a fireplace going in the room and snow falling some days too. Just really natural and comfortable and I think that comes through on a lot of the songs, it’s a calm album.
Griff: So what are the patterns you’re referencing in the title track? What is it exactly that you’re recognizing and, as the song says, keeping to yourself?
Connor: I guess, in a way, it’s an emotional thing, like you kind of have these tendencies inscribed in you from birth and you’re incapable of changing certain things about yourself. And that may be good or it may be bad, but sometimes you recognize that you’re just repeating the same pattern and sometimes that’s a bigger thing than you can even understand at a given time so you just bury it and you keep repeating that pattern so, in an emotional way, that’s what it means.
Griff: The Patterns opens with ‘The Pursuit’, a 1:40 instrumental. Do you think it’s a fair assessment to call ‘The Pursuit’ a general overview of the band’s sound?
Connor: Yeah, we have used it as kind of a theme song at some of our shows, or sometimes we use it as a palate cleanser of sorts, and it kind of made sense at the beginning of the record because it lets you to sort of creep in and it allows you to enter softly, like walking into the door of that studio through a couple inches of fresh snow. But also I think there’s an anxious energy in that song that is subtle and I think it’s just part of the emotional aspect of my songs and my music.
Griff: Now I love ‘Day Grifter’, it’s actually kind of funny for me because when you sing the words ‘Day Grifter’, to me it sometimes registers as you singing my name, Dave Griffin. So be honest, you can tell us, you wrote ‘Day Grifter’ about me, right?
Connor: (laughs) Dave Grifter!
Griff: (laughs) Yeah it’s just like a funny confidence for me, ya know?
Connor: That is funny.
Griff: Seriously though, is ‘Day Grifter’ somewhat autobiographical or are you describing someone you know or more of a fictional character?
Connor: I wrote that with our drummer Corey Pane while he was painting a big piece of plywood that had all these lines and wood grains, and we were kind of picking out these natural shapes. We saw this horse in the grain and this guy on the horse, and his head was this big knot in the wood and there was an emptiness there. So as Corey’s painting, at the time I lived in an apartment in Hartford, I wrote ‘Day Grifter’ just to him doing that. I kind of pictured in my head this guy… maybe a veteran of war struggling with addiction and he was, maybe in a physical reality, rambling through the desert on drugs his government had supplied him as an easy way to deal with his pain so it was kind of a reference to someone being strung out and not knowing where he was or where to go, but not really by his own choice. I think he’s a proud guy, ya know? But yeah, it sort of developed right they’re in front of my eyes as Corey was painting.
Griff: ‘Hustler Bound’ kind of picks up on some of those themes too, correct? I mentioned in the review that I view it as a topic that every millennial in this country knows either first hand or vicariously through others, do you think that’s a fair assessment?
Connor: Yeah that’s beautiful and it really hits home for me the way you end that statement because I didn’t actually write that song, that’s my girlfriend, Rachel Guzick, who wrote that song and she’s had to deal with addiction, not herself but indirectly. And so I’ve dealt with it indirectly as well, through her. She came home with that poem, which was an assignment for school and I really liked it and I arranged it as you hear it on the album. So when I read it, it just really hit home because of those reasons and because it’s everywhere, you can’t get away from it and it’s nearly impossible to deal with.
Griff: Do you have a favorite track on the record? One more meaningful to you than others?
Connor: Not really. When I play the songs for others is when I feel they take on their true meaning because everyone identifies with some aspect of a song. So people will come up to me and tell me different things about what they mean to them, things that sometimes were not even my intention. And other times I discover that a song is, or could be, about something that I hadn’t intended at all. Like one song that’s not on the album is called ‘Living Ain’t Easy’…
Griff: I really like that tune, actually.
Connor: Thanks. Yeah, one of the lyrics is ‘When you’re all lit up inside…’ and at the end of a show one night, this woman came up to me and said she works with cancer patients and she thought it really spoke to the treatment of cancer, like what patients go through during chemotherapy and such and I was really struck by that because I couldn’t even fathom that application of my music. That’s when the song takes shape. What starts out as me kind of mumbling out some lyrics and melodies develops into all new meanings and that to me is just crazy. And awesome. And that drives me to write more. I think ‘Hustler Bound’ is one of those songs that works on different levels as well.
Griff: Give us a little insight into your writing process.
Connor: I think the best songs that I come up with kind of flow out quickly in one session. They’re very directed and kind of form in one quick motion. It’s a moment. That’s why I was glad that no one was there in the recording process to really tell me what direction this album should go in, ya know? I think of this whole process as such a good experience for me because I didn’t have to think about following rules. At points I thought that maybe this one song is too sad and slow, and then I’d turn around and think, you know what, it doesn’t really matter, this is what I made. It was a comfortable feeling.
Griff: Awesome brother. Connor Millican, we wish you and Wise Old Moon all the best with The Patterns, and may it be the first of many more to come.
Connor: Thanks man.
The Patterns album release party is July 26th at Arch Street Tavern in Hartford, CT. Doors open at 8pm and a copy of The Patterns is included with the price of admission. For more information visit www.wiseoldmoonband.com