The Suitcase Junket’s Matt Lorenz dives into the heavy depths of his “doom folk rock” record ‘The End Is New’, a dramatic, visceral album that speaks all too well to the times.
Stream: “And Then There Was Fire” – The Suitcase Junket
I don’t mind dying, but I think I’d really like to breathe forever…
Back in 2019, Matt Lorenz knew he wanted to make a “doom folk rock” record, but he didn’t know what that meant.
He also didn’t know just how good he had it.
The thrifty mastermind behind folk rock entity The Suitcase Junket has long had a flare for the dramatic, and he’s got the sustained success of his one-man band to show for it. Since debuting his incredibly raw first record Sever and Lift a decade ago, Matt Lorenz has brought The Suitcase Junket around the world, touring international stages with his distinctive, hair-raising blend of folk, blues, and rock.
Lorenz earned critical, widespread acclaim for his 2016 album Dying Star and further built upon that success with 2019’s Mean Dog, Trampoline, which remains a must-listen experience. Atwood Magazine previously described the latter record as “The Lumineers meet The Black Keys in a coffeeshop,” going on to praise its standout lead single “Dandelion Crown” as a poignant tale of addiction, change, and losing grip as life spins out of control: “A sense of brokenness looming, The Suitcase Junket implores us to join in his heartfelt, somber reverie.”
Perhaps the dark, doomed story of “Dandelion Crown” was itself a prescient sign of tides to come. Soon after Mean Dog, Trampoline was released into the world, Lorenz found him back again in the studio with producer Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos). A creative spark and renewed sense of urgency kept the music fresh and flowing, even as their work went remote for the 2020 spring.
Out of those sessions came The Suitcase Junket’s impassioned and cinematic sixth LP The End Is New, out now via Renew Records / BMG.
“I think it’s the shortest turnaround between albums that I’ve had,” Lorenz reflects. “I usually take a full year between releases, but the team at Renew [my record label] was really passionate about getting these tunes out into the world as soon as we could. I was flattered and happy to make that happen. I knew I wanted to do another project with Steve Berlin, so right after Mean Dog came out, like the very next day, I texted him and said half-jokingly, “Record’s out! When do we start the next one?” and he said, “Tomorrow?” So I started bouncing songs his way over the course of the spring and we narrowed them down in summer, then shaped them up in the fall and started talking about studio dates for winter. Most of the writing happened while I was on the road last year, but a few of the songs had been working their way into the live set as well. This batch of tunes is probably the most socially conscious writing I’ve done.”
I was thinking a lot about the role of the artist as a mirror to society, our rapid destruction of the world around us, and love. There are also love songs on this album.
Lorenz approached his sixth studio album with a desire to capture the chaos and tension of the surrounding world.
While 2020 has rightfully felt like a year of isolation, strife, and loss unlike any other, 2018 and 2019 had plenty of terrible goings-on in their own right; perhaps we were just a little more distracted (and privileged) than we are these days, to notice just how much pain and suffering is around us.
This vision translated into what Lorenz called “doom folk rock”; after nailing down the adjective, his primary challenge was to define what, exactly, that sounded like.
“I remember telling Steve at some point during the process that I wanted to make a doom-folk rock record…” he recalls. “To imagine now that I was feeling doomy LAST summer seems pretty quaint at this point; old past-Matt didn’t know how good he had it. (slow headshake). We did a week or so in February with Justin Pizzoferrato at Sonelab, out here near me in Western Mass, and got a good start on a slew of tunes, but the next run of studio days were in mid-March and it was then, of course, that the excrement hit the air-conditioner (as old K.V. would say) and we skidded to a quick stop. It was early days still – Steve was quarantined on the west coast and I was in the studio tracking with Justin, cranking through gallons of hand-sanitizer and trying to maintain a bicoastal connection. The process was slow and sometimes maddening but somehow fruitful.”
“We ploughed through the technical trouble and got some very cool versions of these tunes. They felt crucial and relevant to me in a way that my writing seldom does. As for the vision changing, it sure did. For one thing, I had originally planned to have more guest musicians in the studio and while we were able to get some folks to remotely join the team, I missed that in-studio fun of playing tunes with friends.”
It turns out that “doom folk rock” shares many similarities with The Suitcase Junket’s previous works; after all, he’s long identified by the latter two words, and the first is more of an intangible sense of dread, decimation, and end-of-days.
“Folk music is the music of the people, so I’d very much like to put myself firmly in that category,” he asserts. “What I like about folk music is that it’s a living form that’s always changing. Doom has been a prevailing feeling of late. How could it not be? I consider myself a naturalist and so witnessing a large extinction event that my species caused/is causing is pretty doom-inducing. Together I think the two words highlight and contrast each other in appealing ways; the folk brightens the doom and the doom takes that cheery edge off the folk, but they both somehow go deeper from their proximity to each other. It’s also plain old rock’n’roll in a lot of ways.”
Doom has been a prevailing feeling of late. How could it not be?
Perhaps The End Is New is best understood as a rock record for the end of days.
While much of its lyrics appear to be consumed with endings (take, for example, the opener “Black Holes and Overdoses”), The End Is New approaches these topics with invigorating strength and spirited drive. Lorenz sounds more confident and sure of himself than ever before, and this elemental comfort translates into a roaring journey that sweeps listeners off their feet with big sounds and bigger emotions.
Black holes and overdoses
Oh me oh my oh
Bends space, bends time
There’s no escape when it’s in your mind
Got a gravity that makes you go blind
It’s the biggest smallest thing you can find
Orion! Save me! I can’t take it!
Won’t you please help me out of this torrent
– “Black Holes and Overdoses,” The Suitcase Junket
The album’s middle four tracks are an astonishing showcase of Lorenz’s impeccable songwriting and sonic execution: “Light a Candle,” “And Then There Was Fire,” “Can’t Look Away,” and “When the Battle Is Won” each leave their own powerful, indelible mark on an unsuspecting audience thanks to a remarkable mix of feverish guitars, gritty melodies, and Lorenz’s own soulful, soaring vocal performance.
“There are a few moments that hit me,” Lorenz says with regard to his own favorite moments. “The guitar solo by J. Mascis on Light a Candle is definitely one of them. He rips it deep and brings the feels too. That song has been taking on deeper depth for me as we lose more and more people this year. For the tune Breathe Forever I had a great drummer named Colby Blauvelt come in to play and that was a blast. It had been a while since I’d stood up and played guitar. It’s a really fun song to sing, too. I was dancing around and doing my best Jagger when we tracked the vocals for it. Steve Berlin’s solo on Last Man on the Moon and his saxophone parts on When the Battle is Won also stand out for me…”
He pauses. “I’m sensing a theme here. Looks like all of my favorite moments on the album are when other people are playing.”
You made us coffee and I zoned out on your face
I don’t feel much in the morning anymore
Or if I do it’s nothing worth remembering
Like the shadow of some branches on the door
And there’s nothing secret about the way I fell right in
Once we felt as clear and calm as common chorus on a hymn
And so I synthesize some synesthetic state
Yeah, I sing this song to colorize my days
I light a candle for you every night
– “Light a Candle,” The Suitcase Junket
Funny that an artist who’s made his name as a one-man band would get so much out of collaboration; maybe The Suitcase Junket’s future extends beyond Matt Lorenz’s solo artistry, as it already has to some degree in the studio. Who knows?! It could be a fun way to spend the next ten years in the company of others.
Lorenz maintains a special bond with his given artist name and the identity that comes with it.
“In the beginning I wanted to use the word junket as in octet, but ya know, with junk,” he laughs. “I looked up the word junket in an old dictionary and the first definition was “a sweetmeat.” The second was “a pleasure excursion.” I got a kick out of that. Then it was just a matter of figuring out what kind of sweet-meat-pleasure-excursion I was on. At the time I was collecting a lot of old suitcases, building instruments with them and doing little sound installations inside of them so it seemed a natural fit and I liked the ring of it.”
“I don’t think the name dictates what kind of music I play at all, but like all band names it serves as a kind of filter through which other people view and experience the project. I admit that I sometimes feel the burden of a sepia-toned antiquity that the moniker carries but it’s really just the cover of a book that’s still being written. If I had my druthers there’d be a new band name every month, but that’s just bad business, or so I’m told.”
I sometimes feel the burden of a sepia-toned antiquity that the moniker carries but it’s really just the cover of a book that’s still being written.
Life was on my mind, you were on my couch
I was on my knees and you were in a crouch
A tube driven TV was fuzzing warm and low
The static on the screen a hazed ozone
And you said, “I don’t mind dying
but I think I’d really like to breathe forever
Staring at the glowbox, chin cupped in your hands
Looking like you’re looking into foreign lands
You said it pretty dreamy and my inner bell was rung
“How the trees in the winter look just like lungs
And I don’t mind dying but I think I’d really like to
Breathe forever, breathe forever”
Those who hear The Suitcase Junket’s music today are sure to associate the artist name with sheer energy and visceral expression.
Through the album’s doom veneer, what shines brightest on The End Is New is Matt Lorenz’s conviction. His latest work is a groovy, edgy, earnest outpouring released through hearty singing and heavy, dramatic rock instrumentals. Created in the midst of an increasingly chaotic world on the brink of who knows what, The Suitcase Junket’s songs can feel almost too prescient at times, but if anything, that only accentuates the album’s purpose and place in the world.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this music is for you. If you’re feeling angry or helpless and don’t know where or how to start, this music’s for you. If you need an outlet to help transfer these emotions from the inside out, this music is most definitely for you.
Does it capture the zeitgeist? That’s for you to decide. The Suitcase Junket doesn’t offer many answers to today’s pressing questions, but he does help open our eyes a little bit wider than they were before. That, in itself, makes this album worth the listen.
Silent spring won’t bother most folks
Birds are falling no more to sing
But profits doubled will triple the trouble
Our time down here, its ending is so near
How much is enough when we all want a little more?
I see that our eyes have all become the dollar’s door
What good are the words when we can’t say what we’ve done it for?
How much is enough when we all want a little more?
The woods got quiet, a stream bed dried up
Fire on all sides, we watch, they hide
And facing our children, what will we tell them?
When we saw it coming but kept on humming
– “More,” The Suitcase Junket
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside The Suitcase Junket’s The End Is New EP with Atwood Magazine as Matt Lorenz goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his latest album!
The End Is New is out now via Renew Records.
Stream: ‘The End Is New’ – The Suitcase Junket
:: Inside The End Is New ::
We begin with an experimental splash of an exploded sonic moment from the depths. Where are we? What is happening? How are these sounds being made? WHY?! All will be revealed in good time, little one.
Black Holes and Overdoses
In terms of style and tone, this is pretty much a road-house jam, some driving music, a toe-tapper, one you’d play to get the people out of their seats to shake a tail. It’s a song you’d put on when you want to get some shit done at a nice medium pace with an optional double-time feel.
Light a Candle
A memory of an unremarkable cup of coffee with a loved one cracks open into a brokenhearted torch song confessional. To the one who’s lost, an assurance that you, the narrator, will always remember them. A wicked guitar solo by the inimitable J. Mascis, recorded at the peak of the pandemic in New York, caps off this heavy, spaced out tune.
And Then There Was Fire
Once upon a time it would’ve been very clear which enormous and catastrophic fire I was writing about for this song. Now, it could be one of many. And that’s kind of the point. The verses reference the more and more frequent blazes of our time and the choruses are aspirational. “I don’t wanna be the way I am, I try my best to change me everyday, to make myself a little bit better.” This song sits squarely in the doom-folk genre.
Can’t Look Away
Another futuristic memoir explaining what happened here on earth. “We were waiting for the times to change with small acts and weathervanes.” It becomes more clear every year that we need quick and bold action on climate change for our own sake and that of the other beasties on the planet. I love the earth, but the earth will be fine, it’s humans and other animals that need help. We have the means, but have yet to muster the will. Let’s, shall we?
When the Battle Is Won
We got a love song hee-ah! Anybody want a love song? It’s a love song about having a fight. Fights can be good. Fights can remind us of our own strength and the strength of our partners. I tend to give up first, thusly the chorus, “Baby won’t you tell me when the battle is won?”
Jesus! King of the Dinosaurs
I was sitting on a porch in Montana with Laurie Sargent (Face To Face, Twinemen) and Billy Conway (Morphine, Treat Her Right). We were drinking wine and looking at the stars, talking about whatever came to mind. I remember we wound up poking some fun at how the literal interpretation of the bible bumped up pretty hard against the fossil record. Jesus, King of the Dinosaurs was born, conceptually. I rattled that song title around in my head for a few years before finally writing the tune. It’s a romp.
I don’t know if the chorus of this song is actually true for me. I certainly would like to breathe forever because I love breathing, but I think I really would mind dying at this point in my life. Lot’s of things I’d still like to see. Great drummer on this one named Colby Blauvelt. Fun fun rock and roll roll.
Last Man on the Moon
Sometimes it just feels that way, doesn’t it?. I wrote all these tunes pre-pandemic, but they resonate even deeper these days. I wanted to make sure this one could be heard as both a love song AND as a sci-fi dystopian fantasy at the same time. “What am I supposed to do?”
A song from a character down in the dumps and trying to win some love. He loses out to a one-eyed dog with mange because them’s the breaks. “This lady ain’t no Lincoln, but that’s gasoline she’s drinkin’, sinking back into her favorite song.”
Another song lamenting our poor environmental relationship skills as a species. My favorite sounds on this track are the circuit bent Casio keyboard glitches. The bits that sound like a confused computer side-stepping into the stratosphere? That’s the stuff. The operatic voices on the chorus set a personal best for me as “highest notes ever sung on an album.”
— — — —
? © Joanna Chattman
:: Stream The Suitcase Junket ::