Brilliant green and grey textures mix together in an aesthetically pleasing photograph of a front porch, bringing a sense of both peacefulness and intrigue. Said photograph serves as the cover of The Stories We Write For Ourselves, the brand new album released just last week from five-member, progressive americana band Kendall Street Company.
“The photograph for the album cover was taken by my girlfriend in Richmond Virginia, on somebody’s porch,” band guitarist and lead vocalist Louis Smith told The Poke Around in a recent exclusive interview. “There’s kind of a story in this picture that we felt really resonated with the music and the themes of the album. There’s this piece of luggage sitting on the porch, and maybe somebody’s going on a trip or something. Then there’s that hose that’s dangling there watering the plants. It all accentuates this kind of endless vibe, this swirl, that is like a continuous story.”
The Stories We Write For Ourselves, the fourth studio offering from Kendall Street Company, boasts fifteen new tracks that hit everything from indie jam to folky lullaby, and in doing so come together in a cohesive listening experience. Some of the songs aren’t actually totally new, however. “This record in particular has been a long time in the making,” Smith tells The Poke Around. “The earliest song on the record was written in 2016, and the newest song was written just a few months ago, in quarantine. So it’s a long span of material, which is pretty cool.”
Yet despite it being such a long-spanning project, the way Smith talks about the record makes it sound like a modern statement from the band as musical artists. “This one really stands out as something where we took the songwriting really seriously,” he says. “We put a lot of hours late at night in the bedroom putting these songs together. It’s a lot of sensitive material, about life and death and love and loss, and all that.”
Listeners will feel that sensitivity no doubt in cozier, stringband songs like “Lady in Green” and “The Earth Turns.” But Stories also delivers equally rich textures in grittier tracks such as “Dear Old White Moon” and “Vertigo,” which reach moments of sonic liftoff via screeching solos on electric guitar and saxophone. The result provides stark contrast across the entire album, and presents yet again from Kendall Street Company their chameleon-like approach to making music . “Everybody in this band is inspired and influenced by different things,” Smith says. “So I think we haven’t really identified with any particular genre or vibe.”
That multiplicity of influences and inspirations is something the band have been known for in the span of their career. In addition to telling us all about the new record, Smith also gave The Poke Around a few fond memories of KSC concert past, such as the time they moonlighted as a bluegrass group.
“One time we were the late night after show for a bluegrass show, Greensky Bluegrass I think it was. So we decided, “‘Let’s do the set as a bluegrass ensemble. We’ll do upright bass, acoustic guitars.’ But we still had the saxophone in there, so that was cool. It was like our own Kendall Street brand of bluegrass. And we’re not great bluegrass musicians, so where it lacked in traditional fortitude, maybe it made up for in sparkle.”
For us at The Poke Around, that sense of “sparkling” up traditional americana with other types of music, not to mention a flair for jamming, is what The Poke Around have always really liked about Kendall Street Company, and Stories definitely sounds like the most confident affirmation of that yet. A track like “Snowday in The Fan,” for instance, transports that lonesome western feeling to a more futuristic, cosmic space.
And then, of course there’s the interludes. Surrounding the individual songs are several extra treats, which we won’t spoil anything about except to say they are pretty cool, and something you should just sit down and listen to altogether. And yes, according to Smith, this is one of those albums that should be listened to end-to-end.
“Another theme of the record is that these stories are cyclical,” he says. “The record is actually meant to play on repeat. The prologue comes from the same recording as the epilogue, the tape does’t stop. We experimented a lot with gapless playback on this record, so there are songs that lead into each other, rather than having a bunch of space on the record.”
So, just like the tape itself, whether you’re at the beginning or well along into your experience with Kendall Street Company doesn’t matter. The Stories We Write For Ourselves, a vibrant and satisfying musical experience, is as great a place as any to either jump in or to keep going. Ultimately, the album also seems to signal that the band is in a great place musically.
“I’m really proud of it,” Louis says. “I think it has a lot of songs that are deep from the heart, and I hope a lot of people can identify with it durning this time in particular.”
Kendall Street Company plays a Halloween show tomorrow night in Richmond, VA as part of Festy 2020, a livestreamed version of the popular music event The Festy Experience. In the meantime, stream a bit of the new album with the song “Go On,” below. For more information about the band, head to their website here.