In the brand new music video for their recently released tune, “Dreamless Sleep,” Roselit Bone fully embrace the earnestness of 70’s country music in all its polyester glory. Released on April 27th through Doomtown Sounds as part of a split 7” with Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, the track is easily the band’s most country-sounding song to date and a tale of one artist’s devotion to his heavy, dark burden.
Shot on a Super 8mm camera, the video for “Dreamless Sleep” is reminiscent of the set for Marty Robbins 1978 performance of “El Paso City”, complete with weathered fenceposts and an endless sky backdrop painted by Violet Aveline, who was the artist behind the horse-from-hell on the cover of their 2014 album Blacken and Curl.
“I had been sitting on this song for probably about 5 or 6 years, I recorded a version of it back when we were a 2-piece, with just me and Ben on drums, without the chorus,” lead singer Josh McCaslin tells me one late February afternoon in his living room, “I wrote it at a time when I had a roommate who was extremely self-destructive, he treated his alcoholism like a spiritual extension of himself.”
The band would need to capture the solemn yet whimsical nature of McCaslin’s lyrics, so in order to do that they headed down to a cabin studio in Corvallis, recording “Dreamless Sleep” in a flurry of 4 a.m.sessions.
“Josh had the idea of getting away from town so we weren’t distracted,” explains guitarist Victor Franco, “we just went out there, got away, recorded three songs, ‘Dreamless Sleep’ being one of them.”
McCaslin took his approach from country musician Charlie Rich and his song “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”, with Franco recording his parts using three different guitars and tuning one an octave higher. They also took some inspiration by doing the opposite of what Rich did in regards to the pedal steel part.
“The pedal steel is essentially playing punchy ‘horn’ parts against a string backing,” explains McCaslin, “on some of our new stuff, including ‘Dreamless Sleep’, the steel is essentially doing the opposite, providing string-like atmosphere in horn-heavy arrangements.”
The band was even blessed with a bit of rock and roll history, as pedal steel player Barry Walker, who hails from “just south of Nashville”, recorded his parts using the Echoplex belonging to East Bay Ray, of the Dead Kennedys.
“That thing should be in a rock and roll museum,” says Franco.
The video features footage shot while on the northern California leg of their tour, with the rows of orchards and long straight highways providing the perfect visual accompaniment to the cascading flute and pedal steel. They rounded it out with more footage shot in Enterprise, Oregon, another setting that exemplifies the wide open spaces forever extolled in country music.
Even though “Dreamless Sleep” is very much a song in the style of the greatest country hits of the ’70s, McCaslin doesn’t see the band as strictly a country music outfit, and similar to the stars of that era, Roselit Bone effortlessly blends genres to create a diverse and ever-expanding lineup of music. The band also draws inspiration from ranchera music, which originated in rural Mexico and is characterized by waltz, polka, and bolero time signatures and of course, the grito, which is found in many different music genres.
Finding inspiration in all types of music, no matter how earnest or seemingly out-of-date, is essential for Roselit Bone, as McCaslin’s lyrics tend to lean towards the isolated, and nihilistic side of life. The soft, lush quality of ’70s country music allowed the band to ease a dark, destructive journey into one of somber reverie.
“With subject matter as depressing as ours, this helps sometimes to balance out the mood enough to be listenable.”
The band isn’t going to release their next album until sometime in 2017, choosing to spend the summer tour season polishing the new music and introducing fans to Blacken and Curl. So, we’re just going to have to wait to hear those other two tracks they recorded during their late night sessions in Corvallis.
“Like Hank Williams,” jokes Walker, “you don’t want to release music too often.”
See Them Live: Catch Roselit Bone on Wednesday night at the Liquor Store along with Jenny Don’t and the Spurs for the official release celebration of their split 7″ vinyl.