Catching up with Good Old War’s Dan Schwartz new sounds, second chances and making honest music
The original three members of Philly’s Good Old War are finally, finally, back together again, and I was lucky enough to catch the end of their reunion tour at World Cafe Live back in August. The band is set to play a SoFar Sounds Amnesty International Benefit on September 20th, with new music out in the world as well — “Part of Me” was released on September 1st. Guitarist Dan Schwartz — also known as Danny Black for his solo work — was kind enough to give me some insight into what went into the making of their newest EP. With the rejoining of drummer Tim Arnold, the band is back and really better than they’ve ever been before.
The Key: How is Part Of Me different from your previous work? Broken Into Better Shape definitely had a different vibe from your three earlier albums, so are you taking these new songs back toward the pop genre, or are you going back to your roots?
Dan Schwartz: I think this is the most honest record we could make. There was no thought at all about what we wanted the sound to be. It’s just what we actually sound like when we play. We tried to write the best songs we could, let everyone’s ideas be heard and trusted each other’s input. Everyone played and sang so well. We knew that if we played together and made a record that represented us as we truly sound in a room with great songs then we’d be happy. For the last record we had to think more about what we wanted to sound like because we had lost a crucial piece of our band. Having Tim back has really reinvigorated us and we’re better now than ever.
TK: What can you tell me about the writing process? Tim’s back! Has anything changed in the way the three of you work together, since it’s been a little while? Or does it feel like no time has passed at all?
DS: It’s really been truly amazing having Tim back in the band. We’ve been through so much together. There really isn’t anyone else that could have replaced him so we didn’t even try. There’s so many aspects to it. The way that our voices blend, the way my guitar goes with his drums, the way he and Keith work together, his always creative input and his sense of humor are such a huge part of who we are. I would definitely say it feels like time has passed, but in a good way. We’re much wiser and much more thankful for our second chance than we might have been had we not gone through such difficult times. Our writing process has become much more collaborative. It still starts with Keith or I bringing in an idea, but now we flesh every single thing out from there together. Our trust has grown and I can say for sure that I don’t consider any of my songs done until the guys work on it with me.
TK: What do these new songs mean to you? Do they reflect any significant life changes? What kind of feeling will listeners get?
DS: These are really raw and true songs. They came out of conversations we’ve had with each other or our personal experiences which we share as a family. So many times I’ll have a conversation with Tim or Keith and that’ll immediately inspire a lyric or musical idea. There’s not a lot to hide behind in our band. We’re a trio with acoustic instruments at the core of our sound so it only makes sense that our songs will be personal. Plus we all sing together so much that we want everyone to really feel what they’re singing about. I think we let whatever was happening in our lives on any given day come out in the songs we were writing and were as honest as we could be.
TK: Do you have a favorite album of yours? Where does Part Of Me fit in?
DS: I really love each one for what it is. It’s tough to say because they all represent where we were at any given moment and they all have something I am very proud of in them. I can say with absolute confidence though that these EPs are my favorite music we’ve ever made. For me it’s our band fully embracing who we are and what we sound like while also writing the best music we’ve ever written.
Good Old War appears at SoFAR Sounds on Sunday, September 20th with Esperanza Spalding and Shamir; info on how to attend and support the benefit can be found here. They will also play Union Transfer on November 5th, opening for Josh Ritter. More information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.