Path finds its way anew on 'You're Gonna Be Alright' - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Sam Keeler, the songwriter behind Philly four-piece Path, always knew he was going to write, record, and release more music, it was just a matter of time. Path’s new record You’re Gonna Be Alright marks their first since 2018 and is both a fresh start and a continuation. It’s the kind of record that, when we look back years from now, might be a clear point of delineation for this promising young Philly band. If you were familiar with Keeler’s first two albums, you will find the same dreamy, intricately layered bedroom pop on You’re Gonna Be Alright but now with an even clearer vision and a level of home studio mastery bursting through the walls of the bedroom.

Throughout my recent conversation with Keeler it is clear he is the kind of thoughtful tinkerer that relishes the opportunity to transform “do-it-yourself” into less of a sonic signifier and more a badge honor. There’s none of the ramshackle amateurism that you might expect from something done so independently, but a level of sheen and, frankly, beauty that suggests a precipitous rise for this local act. Check out my full conversation with Keeler below and be sure to see Path when they play World Cafe Live on Saturday, September 2nd; details in WXPN’s Concerts and Events page.

Path - All I Wanna Do

Sean Fennell: This album marks the first full length you put out since 2018. Was there ever any part of you that thought this might not happen?

Sam Keeler: No, I think it was pretty inevitable that we were going to make another one. I think it was just kind of disappointing, with the pandemic and stuff, that it took so long. And even though we record everything ourselves, it was hard to find inspiration when you are just kind of stuck at home, not doing anything, sitting around and playing video games and all that crap. So no, we never had any doubt that it was going to come together, it took a little longer than we had hoped.

SF: Was it a situation where you were writing throughout that gap, or did it kind of come in fits and starts?

SK: I feel like it came together quickly. I have a full time job aside from the music stuff because it’s tough to pay bills just doing music. We’ve received, like, some Spotify royalties, but for the most part, I need to work. I rearranged my work schedule so that I wasn’t working nights anymore, because it was really taking a lot out of me. So towards the end of the album coming together, I switched to a less demanding schedule. I’d say that ninety percent of the album came together in the last eight months or so before it was released.  Once I tilted my life around doing the music stuff it came together very, very fast. Automatically, it was kind of just like breathing, it just kind of came out. It was long overdue.

SF: Taking into consideration that five-year gap, does this feel like a significant reinvention for what you do musically? Or does it kind of feel like just a progression of what you’re doing before?

SK: It feels more natural, like just honing the skills. You know, we went from recording in our bedrooms to having a proper studio set-up at our apartments. So if anything, we were just trying to make improvements on the mixing and engineering side of things, but the songwriting felt the same, just trying to make it better all the time and finding ways to make it sound better and more professional and more radio ready, you know?

SF: I just wanted to go back even further for a minute and talk a little bit about how the band came together in the first place back in 2017 around your first record?

SK: This whole thing came together when I was in college and studying audio engineering. We were allowed to book studio time as long as we were working on stuff that was relevant to school. So a friend of mine, who isn’t really involved in the project anymore and knew more about audio engineering than I did, would just have fun and try to make stuff that we could get full credit for recording. So the first album was entirely recorded under the guise of being a senior capstone project. I found a way to convince the head of the department that every time I made a fully finished song I could get school credit. So that’s kind of how it started.

It all felt really natural, because I always had this calling. I’ve been writing and recording songs since I had the ability, which was around 16. The genesis of the band was just finding any way to make songs that were recorded in a professional capacity. Once I had the skill set to do it myself, it was about taking myself out of that studio environment and building songs from the ground up at home. The first album was recorded in a proper studio, where my friend and I were kind of scrambling to figure out how to even use the facilities because we were learning, and then the second one was just trying to recreate a studio at home, doing a bedroom album and making it sound as good as possible. And then this one was like, okay, now we have a proper studio ourselves and I’ve spent enough time recording that I can actually make it sound good.

Path - Danny (Official Video)

SF: I love the addition of John Thompson on flute and saxophone. I’m thinking specifically of the end of “Danny.” Tell me a little bit how that came together.

SK: John Thompson is a little bit older than the guys in the band. John was actually our guitar player Donald’s guitar teacher when he was a kid. I was mentioning that it would be great to have someone who can play the horn on some of these songs. He’s like, oh, I’ll just hit up my old guitar teacher. He’s great at the saxophone. And, you know, I I tried to play the sax a bit. On the last song on the album I play some alto sax, but I can’t rip it like he can, he’s a pro. So he came over for about an hour and we basically just ran through the album and he soloed over four or five of the songs. I took the ones that I thought were really great and stitched them together. It was just this happy occurrence to have him right there when we were looking for somebody. I think he’ll probably be at the World Cafe Live show on the second of September, and he’s actually going to be sitting in with us for a couple of those songs.

SF: I saw you say this record felt like it came from a place of positivity, can you tell me a little bit about how that might differ from past work and how you think that came to define this record?

SK: So I don’t think you really notice it until it all comes together. I don’t feel very present when the songs are being written. It kind of just comes out. I learn a lot of stuff about myself through the process of writing music, where you finish and look back and it makes sense. When I first started writing songs I considered to be halfway decent, they were usually about high school stuff like heartache, girl problems, stuff in my own life. That was my introduction to writing songs. So when I say this came from a more positive place, I mean it was more about finding a way to access the artistic source without having to actually put my self through turmoil, you know, what I mean?

The first two albums all felt rooted in having an outlet for personal pain, and this time was about getting to that place without having to put myself through the woodchipper. It was a nice discovery to know that these things can come from a positive place and I don’t need to drive myself to the edge to get songs written. I can just sit down and write them and have a normal life.

Path plays World Cafe Live on Saturday, September 2nd with The Waywoods and Bren; tickets and more information can be found at WXPN’s Concerts and Events page. Listen to You’re Gonna Be Alright below and support the project on Path’s Bandcamp page.

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