John Andrew Fredrick is a prolific writer, having amassed not only 15 albums and five EPs worth of material; he’s also published four novels and a critical examination of Wes Anderson’s early films. Fredrick, performing as the black watch, returns with a recording, The Paper Boats, inspired in part by the 2017 death of his father. The EP is filled with Fredrick‘s well-known sense of irony, humor and, well, cheekiness. He’s quick to point out that at least a few of the lines on the EP could easily be about death as the record industry itself.
The single “Oh You Little Witch!” is buoyed by a Manchester-style bassline, sparse but chiming, uplifting guitars and spacious drums that lift the song as much as Fredrick’s singular, charming vocal delivery. There are moments when you might think you’re listening to an obscure single from the early 1980s and yet it sounds fresh, almost prescient now.
The track feels light and Fredrick suggests that’s no accident. “This song’s all in good fun”, he offers. “No harm, no foul. I’m convinced that one of the overarching themes of my life has to do with Jean Renoir’s epigraph for what I consider to be one of the greatest films of all time, The Rules of the Game. Renoir says: ‘The tragic thing about life is everyone has their reasons.’ I often metaphorically enter into other people’s consciousness’s, trying to imagine what it’s like to be them. But at some point, one stops doing that when a former lover, say, becomes a ghost of sorts. Then, as the song declares, ‘I never wonder what it’s like to be you.’ There’s no specific ghost, mind you. But they’re everywhere, aren’t they? You look at someone and go ‘Someone somewhere used to be so interested in that person – and now they never hardly ever pay them any never mind!'”
Joining Fredrick in this endeavor were guitarist Andy Creighton (the World Record), who engineered. The songs were done quickly at Creighton’s studio in the El Sereno district of Los Angeles, then sent for mixing to Scott Campbell’s (Shelby Lynne, Stevie Nicks, Acetone) state-of-the-art studio in Woodland Hills. All of this, Fredrick notes, comes ahead of an LP that sounds slightly different and should see the light of day in late 2018.
The Papers Boats is out 27 April via the eskimo label.