Sarah Borges‘ songs remind us that simplicity and clarity can be more impactful than clever metaphors and the complicated machinery that accompanies most pop singles today. The songs that comprise her latest LP, Love’s Middle Name (which finds her reunited with the band the Broken Singles), are a scorching batch of compositions that demand to be played loud, then louder as their hooks sink in, and the listener is given no choice but to sing along at the top of their lungs.
That isn’t to say she doesn’t track complicated emotions on the collection: there are plenty of meditations on the general trickery of love and the myriad emotions that wade in the waters around it but Borges cuts through the ephemera to deliver the simplest line between pain and its resolution. The single, “House on a Hill”, blazes the path for this potent and remarkable collection of songs produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (Del-Lords, Bottle Rockets, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts).
Calling the tune “a rocker with a sweet twist”, Borges recently spoke about the single, her upcoming album and getting some help from a witch.
When did the material on this new album first start coming together?
It’s been a couple of years since I put out a record. The last one was a solo album. This one is a band record. I knew I wanted to do another band record. I took a little break when I had my son, then got back into touring. The songs were germinating. But I’m also one of those people who procrastinates. I do better with a deadline, so I wrote most of the songs in this year leading up to release of the album.
What led to you putting the band back together?
I thought I was done. We had been on tour for about eight years. I was tired. I took time off to get married and have a baby. It became evident to me quite quickly that I wasn’t done. I just really missed it. The final piece was putting the band back together and starting over.
You worked with producer Eric Ambel again.
He thinks that I’m better than I am! He’s the first producer like that! He gives me a lot of confidence I wouldn’t have otherwise. Primarily as a guitar player. That’s a task I’ve relegated in the past to other members of the band or guests. But I’ve been playing for a long time and he’s very complimentary about my guitar playing and my songwriting. Plus he’s a badass rock ‘n’ roll guitar player. It seemed like a logical choice. We have a real simpatico relationship.
The guitar sound is very much like we’re in the room with you and the band. I can feel the warmth of the amps.
That’s Eric’s signature thing. He’s been at this for such a long time. He believes in the chemistry of everyone being there in the same room. We tracked the songs live, and if overdubs were necessary we went ahead and did that, but there weren’t many. We did the whole thing in probably three or four short bursts, probably eight days of tracking.
Was there a song that sort of began the whole process, the whole album?
“House On The Hill” was a song that I wrote, and no one had heard. I brought it to the studio, and it just jelled right away. That became our benchmark for what the rest of the record should sound like.
Did the song itself come together quickly in the writing process?
A friend of mine was in the process of getting divorced, and I sort of thought about not just what that feels like between two people but a house being a metaphor for the relationship. It used to be this wonderful, welcoming place and now it’s not anymore. Once I got that in my head it was easy to take on the persona of someone else and think about what I would feel like in that particular situation.
Where did you shoot the video?
We shot it in Lima, New York which is a suburb of Rochester. A gentleman I knew through Facebook offered to do shoot a video for us. He had the idea for the location. It’s this old farmhouse that we used. It was me, the director, a camera person and an actor who played my significant other. We did it over two days. It was a lot of walking through a field! [Laughs.]
The people who owned the home came back halfway through the shoot. Their cat died. So we had this strange thing where they were laying their cat to rest while we were shooting. It was a strange juxtaposition.
My next favorite song on the record is “Lucky Rocks”, and I wanted to ask about that song because the lyrics are so striking.
I live close to Boston but also close to Salem. A while ago I wanted the affections of a certain person, and so I went and got a spell from one of the witches in Salem. I asked her to make this person love me. She gave me some rocks to put in my pocket. I had to keep some in my pocket and then cover some in salt water and empty the water by moonlight under a tree for ten days. It was a very involved thing. The song is just the story of that.
Which was more involved: The work of carrying out the spell or the writing of the song?
Well, the person didn’t end up coming around, so I don’t know if the spell was successful but writing the songs was easy because I already had the narrative in my mind. Just setting it to music was the only thing left to do.
What does the future look like in terms of live dates after the record’s out?
I have a seven-year-old son, so my touring is a little bit constrained by needing to be home and be a parent. So we go in short, 10-day bursts, do as much as feels comfortable. But the more you play and the more you play on the road, the better you get, and there’s nothing like when you’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks, and the whole thing becomes second nature to you. I’m anxious to do that.