Any songwriter knows that getting thoughts onto paper can be cathartic—get those demons out into the open. No one knows this better than We Are Augustines’ Billy McCarthy. His mother and brother were both diagnosed as schizophrenic and both took their lives, and that loss has left an indelible mark that infuses Rise Ye Sunken Ships with an overwhelming sense of melancholy. The album itself began life with McCarthy’s former band, Pela. Working with producer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene), the three-day booze-fueled sessions ended with few songs barely completed. Shortly thereafter, Pela disbanded. McCarthy and Eric Sanderson (bass/keyboards) continued to keep the lines of communication open and rejoined as the duo We Are Augustines (with drummer Rob Allen). Back to Newfeld they went, and soberly finished the album. McCarthy’s raspy yet tender vocals relive, with each press of Play, his turbulent past, bringing out such lyrics as “Keep your head up, kid/I know you can swim/But you’ve got to move your legs” in “Augustine.” “Book of James” serves as an ode to his brother, recounting his sibling’s flight from the police. This indie-rock offering is a stripped-down affair: not too showy, heavy on the musicianship and an emphasis on the lyrics. And while the physical release isn’t until late August, it is available at iTunes now.
Producers: Dave Newfeld, William McCarthy, Eric Sanderson, Nate Martinez. Mixing: Newfeld, Sanderson. Studio: Newfeld’s personal studio. Mastering: Tony Gillis at The Cutting Room (New York City).