By Shannon Carlin, photos by Jeremy D. Larson
Last night (Nov. 21), almost halfway through Minor Alps‘ intimate New York show hosted by Radio.com, Matthew Caws took a moment to explain the essence of his new band with Juliana Hatfield.
It was something Caws forgot to mention during the night’s earlier Q&A portion with CBS This Morning: Saturday co-host and CBS News senior business corespondent, Anthony Mason, but something he felt needed to be said.
“It’s different to be singing the same notes at the same time as someone else,” the Nada Surf frontman explained. “It somehow feels less lonely. This is solitary music, but it becomes communal.”
Caws paused, “That’s a little too wordy for banter.”
But whether it is too wordy or not, it’s a good point.
Photo Gallery: Minor Alps + Radio.com @ Rockwood Music Hall
The songs on Minor Alps’ newly-released debut, Get There, are often about being alone, but every song features Caws and Hatfield singing together in perfect unison. There’s something comforting about the idea of people dealing with their loneliness together.
For last night’s show at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall, the duo stripped things down using only acoustic guitars, a synth and the occasional drum machine. Their voices took center stage on beautifully melancholic songs like “Wish You Were Upstairs,” which tugs at the heartstrings with lines like, “Worse than a gun, entrance no one.”
For two people who usually write by themselves, they were both nervous about trying to pen a song with someone else, at times overly mindful of each other’s distinct writing process.
“I was terribly worried that he would be overly honest and critical,” Hatfield explained. “But his criticism is from a place of goodness, he’s not trying to hurt me.”
Caws says he’s more of a “dawdler” when it comes to finishing songs, admitting he has parts of songs just laying around for years. He even joked that he was going to have to try and hook some of his random parts up to turn them into one song. Hatfield, who Caws calls the “finisher,” has helped take the skeletons of some of his songs and turn them into fully formed beings.
“It’s like finding a long-lost something that you didn’t know was missing,” Hatfield said of the partnership.
Caws and Hatfield do seem to bring out the best in one another. On “If I Wanted Trouble,” the two sing, “If I wanted trouble/ I could find it,” less as a humblebrag and more like two people who are trying to convince themselves that this is actually possible.
But not everything was forlorn. On “Away Again,” dedicated to a friend of Hatfield’s who used to play with her old band the Blake Babies, she sings about loving to dream and sweetly asks, “Don’t go away again.”
It’s not exactly positive, but there is that little spark of hope that these two won’t be lonely forever.