6pm Doors / 7pm Show
Like Years Is Songwriter John Craig’s Latest Project and Approaches Life’s Difficult Moments with Grace, Good Humor and Lively, Upbeat Rhythms.
Vicissitudes, the title of John Craig’s new album, is based on his father’s favorite word. “He used ‘vicissitudes’ to describe life. How you handle the vicissitudes of life will determine how you live, how well you live and what you do with your life. I wouldn’t say I handle the vicissitudes of life exceptionally well, but I understand life operates in waves. Like everyone, I try to adapt and cope, even though the lows got lower during the pandemic. This album explores my personal struggles: insomnia, anxiety, existential angst. Writing these songs helped me find joy in life’s harder moments.”
Craig produced and recorded most of Vicissitudes in his home studio, singing and playing most of the instruments himself. The drums and congas were played by Reinhardt Melz at Hallowed Halls in Portland, the studio run by Justin Phelps (Galactic, Cake), who engineered and mixed the record. Craig has always had an eclectic, improvisational approach and pulls out all the stops on the music he composed for this project. “I’d say it’s indie rock, moving toward cinematic synth pop, or maybe existentially angsty music you can dance to. When I’m writing, I imagine sunsets on the beach, or light dancing through the leaves of the trees in a forest.”
The eleven tracks of the album flow smoothly, a slowly unfolding suite of heartfelt tunes. Things open with the mellow R&B of “Freeway (Sounds like the Ocean).” Expansive keyboard sounds and slide guitar fills suggest George Harrison sitting in with Motown’s Funk Brothers, with Craig’s buoyant vocal contrasting his uneasy observations of our slow slide into ecological oblivion.
There’s a hint of Latin in the rhythms of “The Optimist,” a mid-tempo rocker with a nostalgic feel. Craig sings about his dreams of the past and his hopes for the future in an upbeat tone, as his slide guitar gently weeps in the background. “Serious” is a slow, swinging funky rocker, with a popping bass line that suggest a 70s disco hit. Craig’s vocal gymnastics portray a wallflower’s unease, as the world dances around him. The pure pop of the title track inhabits the emotions that come into the heart in the moment you realize a relationship has come to an end. Craig’s multi-tracked vocals weave around the beat, wishing his lover well as he faces life alone.
“These songs are my most honest work” Craig said. “The album has a fuller, more alluring sound. I’m a bit seasoned now, so I know more about what I’m doing and who I am. I’m hoping listeners will resonate with my overall message: Life is hard but, despite that, it’s still fucking astonishing!”
Craig grew up in Eugene, Oregon, listening to his mother’s records and soaking up the sounds of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Band. He started playing bass and joining bands in high school. “My mom was the head of the dance department at the University of Oregon. I composed music for dance performances during my time in college, but I was already playing in bands in middle school. When I got to college, I met some guys and started Tympanic, a rock band with hints of jazz, funk, jam and pop. I was the songwriter. We toured a bit, but broke up after college. When I graduated, I moved to Portland and played in several bands you’ve never heard of. Then, I put my own group together – John Craig and The Weekend. After John Craigie and The Weeknd released albums, I changed the name to Like Years. ”
During that time, Craig had a day job as a clothing buyer. “I was getting swept into the corporate world, traveling around the world, buying expensive clothes for rich people to buy back home in Portland and Seattle. When the economy took a dive in 2008, I felt weird about buying $1000 shoes for rich people to wear during a recession. I quit my job to give music a full time shot. I also got married and started a family. Since the pandemic started, I’ve been the main stay-at-home parent for my daughters. They see me continually making music, in my basement studio. I hope this will teach them to commit to something from start to finish.”
After Vicissitudes is released, Craig will begin working on his next project. “If I can get enough traction on this record, so that the next album doesn’t have to be entirely self-funded, that would feel like success. I want to make good music, and I have a lot more of it in me, but I don’t want to bankrupt myself doing it, although I probably would, if that was the only option. Nothing makes me feel more alive than creating music. I just hope the sounds I hear can find a home in the ears of other people as well.”
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