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HeartSongs - 20170612

  • Published in Columns

Welcome to HeartSongs, our regularly scheduled (probably) look at songs and the people who write them. We spoke to Dan from Grunge-Blues two-piece Tooth & Nail about their new song ‘Troubled Times’


“It’s been a rough year or two for most of us, and this song is a reflection and reaction to a shifting and dangerous political and social climate. I wouldn’t say we’re an overtly political band, but as a writer it’s hard not to be affected and want to voice your thoughts. It’s become rare for rock n’ roll to examine and explore these issues, and I wanted to address some of the effects of Brexit, Trump, media manipulation and the rest. People are scared, people are divided and people have been lied to and used on a massive scale. Music should be one of the things holding the perpetrators to account and holding a mirror up to society. A lot of rock bands are crossing over into pop now, and going with that empty EDM club-type vibe and using woah-woahs as a substitute for meaningful lyrics. Not everyone has to be Billy Bragg or Leonard Cohen but I don’t know how you can truly believe in songs as lyrically empty as that.”

“Our aim from the start of this band was to combine our love of hard rock and grunge with blues and Americana influences. Influences like Led Zep, Nirvana, Sabbath, Rage Against The Machine, Bob Dylan, Beatles, QOTSA, Neil Young are cornerstones of what we do. Because we’re a two-piece, we have to think about using dynamics and shifts in volume, aggression and tempo to give the songs more colour and variety - if we just played the same riff over and over it would soon sound pretty repetitive. Having just drums and guitar to work with actually forces us to be more creative and cram in more ideas per song. We don’t see it as a limitation at all! The fuzz sound comes from my Big Muff pedal and Orange amps. I love how thick and powerful the guitar tones are and it helps fill out the bottom end.”

“A lot of our songs have breakdowns or outros that go off in a different direction and take the song somewhere else, but ‘Troubled Times’ is the most straightforward song in the set and certainly the most direct. We wanted to it to have a swagger, to have those singalong moments but also sound taut and punchy - kind of like a bare knuckle fight.”

“A lot of our songs start out as jams or riffs initially, with maybe a chorus hook in my head - I’ll have an idea that I’ll take to Mike and we’ll go from there. I try to avoid overthinking things at that stage and having set ideas for how I think a song should sound, as Mike is such a great, instinctive drummer who really gets dynamics and songwriting. We’ve got such a good understanding and shorthand now, we can write the music to a song together inside an hour. Once we’ve got a groove or the basics going, I’ll go away and write the lyrics and we also try to find a way to make it interesting - to have different elements to the song and different dimensions. It can be like putting a puzzle together, or cutting and pasting pieces until we get a cohesive whole that works. For ‘Troubled Times’ I had the riff, but the middle eight came later and the refrain last of all. It was almost too catchy and simple, but we knew that a song with such a tough message needed something communal to bring people into it.”

Tooth & Nail - 'Troubled Times' - Lyrics

I don’t see my enemy when I’m walking down the street

They’re exchanging pleasantries on every TV screen

I don’t take my advice from people selling dreams

And I won’t drink your poison when you pour it in the stream


Everybody knows


We’re living in troubled times

Crossing dividing lines


I don’t hear no poetry in our King’s speech

Making the same mistakes while we’re still on our knees

I don’t take my advice from country club cheats


You can’t call it lies when there’s a million in the streets

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