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Most notably, Rose-Garcia wrote and sings three of the album’s songs with Esme Patterson, a solo artist and member of the Denver-based band Paper Bird. “We started out just having fun and writing, and then that turned into some of my favorite songs on the album,” he says. “We actually wrote ‘Dearly Departed’ on Halloween as a tongue-in-cheek, haunted house sex joke, and then we played it that night and people went bonkers. Esme and I write so similarly it kinda freaked us out, and I really learned the power of writing music with someone you get along with.”
Soon enough, Rose-Garcia found that the experience of making the record was being mirrored in the songs themselves. “I was letting go of that one-man everything,” he says. “I did need people’s help, and my control freak nature had to subside a bit. It meant learning collaboration, but also knowing when to stick to my guns — all of that was the experience of this year, and the songs were some of the more genuine experiences; some of them even became sort of prophetic.”
“Only Son,” a meditation on solitude (“I used to be an only son/My heart was like a stranger”), became the opening track and “thesis statement” for “And the War Came.” “Hard Wired” is not, as it may first appear, about a relationship falling apart, but “about having friends with problems — watching a friend struggling and not doing anything about it.”
The themes of these ten songs, explains Rose-Garcia, return over and over to the idea of the “other.” “It’s not about any single person, it’s about being that second, other person. Even the title — I never thought about whether I was able to handle that aspect of things, of having these relationships. ‘And the War Came’ is a little bit of, be careful what you wish for.”
Songs like “The Perfect Parts” and “Family and Genus,” meanwhile, represent a very different sound for Shakey Graves. “Those have a lot more aggression, they’re heavy and big,” he says. “I’m a little worried because it is a new step out, and people have gotten really precious about the stuff I’ve done — which is a huge compliment, and a dream come true — but I’m interested in what a Shakey Graves song is to people.”
Another crucial influence on the direction of “And the War Came” has been Rose-Garcia’s lengthy and far-flung touring schedule (which has recently included stops at the Winnipeg and Newport Folk Festivals, prior to a headlining run this fall). “I’m constantly flying places and moving at a fast rate,” he says. “Imagining what it was like a year ago is almost incomprehensible to me now. I feel like I’ve almost seen too much this year — bands, music, places. And if that doesn’t affect you in certain ways, then you’re doing it wrong.”
While his remarkable success story continues to unfold, Alejandro Rose-Garcia sees “And the War Came” as a pivotal step in the evolution of Shakey Graves. “This is a doorframe album, as we’re going into a new building,” he says. “It’s taste of everything — what might come in future, which might include just guitar or the one-man band thing, but not pigeonholed to any one sound. I wanted to open some stuff up and get people ready for wherever it’s going.”