Jun 15, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Richmond, Virginia-based indie rock band Gnawing was born in the living room of a punk house in North Carolina as the solo effort of singer/songwriter John Russell. After playing in local bands like Alright, Planet Creep, and Earthmover, Russell wanted to explore the alt rock of his youth, recalling his days listening to Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, and The Lemonheads.
However, last year the project took form as a full-fledged band, with the new trio sharing expanded versions of songs from Russell’s 2018 Gnawing EP. Now the band are back, newly signed to Refresh Records and sharing their full-length debut, You Freak Me Out, later this summer. Early this month they shared “So Glad,” the first single from the project and they’re now back with a new single, “Blue Moon New,” premiering early with Under the Radar.
“Blue Moon New” departs somewhat from Gnawing’s ‘90s alt rock influences, instead bringing to life the band’s love for cosmic country. With a steady, stomping beat, keening pedal steel, and harmony duet vocals courtesy of Ali Mislowsky, the band takes elements straight out of the ‘60s country playbook and marry them with indie rock stylings for a potent mix.
Russell says of the track, “This song is basically a love song to love songs. The picture on the single art is a 35mm picture I took on that same snow day that I wrote it. The first line just popped into my head, and as soon as I put it on paper the rest sort of fell out of my brain. The lyrics had maybe one or two edits, but basically came together on that one snow day. Narratively it is based sort of around the same story as told in Crenshaw Ave, but if Crenshaw is the melancholy version of the last couple years of my life, Blue Moon New is the sweet version of those events.”
He continues, “Musically, this song probably changed the most from it’s demo version to the final that shows up on the record. The original idea was in 3/4 and was covered in fuzz, it was sort-of like if Sleep covered Link Wray’s Rumble. We couldn’t get it to gel that way in the practice space so it sat unused in my notebook for a minute, until I started messing with the chords on an acoustic, and realized the original vocal melody sounded so good over a honky tonk train-stomp beat. I appreciate Christian’s patience with having to play the same beat for the entire song, except for the bridge.”
“Around the time of recording I had been listening obsessively to Bob Dylan’s Desire and the Flying Burrito Brothers’ Gilded Palace of Sin (let’s be honest, when am I not) so I knew this song needed two things: 1) a Sneaky Pete-esque pedal steel line, skillfully provided by Wes Hamilton. And 2) a duet-style harmony vocal track, flawlessly executed by Ali Mislowsky (my main reference for this was Emmylou Harris’ part on Dylan’s “Oh, Sister’‘.. just gorgeous.)”
Check out the song below and watch for You Freak Me Out, out July 9th via Refresh Records.