The resulting EP, Songs of Isolation for Rock Quartet, dips its toes in the water today with its first single, "I Know What It Takes." But instead of trying to cover up the perils of this creative journey, Thoreen admits them openly. The song itself is all about his struggle to keep making music, learning new skills needed to do so, and the doubts and obstacles that consistently get in the way. He illustrates this self-directed pep-talk with a lush sonic landscape of vocal harmonies, driving guitar chords, and perfectly mixed and mastered drums. You can hear his experimentation in the composition: taps of cymbals play along with messy guitar licks, echoes of his own lyrics chase him like the thoughts in his own head. Things fall apart and come back together perfectly in sync, the layers hang loose and then line up again. This track is like a trip in his own head: we hear the doubts, but also the persistence, the genuine desire driving him to keep going, to keep making – and the satisfying feeling when things actually come together. Or as he says: "Cause I know when it breaks down, we've gotta make something good."
To listen to "I Know What It Takes" and read from Thoreen himself about how it came into being, hit "read more."
Andrew Thoreen shares his thoughts on "I Know What It Takes," exclusive to The Aural Premonition:
This song is the first motivational anthem I’ve ever written. It embodies the idea that ultimately the only thing you need to do is keep working at making something good and improving that thing you are making. It’s simple, but it’s the sentiment that got me through the fall and winter. I reminded myself of musicians that I admire that have come before me who stuck it out, developed, and produced an ethic for working and developing throughout their lives despite the circumstances.
In the fall I dealt with anxiety and depression, debating with myself about giving up on the life I decided to pursue when I was 14. I kept asking myself “at what point should I choose to give up on the things that I set out to do and love to do more than anything else?” Thinking about that question was the place that I wrote this EP from. An internal dialogue about either giving up on something, or digging in, working to be better and sticking it out.
In 2018 I was one of the recipients of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Next Step Grant, and in fulfillment of that grant, I used the funding to build a studio space in my loft space in Saint Paul where I live with my partner Julie. We are calling the space “Sound of Music” in reference to the musical starring Julie Andrews (ha). The second part of the grant was to write and record two EPs with new recording equipment and microphones. This was the first time that I ever tried to record drums or guitar amps so I had to learn a lot. I wrote all of the songs singing with the guitar and then arranged them for a four piece rock band through the recording process. It was a solitary experience. I was alone in my studio most days, setting up mics and facing my own doubts and fears about making music, thinking about the lineage of music in America that I come from and reflecting on the joy I get from creating things. The act of coming back to writing and feeling fulfilled in the process made all these doubts disappear.
The lyric “why can’t we all solve this” is spoken to the collective peer musician and artist striving to make a living and make the thing they love making. “The kindness we deny” refers to the reptilian part of our brains that takes over when we see other people doing things that we want to do or that we are envious of. In that state it’s easy to not be kind, be aloof, hypercritical, and cold to yourself and to your peers. I’m no stranger to feeling this coldness or being guilty of embodying it when I’m feeling low. The fact is that we are all making worthy shit. We know this by the feeling we get when we make it despite whether it’s the best thing we’ve made or not. Those of you reading this know this feeling well. There is so much great stuff being made in Minneapolis and Saint Paul right now. It’s incredible, inspiring and there is too many creative people to keep track of. There is something special going on here and if we can work more with one another creatively and invite others in, well there’s certainly something to that.
Thanks to Brett for the wisdom and recording advise. Thanks to Julie for encouragement, support, and the discerning feedback.
"I Know What It Takes"
Written and performed by Andrew Thoreen
Recorded at Sound of Music in Saint Paul, MN
Mixed by Brett Bullion
Mastered by Huntley Miller at HM Mastering