What’s a man, anyway? It’s the central question at the heart of Minnesota-based songwriter Andy Cook’s new EP Modern Man out today on Good Eye Records.
The 7-track EP is an indie-rock/Americana ride that stokes twinges of nostalgia with jangly guitars, articulate synth lines, and driving percussion.
To celebrate, we had Cook break down the EP for us track by track. Check it all out while streaming Modern Man below, order your copy of the EP here and catch him live at Rose Gold in Brooklyn, NY tonight.
Modern Man was recorded at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, engineered and mixed by Nick Tveitbakk, and produced with Jeremy Ylvisaker. The tracks were all recorded to tape as live band takes, and then we added on with overdubs from there. My bandmates on the project include Kate Murray, Zach Brose, Cooper Doten, Al Church, and Jennie Lawless. They are super musicians and super people, and it’s been a privilege to create this record with them and then put it out into the world! And a big thanks goes to Good Eye Records for helping make that happen!
Swirl is the first track on the EP and the first song that really came together as part of the project. I think the sound and vibe of this one helped set the tone for the rest of the project. Zach Brose, who plays guitar in my band on the record, came up with the lead guitar line after we were playing through and working up a demo. What I started with was more of an eight-note, very straight kind of thing, and then Zach took it in a different direction after we listened to a couple of Jenny Lewis songs. That guitar line is so catchy, so we built a lot of the rest of the song around that. Lyrically, it’s really about social media and how it feels like we have to present ourselves a certain way—the best way—all the time. That’s where the “lonely eyes and made-up grace” lyrics come from. Trying to be what other people want all the time can do more separating than it can connecting, and maybe we look good, but it doesn’t feel that great. We’re all on this weird journey together though, so there’s an optimism in that.
I actually came up with the guitar line on this one! Haha, I only point that out because it’s usually Zach. And I love what he did with it and the guitar solo, which is a couple of overdubs layered together. The middle section of the song really happened in the studio, and the “ahhh” and “hey” thing was a total in-the-moment move by Al Church, who drums for me and has his own awesome solo project and band BBGUN as well. This is a fun one to play live. I wrote the lyrics for this one after a Prince tribute party at First Avenue in Minneapolis last spring. I was guitar teching for Jeremy Ylvisaker, and it was an absolutely incredible show. We were hanging out after, and there was a dance party going on all night. So the song is from the perspective of someone who’s the life of the party at night—like many of the people there that night—and wondering if their friends are still for real in the morning. Like the rest of the album, the song is sorting out identity and connection, as an introspective lyrical idea sitting on top of more expressive musical sounds.”
This one is probably my favorite song on the record, for a lot of reasons. Recording this one took more takes than all of the other tracks, and I think we were struggling with it a little bit. But Nick encouraged us to do one more before we take a break, and everything came together. There’s this moment after the bridge where Al has this great drum fill, it was totally spontaneous and we all just loved it. And then Kate and Jennie added their vocals after we got the band track down, and it created chills they were so amazing to listen to. Jeremy helped us fill out the end of the song where it gets really fuzzy and shimmery and everything, and I still love listening to it. Really, Run is for when you’re sad, when you’re stuck, or when you just have to break down what’s holding you back. It might get a little messy and noisy, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need.
One of my favorite artists is HALEY (fka Haley Bonar), and I wrote this song while listening to her most recent record Impossible Dream. I loved the simple, repeating—and very catchy—choruses so I tried to make one myself. And I’d had this line of “take your time to take what you need” floating around for a while. Then, as I was thinking about the election and other stuff happening in the world, I was like “nothing changes if nothing changes.” Those two ideas came together, and the song built out from there. The drum sound in the beginning is actually Cooper and Al manually playing a drum machine, and then the bass line – which is so perfect for this song – is one that Cooper came up with when we were demoing stuff in the spring. In the song I ask “could I be enough for you” and I mean it—both to others and to myself. And the best part about that question is, we can answer it for ourselves if we want—who we are is always good enough.
“Places We’ll Go”
This is defiantly a song for someone, not really anyone in particular, but really for a lot of people I care about. It’s the oldest song of the bunch that’s on the record, and I really wanted to record and release it. Zach’s guitar line is beautiful, and with the exception of some slide overdubs, this is purely a live take. Listeners seem to really enjoy this song, and I’m glad it connects with people.
“Modern Man Part 1”
I was listening to Angel Olsen’s most recent record, My Woman, and was trying to come up with something like the song Intern. By the time I was writing this song Modern Man Pt 1 (well, it didn’t start as part 1—initially it was going to be one thing) I knew the record was going to be called either Modern Society or Modern Man, and I had this central concept of “What’s a man, anyway?” So I built it into a song, leaving that question as the anchor after basically lamenting a mistaken relationship. What’s cool from a production standpoint on this song, is that the vocal track is just the tape delay track—everything ran through the tape machine and through the tape delay, so we isolated just the tape delay signal on this one. Zach’s oscillating guitar things are pretty sounding too!
“Modern Man Part 2”
This was a fun one to record, especially my guitar solo. We were laughing so much listening back to it in the studio because I actually managed to come up with a catchy little thing. And then Jeremy added these laser sounding synth sounds, and we all just played quite loose with this song to begin with. And while it’s fun to play and listen to, it’s decently serious lyrically—what is a man? Why do we have to be what society, social media, etc. say we need to be? I don’t know the answer, and that’s why the last words of the record are “what is a man?”