All Your Sisters return with brooding and bleak new track “Dividing Lines” from their upcoming third studio album Trust Ruins.
We spoke briefly with All Your Sister’s Jordan Morrison about the record, which he developed as an outlet to process the suffering that he witnessed while working graveyard shifts as a paramedic, while also mining themes from his fundamentalist Christian upbringing in addition to series of tragic and life changing events that preceded the album’s inception.
Two of these events, which happened during the final months of 2016, while Morrison was then residing in San Francisco, involved the fatal drug overdose of his brother-in-law, as well as the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland that claimed the lives of many in the Bay Area music scene.
Compounded with the recent presidential election, a sense of inescapable doom and dystopia lingered, forcing Morrison to re-examine the direction of his life.
“This record is about making hard life choices, living with those decisions, and the struggle to live life on life’s terms. If I die tomorrow, I don’t want to have any regrets.”
Listen to “Dividing Lines”, and find more from the interview below:
Can you elaborate on the new lineup, in the studio and live?
‘Trust Ruins’ was written in my San Francisco apartment between July 2017 and July 2018.
The concept for the new lineup started when Jonathan asked if AYS could play a Flenser showcase (August 2018). I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show some of the new material I had just written in a live setting. I dove in so deep with the writing of this record and knew it needed the sound and presence of a full band. AYS played the show with a full lineup put together in a few weeks. The show worked; it was the best the project had ever sounded. I had to continue with the idea of a full band. However, the unfortunate thing was that I was also moving to LA days later. As busy as two of the friends were with their other bands, and being far apart, it was pretty unrealistic to plan more shows with that same group in mind. Through Gilbert (bass) I met Nicole (drums) and through her I met James (guitar). I feel really fortunate. Everyone in the new lineup is super talented, driven, very polite and communicative. We’re all very much on the same page with the vision of the live show going forward. I knew it would take a strong emotional investment from everyone in order to really get the the new AYS material to work live. I feel like we got that part covered.
Will AYS be touring in 2019? 2016 saw AYS tour Europe and beyond.
Yes, AYS will definitely be touring in 2019. In May we’ll be in the Southwest and are planning for a West Coast and East Coast tour to close out the year. Europe is one of my favorite places to play but it looks like that wont be in the fold till 2020.
What do you do to cope with the tragedies you’ve experienced (graveyard shifts as a paramedic, death/overdose to those near, Christian upbringing), as well as the horrible things going on in the world (Ghost Ship tragedy, President Trump in office, etc.) especially in the US?
That’s a good question and I’ve been trying to figure out the best way for a long time. Making music and listening to records is the only thing I’ve been able to figure out that really brings me into myself; it’s therapeutic, fulfilling and challenging. My coping methods have changed from time to time but since I created this project 8 years ago some have stayed the same. Coping looks like falling into a programming hole and losing track of time for eight hours. Coping looks like finding the right guitar tuning that when the strings are furiously scraped, it releases the inner horrors of my head. Coping is expressing these thoughts with a performance to a sympathetic group of people who share some of the same nightmares, even if it’s for only 45 minutes. Coping is watching as many of my favorite Cronenburg movies in a row until I implode. Coping is falling into a Camus, Dostoyevski or Bukowski book. Coping looks like turning out all the lights and playing Branca’s Symphony no.13 loud enough for neighbors to hear as a palate cleanser. Coping also looks like making time for those I care about, eating healthier, exercising more and drinking a lot less.
Has the song writing process changed since ‘Uncomfortable Skin’? New Instruments? New production? How does this compare with the old?
Almost all AYS song began with a drum pattern but the process for the these albums really differs from there. The songs on ‘Uncomfortable Skin’ came to life in the rehearsal room where they were fleshed out with guitar chords and bass. Then I would take a couple different bits home for editing and restructuring to create a single more fully formed song. With ‘Trust Ruins’ the process was reversed; the songs began at home on headphones with a drum pattern or piano line. I’d texturize with synth pads and guitar chords and get the song pretty well finished. Then I’d take to the rehearsal space, blast it real loud to get a sense of the subtle and atmospheric parts, and make edit there. Lyrics almost always come last, starting as hums until I can find the right words from my journals to fit the melody, meaning and inspiration of the song.
Even though ‘Trust Ruins’ was written over a span of 12 months, I felt like I could really see the end result in my head from the start. ‘Uncomfortable Skin’ had less of a fixed concept and had more to do with building out from a stream of consciousness. I think I made two demos for ‘Trust Ruins’ before I realized I needed to change my gear set up. The limits of the old drum machine fueled creativity in the past but I knew I needed something different in order to expand the sound and match my vision. I wanted this record to be super dense with an abundance of layers. The back bone and writing utensils were an MPC 1000 and a Kurzweil SP88. I’d always envisioned that the Kurzweil could be a resonant addition to the sound. Continuity of the album atmosphere was a major goal for me as well and that’s where the Blofeld synthesizer came into play. Acoustic drums, cymbals and even my guitar were sampled and detuned quite a lot. Guitars on their own were mainly used as texture elements rather than having them be the focal point. From the start I was thinking of the vision and sound more as a whole instead of individual parts that meld together at some point to become one.
What is it like working with Jack Shirley?
Jack is great! I had the pleasure of working with him at the Atomic Garden for the last record too. It’s so helpful to work with someone who’s sympathetic to the sound you’re after. He’s extremely intuitive, ultra efficient, and has a great blend of analog and digital gear. For ‘Trust Ruins’ I had the chance to mix with him at his brand new studio in Oakland. The space is absolutely incredible. He’s also the nicest guy.
Can you talk specifically about the new track “Dividing Lines” and the new album as a whole?
It has a lot to do with 2016. There was a feeling of a dark cloud cast over the U.S. and it seemed to be growing larger every time I looked. Every other day there was either a black person murdered by the police, another mass shooting in public area or another horrifying act of some sort. Then came the presidential election. The results left me and so many friends with this feeling of helplessness while forcing the sense that lines have been drawn and I needed to pick a side. People leaning to the left felt betrayed and lost trust in the system. Dreams of a dystopian future with cities left in ruins were plentiful and all too close to reality. Part of me dealing with all this came out in the form of a song. I think the lyrics and the sound really portray what was going on in my head throughout 2017.
As for the album as a whole, It deals with current and past political and social landscapes, oppressive religious upbringings and my personal examination of the human condition. I hope it feels cinematic or story-like. There’s a beginning, a climax and an ending but I’m not sure who or what wins. Maybe there isn’t a winner. I think it actually changes for me everyday. In the title, the word “Ruins” has two different meanings when I see it. The cynical side of me reads it like a verb while the optimistic side says it’s a noun suggesting we ought to examine and respect the past in order to reduce the risks of making the same mistakes in the future.” ■
Trust Ruins is available in three versions with a sleeve design by Alex Brown: traditional black vinyl, bone-colored vinyl (also available with a special 28-page art booklet), and red with black splatter vinyl available only to members of The Flenser Membership Series.
*Photo by Jess Garten