Music polymath and political thinker Joshua Strawn is a busy man constantly at work penning his thoughts through freelance writing gigs and crafting songs with various bands and projects—most noteworthy his collaboration with musical partner Zohra Atash in their band Azar Swan, who just released one of the best records this year in Savage Exile.
To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway’s quote that the ‘world is such a beautiful place, and worth fighting for’ being a central tenant to Strawn’s way would be an understatement, given his passionate response through music and prose to the terrifying political events unfolding on a global scale.
Hope, however, sometimes comes from such an obvious place, unadulterated by cynicism through the eyes of Strawn’s daughter Grey, with whom he decided to collaborate on a new song…
Not lacking in words, Strawn goes on to explain the creation of this heartfelt Neofolk celebration of his own brand of Paganism:
“We didn’t set out to write this song. I had just been taking down some of the more flowery phrases Grey says in a notepad, thinking they may become part of something but I didn’t know what. One day as we were driving, she was looking out the window and she said “The world is such a beautiful place.”
She said it with such sincerity, looking at nothing but dull semi-rundown city buildings under an overcast sky. The statement itself was beautiful in its childish naivete, and simultaneously sad to hear as an adult who knows what kind of world she may have to encounter one day.
A few weeks later, as I was playing the acoustic guitar and she was playing with some of her percussion instruments, I started singing her words over a simple chord progression. From there, the song wrote itself. I don’t talk about whatever personal, unsupernatural religion we have very often, because it’s either too scary and devilish for my extended family or too hollow for devoted pagans. Leave it to us to find the most despised “middle ground” between atheists and the practitioners.
But the winter solstice has always been the time when our family gets the most ceremonial and properly ritualistic. So this song, which is free to stream and download, is our solstice gift to everyone. The song to me embodies the darkness of the midwinter and the light of the returning sun. It’s meant to be both sad and beautiful, exactly the way the emotions flowed from her into us. Religious practice and ritual is often about transforming something sad into something beautiful. Perhaps this little “band” will continue this process in seasons to come, who knows. For now, we just made what we made and we wanted to share it.
Lights With Teeth is a reference to a recurring nightmare Grey has — a room with low ceilings where the lights are vampires. It seemed a perfect name for the work. A process of transmuting nightmares together. If it adds something to your experience, and you think it may do the same for others, please share far and wide. We wish you all a joyful solstice, may all your worst dreams turn into something beautiful, as the light returns after the darkest day.”