If a friend is someone you love and trust and speak with at least once a week, then John Davis is my oldest friend. I first met John at the old 9:30 Club on F Street N.W. when I was 16-years-old, but we had already been in touch through letters, which was how the suburban D.C. punk scene stayed connected in 1995. Three years later, I asked John to play drums in a band that would become Q and Not U.
We were a post-punk group and we recorded three albums for Dischord Records, a label we revered. When the band broke up in 2005, I took it badly. I recorded a solo album as Ris Paul Ric with my friend Tim Hecker and then tried to start another group. Neither really worked out. John started a short-lived band called Georgie James, and then started his still-together band, Title Tracks. Along the way, he became an excellent songwriter.
That’s why, in January 2011, I asked John to help me finish some songs that had gone nowhere during two lousy years I spent living in New York City. Maybe we could sound like CSNY or Harry Nilsson or other bands John had gotten me into. There could be guitar solos and vocal harmonies and lyrics about personal bummers – common things that felt too common for our old band, or maybe just too self-indulgent. (Funny how common things could feel thrilling now.) John had some songs that needed finishing, too.
We recorded them all in the summer of 2012 with the help of Chad Clark and Nick Anderson, two generous and gifted producers. Some of it was recorded in a Virginia shed. The rest of it was recorded in a Maryland apartment. We decided to call the band Paint Branch after a 14-mile stream that flows into the Anacostia River and past the Maryland rehearsal space where we wrote our songs, not far from the woods where John Fahey once consorted with cat people.
Listening to the album a few months later, it sounds different to me. I think it’s an album about carrying the weight of dreams you never fulfilled and the strangeness of mourning the ones that you did. That wasn’t what we set out to do, of course. We just wanted to see what would happen if we tried making music together again. This is what happened.
If a friend is someone you love and trust and speak with at least once a week, then John Davis is my oldest friend. I first met John at the old 9:30 Club on F Street N.W. when I was 16-years-old, but...
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