A Track by Track with Tenderfoot
Yesterday, the bi-coastal four piece, Tenderfoot, who hail from Seattle and Brooklyn, put out their debut full length record. In celebration of their dream-folk album Break Apart, lead vocalist Adam Kendall Woods put together a track by track, detailing the story and process behind each song on the record. Hit play on each track and read what Woods has to say about them all below!
Break Apart starts with a heart-beating pulse of keys. Originally a quiet, slow song I penned quickly in a moment of emotional upheaval, Break Apart was fleshed out over a few months and eventually speeds up in the outro. This song is the cornerstone of the album. I think a song is “good” when it teaches you something about yourself while creating it. What started out as a break-up song became a slow realization that to ‘break apart’ is what we all do. It’s what will happen to every single bond, thought, job, relationship, joy, and part of your body. Life becomes one long hello blurring into one long goodbye. And that’s how the song ends, with the repetition of the word “goodbye”. We thought it was important to start the album with a song that succinctly said, “Hello, I am here, I am feeling pain after so much pleasure, and so are you, now it is time to say goodbye”. The rest of the album fleshes out this experience in more detail.
I wrote this song a week before my 32nd birthday. The song is about the slow road to getting to know yourself, and looking back at the touchstones that changed you while acknowledging that “the sculpture of your face has changed”. As a queer man, I was very buttoned-up and conservative in love and pleasure in my twenties. After I turned 30, my feelings towards sex and love and abundance started to open up for the better. I was more experimental with my relationships, but still nostalgic for my past. I think that’s part of life: hovering over all of your past selves and feeling everything over and over. Being haunted by those feelings. Having the desire to reach down and move the selves of your past around for the better, while also trying to be “perfect” in your current life. I am slowly learning to let go and allow myself to be a vessel for what the universe has to offer, and know wholeheartedly that’s it’s a lot more than you think you deserve. The song ends in that realization of abundance, a release from the militaristic drum beat pervasive since the song’s beginning.
Give It A Rest
When I lived on the road for a year with my partner, we were traveling in a VW Rabbit pickup truck. Though adorable, and great on gas, it was over 30 years old and prone to break-downs and overheating. We would know there was about to be a problem because the air would get hot in the cab, and the gas pedal would push back against your foot. We were towing a vintage camper trailer behind us, and our truck really wasn’t keen on that. So, we would pull over on the side of the road and give it a rest. As my partner and I’s relationship started to deteriorate towards the end of our trip, it became clear to me the truck was a metaphor for us. In San Francisco, we decided to part ways and he headed back to our old home of Ann Arbor, MI. I kept the truck in the city for a while, but as most folks know, that city literally eats vehicles for breakfast, and I had to let it go. A few years later, I got to further explore the extended metaphor of the truck through this song. Give It A Rest rolls along in a repetitive and entwined way, with the drums building the mountain roads we travelled over. The keys are restrained here and offer little solace. Darcey Zoller’s cello really cuts in this song, becomes an emotional knife, and a second voice for me to tangle with. We worked on how our parts would interact for many sessions, looking to some of the obsessive tangles Philip Glass composed for strings in The Hours for inspiration.
Getting There started as a stoned collaboration between myself and Gabriel Molinaro, our keyboard player. I asked him if he had ever listened to Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” and he had not. We listened to it together in our practice space and then started composing a melody inspired by the electronic flute pieces that flutter in and out in a repetitive and clinical way. From there we jammed and created all sorts of interlocking melodies that we gave to Darcey for inspiration for her cello pieces. It all came alive when Jude brought in her thunderous drums. Her intuition for rhythm is impeccable, and once we had that backbone to stick things to, everything fell into place. But what the fuck was it? We had never written a song like this before. We expanded it, we tailored it, we ran it over and over again. The song is a soaring landscape, an experimental and jazzy piece, with rivers of cello that flow in and out. After the piece was composed, I wrote a short abstract poem based on the work of multimedia artist Erin Frost and laid it over the song. This is my favorite piece to play live, because we all have to watch each other intensely for our dynamic cues. I usually end up with my back fully to the stage, since I don’t have much to sing, and it feels like we’re in our practice space, just with people watching.
A few years ago I lived in an apartment above Eric Anderson, better known as Cataldo. He had a big house party one night and invited me down to have a few drinks. After a couple beers and some intense conversations, I started to have an existential moment that I needed to document immediately. I pulled out my journal and wrote more than half of the lyrics to Semiprecious Life right there in his house. “The salt in your wound, it feels so good” pretty much summed up my life back then. I live with depression and anxiety, and back then I didn’t address it. I take medication now and have an awesome therapist, but back then I would dwell on the saddest moments of life in a very intense way. I wouldn’t leave my room for days at a time. Those days can sometimes be great for songwriting, but when they stack up to you not being able to live your life, it’s time to get some help. I did, and I’m here. This song is about dealing with those moments of extreme depression. The atmospheric textures in this song were pulled from the bleed of construction noises during our recording session. Our engineer and producer Aaron Schroeder weaved them in instead of trying to mask them, or re-record. We wanted to document Seattle’s changing landscape, one marked mostly by new condo and apartment developments demolishing and pushing out older homes and businesses. Aaron’s studio is now a posh bar that caters to Seattle’s newest residents.
PALMS started out as a fun band jam to bliss out to between practicing more narrative material. We'd been listening to a lot of Lower Dens and loved how Jana's band would take a jam to an almost meditative place. Jude, our drummer, comes from a punk and garage rock background, and really led the charge on this one. After we felt we had some solid garage-y repetition happening, I started writing a lyrical poem about being young in the city. "Darling take it easy/ cause my garden doesn't feed me/ Like I want it, like I taught, like I ever could depend upon it...Something in the city/ takes advantage of your beauty/ All the moments, all your minutes, all the overwhelming golden ivy..." I'd been thinking a lot about my twenties and all the hooks and snares a person gets trapped in because they are young and yearn to be a part of something. Entire industrial empires run on that type of naïveté, and I think it takes some distance from that time period to really see it. Gabe started calling the tune PALMS because he thought it felt beachy. I dug the name because of the double-entendre of open hands asking for something, so it stuck.
When I wrote this song, I was in the middle of a co-dependent relationship. I was beginning to really understand what this meant, and how similar it can feel to substance abuse. “I cannot be myself without a little something else” was the line that galvanized everything. Drugs, alcohol, fights, sex; it was all the “something else” I needed to exist, that made me feel like I was alive. I knew when I brought the song to the band that it was going to be a hard one to share and to flesh out. We decided to leave it mostly raw, adding in the rest of the instrumentation late in the song for a drastic sonic contrast and bombastic outro. The song feels unbalanced the way a life can, when you start to feel out-of-control. At Laundry Room studios, Aaron had us play all of our parts over and over again for the ending, so he could weave and stitch everything together. Darcey’s cello part dives into a harmonic minor scale that taps into the darkness of the lyrical content.
Other Side of Love
“Take me to the other side of love, and what you’re afraid of. The softening of bones until we’re gone, and all we are made of.” As I get older, I think more about the potential of the other side of a romantic relationship. When youth wanes, as the emotional and physical needs of you and your partner’s bodies become more and more pressing, how does this affect your happiness? Over the course of writing and recording the album, I had been teaching myself to play piano. This was the first full song I composed on keys. I decided it needed to be a solo piece, just myself and the grand piano in Hall of Justice, a recording studio in Seattle. Aaron and I worked on the production to make sure it evoked an equal amount of warmth and loneliness. The song was the last piece written for the album, and takes me into my late 30’s. We thought it was the perfect piece to end on, as it closes a chapter of life and opens a new type of wondering.