Discover more from Big Sky Chat House
Indie-rock revival: 5 Questions for Arrowleaf's Sarah Marker
Plus: FUULS' biting new single "Sacrificial Glam"
Welcome to Big Sky Chat House— a newsletter about movers and shakers in Montana.
If you found this email in your Promotions folder, please move it to your Primary inbox. That will make it easier to find down the road, and teach Gmail to send it to other subscribers’ Primary inboxes as well. Thanks!
Montana Song of the Week: FUULS’ “Sacrificial Glam”
True to its name, “Sacrificial Glam,” the brand-new single from Missoula’s FUULS, injects a healthy dose of Davie Bowie and T.Rex-style sheen into the group’s snarling garage rock. But don’t let that major-key pep fool you: The chugging guitars, catchy chorus and bouncy bass provide a vehicle for some of front woman Ash Nataanii’s most barbed and poignant lyrics yet.
In a series of scenes and images alternately opaque and vivid, Ash sets her sights on the ramifications of religious persecution, both historical and contemporary. The most chilling example comes near the song’s end: “The dead in christ will rise from under the floors of boarding schools and reservation highways and set fire to the buildings mining murder across the land,” she intones, more spoken than sung.
The line gets at a bigger question, one that seems to be posed throughout the song: what does it mean to look for justice in the face of cruelty and oppression? That the question comes wrapped in a jaunty pop-rock number, to me, makes it all the more disorienting, and chilling.
FUULS’ Ash Nataanii recently announced that she’s moving out of Montana. Any paid downloads made via the Bandcamp link, below, could help her through a difficult time.
A long-overdue release party: 5 Questions for Arrowleaf front woman Sarah Marker
A long time ago, in the far, far away world of 2021, the Missoula band Arrowleaf released a stellar indie-rock album called Getting By. Recorded in a tiny living room on Burns Street, and led by Sarah Marker’s magnetic vocals and dramatic arrangements, the record garnered acclaim from local and national press alike. Yet despite the momentum, the full band—twelve musicians in all—has never had a chance to play a proper release show. COVID was certainly to blame, but other bad luck reared its head as well.
Now, almost exactly two years later, the entire band will perform Getting By, in full, for the first time, at Free Cycles in Missoula this Saturday.
I caught up with front woman Sarah Marker to chat about how her life—and her songs’ meaning—has shifted in the subsequent two years, some of her favorite Missoula bands and the challenges she sees facing the city’s musical community.
Max: It's been roughly two years since you released Getting By. Does it feel like there’s an element of closure to playing this show now?
Sarah Marker: A little bit. I did a lot to get this album done and do it the way that I wanted to. And I spent a decent amount of time and money promoting it and trying to get it into whatever ears I could by getting it posted on blogs and playlists and trying to push it anywhere that I could think to send it. And so it really sucked to not have all of that culminate in a big release show.
They're my songs and I spent a ton of time on [the album], but so many other people put their time and energy into this and I feel like it's been a disservice to them to not give it its full life. And so I'm just super excited to play these songs live with everybody and let the songs breathe a little bit.
How does it feel to be revisiting the record now? How has your life changed since then?
We basically [stopped] tracking because of COVID. There were a couple of things we wanted to add that we didn't add because we didn't feel safe doing that. We stopped tracking and then immediately entered a really strange couple of years (laughs). We all stopped seeing our friends and we mixed the album remotely; some of the [precautions] we probably didn't need to take, but we didn't know.
I also personally went through a really tumultuous couple of years, starting with COVID. Also, the week before the album came out, we lost our housing. My husband and I got a two-sentence letter from our landlord telling us we had six weeks to leave; we'd lived there for seven years.
So we lived in our friend's basement for a summer and eventually we ended up buying a house in Frenchtown, which is amazing.
I can't even believe it. The way that the stars and planets and everything aligned in order for that to happen is incredible to me. And we have a little bit of space out there and we're gonna be building a recording studio [starting this summer].
We lost housing, we bought a house, we both got new jobs. There were a lot of life things happening. I've also been doing some pretty intense therapy for the past year. And so I feel like coming back to the songs with a new understanding of myself. It’s totally a trip, in a really good way. I feel like I'm learning more about myself through the songs that I didn't put together when I was making them.
Thanks for reading Big Sky Chat House! Subscribe for free to receive new posts every gosh darn week.
What’s an example of that?
I have a little bit more compassion for myself now. And so singing some of those songs again, I'm like, whoa, I was like being really hard on myself in some of these lyrics.
What other artists have been north stars for you, in terms of either songwriting or arranging?
I am a Neko Case fan girl through and through (laughs). Her style of songwriting is super interesting and bucks a lot of trends.
She does a lot of storied songwriting. [Especially] in her earlier albums she wrote in different meters and wrote stories about people that she made up and came up with this interesting mix of alt-country, noir, indie-rock and pop.The other stuff that we're all really into and drawing from is Radiohead and Wilco; I was listening to a lot of Wye Oak at the time that I was writing this.
What Montana bands are you hyped on right now?
This is kind of a cookie-cutter answer because my husband plays drums for the Skurfs, but I've loved the Skurfs for all the thirteen years that I've known them. We went up to Maverick Mountain [in March] and they played at the Bartender’s Cup and I skied by myself and I could hear them from the top of the mountain.
I love Junior and everything that all of those people have been a part of ever. And the Best Westerns; I just got to see them a few weeks ago and that was really fun. I love what ESP is doing and I'm excited for Bluest’s new single “Talk Soon.”
Oh man. And then there’s everybody that is on this record that I played with and all of their projects: Sean’s project [Doctor Fly]. Bethany and Sean are in Red Onion Purple together. It's a really long list; everybody's in a lot of things.
I really could probably go on for ten minutes.
It’s funny—there are all these bands in town but I still feel like I hear people often say that they don’t feel like there’s much of a scene. What do you make of that?
I feel like there's an incredible amount of musical artistic prowess in Missoula that is being underserved by the amount of venues that we have.
I love the ZACC, but it’s a community space that's intended to be used for more than just indie bands. The VFW wasn't doing music for the longest time. We lost the Palace and Stage 112. I'm glad to see that people are starting to play at Monk’s again. We're playing a show at the Badlander in May—I'm glad to see music coming back there again.
I just feel like there is so much good music happening and people are finding places to do little pop-ups, but they never really last that long. Or the cops get called and they have to shut it down, like with Squish.
This might just be me, but sometimes I'm like, okay, we have a lot of bands and a lot of musicians and we also like to support a good music scene. But you need more than just those people going to each other's shows.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Thanks so much for being here. We’ll see you next week! In the meantime, you can always reach me via email, the comment section below, or on the Elon Machine, @SavageLevenson.