Screenshot via YouTube
Earlier this year, I was driving through a remote part of southern Utah, completely alone, trying to get away from the entire world and make some sense of my life, when St. Lenox's song "Bitter Pill" came on. In the song, St. Lenox lists off these still life images of the little artifacts that linger from a relationship—a drawing on the fridge, a cookbook that hints at meals once cooked together—in a quavering yet confident voice. It's a song that captures the kind of quotidian pain that makes up most of our actual sadness but rarely gets translated into music. I burst into tears—big, ugly, inescapable, unbidden tears that felt like they had been stored up for ages. St. Lenox's music has that effect. It's too real to be cool. You don't listen to it to set a "vibe"; you play it and stumble into revelations, hit nerves that you may not have been ready to hit.
That's not to say it's sad and dark and horrible. It's just more or less like life itself, which is uncertain and plodding and often finds moments of humor emerging right alongside moments of sadness. One of the best St. Lenox songs is "The Greyhound Bus Song," which we're premiering the video for below. It's about traveling and being caught in the strange stages of revelry that an unending road sets us into, full of imaginative quips about different parts of the world and, at the same time, dwelling on an unspecified longing for someone distant. Andy Choi, the one-man-band who is St. Lenox, further put it into perspective by explaining that the video, directed by Elliot Lyman, "captures a lot of little details of traveling on a budget." With bus travel, "you end up in odd places at odd times." I know that's something that a lot of people hate about travel, but it's something I personally have always appreciated, the off-kilter lens through which you see a place when you're in a dirty bus station there at six in the morning. That's when your perspective on everything suddenly becomes crystal clear. And sure enough, the video captures that.
St. Lenox is heading on tour in February, and his excellent album 10 Songs About Memory and Hope is out now (grab it on iTunes, Amazon, or vinyl). Andy shared a few more thoughts about his music and what's next along with the video, all of which is below:
Noisey: What's the story of this song and video?
Andy Choi: I had a very short and stupid crush on someone at around the time I was taking a trip to Ohio. I was thinking about the idea of travel as escape. You know they have these old Greyhound ads, where they advertise travel as a way to get away from your problems and have a day of it. Look them up! I think that's where it came from. The protagonist is traveling, and the object of his desire mentions travel tips for him as he's off on a journey to recuperate.
The video I think captures a lot of little details of traveling on a budget. Bus travel is The People's travel. You end up in odd places at odd times. And the scenery ends up as a big beautiful backdrop to help you work out your problems.
How has your relationship with the material changed since you put out the album?
Mainly, I think I started to believe that maybe people could understand me after all? I write things that make sense to me, and I hope it's accessible. I use pop to make it accessible. But you never know if it translates. And the album is filled with a lot of oddities (this song being one of the main ones). It's comforting knowing that people relate. I sometimes have difficulty with that. This past year, I wondered if I've been growing apart from people for one reason or another. So having this was nice.
What have you been doing since the album came out?
A bit of touring, some blogging, and a lot of work at the office, LOL. I've been spending time trying to live life as an office jockey. Maybe some day I'll write an album about that.
What's next for St. Lenox?
Working on recording a new album. The songs are already written. It's going to have a political bent. I think there's a lack of that right now, especially when people need that. I think indie is failing people right now in that regard. Indie musicians are super liberal. But you wouldn't know that from listening to indie music, I don't think.
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