Heartland Canadian indie rockers The Sarandons take solace in acceptance on their latest single “Say When”, an anthem replete with alluring melodies, whimsical keys, swathed in chorus-drenched guitars and lush vocal harmonies, produced by Dan Hosh (Wild Rivers, City and Colour, Glorious Sons) at Double Car Recording and Trench Recordings in Toronto. The Sarandons have shared stages with Kiwi Jr., Dakota Mill, Mattie Leon, Julie Title and more.
The Sarandons are the fully collaborative endeavor of Toronto music stalwarts Dave Suchon (vocals, guitar), Damian Coleman (bass, vocals), Edmund Cummings (keys, vocals), Craig Keeney (lead guitar) and Phil Skot (drums), who have been creating together in different projects for over a decade and a half.
Chasing 2023’s successful full-length Sightlines – The Sarandons’ “Say When” (out September 8) underscores the power of resignation, embracing the relief that comes with acceptance as a means to move forward. Opening honestly with a paired back intimate verse, a booming snare sees “Say When” give way to a modern heartland rocker, hitched to soaring guitars and intent on hurtling towards defiant optimism and triumph in the face of pain. Though menaced by the heft of heartache, The Sarandons burn brightly with hard-won lyrics over a resolute rhythm section, punctuated by bouncy keys and blissfully blistering guitar.
“Say When” draws inspiration from Dylan’s ‘80s catalogue and records like 1983’s Infidels, where folk melodies meet then-modern production all with Mark Knopfler at the controls and on guitar. “We drew a lot on this,” says Suchon “and worked with Dan to build an exaggerated driving heartland rocker in the vein of ‘80s Dylan but with a connection to some of our past songs like ‘Outrunning’ and ‘Letting On’.”
Opening with bristling honesty, soliloquizing against a band in restraint, “Say When” begins: “Welcome me back and then I guess we’ll see / If tying your fortunes to the likes of me / Brings you some kind of comfort in your bones and your home, in your soul as you breathe / Can’t help the feeling that we’re in too deep.” The song then snaps into action with a drum sound ripped straight from the pages of the fictional Corpus Christi Tribune in the Dylan/Sam Shepard 1986 classic “Brownsville Girl” and the imperative, “Say when / Enough is enough” – something you can hear the neighbourhood bully uttering as they tighten their grip on a headlock. ‘90s deadpanners The Borg summed it up: resistance is futile – time to give in, let go, and tap out.
The second verse of “Say When” takes us back in time, in more ways than one, as Suchon laments, “Worn out from facing what we can’t erase / The thought of rebuilding weighs upon my mind.” As only the most rabid of future archivists may one day recognize, these lyrics are an adaptation from The Sarandons’ unreleased 2016 song called “One Hit Wonder.” Suchon recalls the writing process when, “near the end of things I was sitting at the piano thinking about how I’d approach singing, when an old abandoned song of ours called ‘One Hit Wonder’ came back to me with the lines, ‘worn out / done erasing / rebuilding weighs upon my mind’. I realized this would fit great into ‘Say When’ as an honest reflection of my state of mind and a sort of infallible look back.”
While “Say When” holds a connection to nuanced roots music, it sees The Sarandons driving further down the road of juxtaposition against anthemic potent toe-tapping grooves. “Say When” is a place where careful deliberation and complacency go to die; despite Cummings’ best efforts to lift spirits with bouncy keys, lessons are finally learned – as fate would have it – baked in years upon years of doubt and entropy. The end result amounts to a song that capitalizes on melancholia and the strengths of nostalgia, all the while paving a road towards the ebullience found in that light at the end of the tunnel.
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