Seattle’s Erik Walters, who performs under the name Silver Torches, has an impressive musical resume, playing in the touring bands of Perfume Genius and David Bazan. His solo work, though, hews more closely to Americana and roots-rock, taking cues from acts like the War on Drugs and Ryan Adams. On his forthcoming album Let It Be A Dream, Walters explores personal isolation, political division, and the illusion of the American Dream in carefully crafted, lushly layered tracks. On a handful of tracks, he’s aided by guest musicians Courtney Marie Andrews, Noah Gundersen, and famed pedal steel player Greg Leisz.
Read Walters’ track-by-track breakdown of Let It Be A Dream and listen to the album in its entirety before its October 6 release date below.
“Let It Be A Dream” – I wrote “Let It Be A Dream” from the perspective of someone claimed by the honeytrap of the American Dream. It’s a lonely song about settling in the hole that’s been dug for you. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fly down to LA and work with Greg Leisz for this tune and two others on the record. Our friend Noah Gundersen graciously set it up for us. Greg’s playing really made the songs come alive. Watching him work was one of the most inspiring, incredible experiences I’ve had playing music. You can almost feel the gears turning in his head as he’s playing through ideas with the volume down, anticipating the next movement. And then when the volume is on he’s playing the most perfect thing you’ve ever heard on the first take. He plays so delicately yet he’s putting his whole body into creating this lush, beautiful, expressive sound. It’s really amazing.
“If I Reach” – It was my intention for this one to be interpreted as a sort of political allegory / love song about finding common ground in a time that feels hopeless and insane, sung from a nihilist perspective. I suppose it’s about how one can’t be without the other, whether it’s the two sides of a divided America or two people trying to figure out how to love and accept each other. I wrote this at a point when we thought we’d tracked everything and we were ready for mixing but I still felt the record was missing something. We cut it a few days later at The Hall of Justice in Seattle. It was such an easy, inspiring session. One of my favorites of the record.
Producer/band member Andy Park wanted drummer Sean Lane to emphasize the visual aspects of the lyrics (such as “stitches tearing” and “blazing Arizona sun). He’d ask Sean to find a sound for each of those concepts. We had no sight line to his percussion station in the studio, so we don’t know how he made some of those sounds, but they really bring a vibrant life and extra dimension to the song.
“Like A Child” – As a kid I’d mess around with a space simulator on floppy disc that let you zoom the camera all the way out from Earth into complete darkness. I’d pretend to float aimlessly in the black empty screen. I could only do it for a minute because the feeling of being that alone was frightening to me. I wrote this when I was feeling unusually sad, with that specific feeling of isolation in mind. To me, the verses feel like I’m on the dark side of a planet, and the choruses are when the sun breaks over the horizon.
We tracked this one, “Keep The Car Running,” and “Half A Heart” during the same session at The Hall. I cut the vocal and acoustic guitar live and we built the arrangement from there. I think we kept the first take.
“Keep The Car Running” – In the spring of 2016 I was asked to collaborate with an instrumental band from Los Angeles who were looking to experiment with adding vocals on an EP they were writing. Nothing came of it, unfortunately, but I did end up taking away the top line I wrote from one of the tunes, tweaked the lyrics a bit, and made it my own. I like to think of this song as a brief glimpse into a tired relationship. Musically, the song has the feeling of potential. If you let yourself go, or let your foot off that brake pedal, it will move forward all on its own.
“At The Lantern” – I wrote this about facing your problems instead of burying them. A few years ago when I was broke living in Spokane I’d collect change and tip money to go drink at a handful of haunts around town. I’d occasionally hang out at this little bar called The Lantern in the South Perry district. It sat (maybe) 10 people and it would transport me to another place. This one feels so cinematic to me. I picture myself walking down a quiet street, home from the bar, with the streets wet after a warm summer rain.
We started the song as just a simple acoustic song, in the same style of live performance as much of the record, but it felt like it wanted to get bigger and more dreamlike. Andy had just done a session with Noah, (who sang some harmonies on this song) and we had 4 or 5 keyboards laying around the studio still patched in, so we went to town building the soundscape that became this tune.
“Half A Heart” – A story about a guy missing a girl who lets his emotions get the best of him during a night out at the bar. This is the type of guy who has good intentions but never follows through. He only can commit himself halfway in life. I can relate to that guy, and I think that’s a product of anxiety. Sometimes it’s just easier to walk away.
This was a song that we originally demoed at Andy’s apartment, without any express purpose or plan to add it to the record, but it ended up making it. Sean’s drum part slowed the initial tempo of the song down to a deep groove which gave the song its weight.
“I Can’t Lie” – I originally wrote this for someone else but liked it so much I decided to keep it for the record. It’s the most straightforward love song out of the bunch. The best things in life are simple things.
“Nothing To Show” – This song is a story about the struggle of a person who has worked themselves cradle to grave for someone else, has lived their life for someone else. It’s about being pigeonholed into a situation you can’t escape.
We cut this one in a similar fashion to the others, with the live vocal and guitar. It was late at night and we were at Studio X and I was very, very tired. I had this whole other passage in the bridge that I forgot to sing — totally skipped over it. We ended up liking it better. I knew I really wanted Courtney to sing on this because her voice has such a beautiful, remorseful quality. Thankfully she said yes!
“Bartender” – After a few beers at The Twilight in Seattle one night, Andy and I went back to his place and cut this one live with three mics, two on me and one on his rickety piano that came with his apartment. I think what we kept is the third take. We knew we had it when I sang the line about driving home drunk and the sirens started to fade in from the street outside. When I hear it I remind myself that we likely captured a piece of a very bad day in someone’s life, which is a strange thing to think about.