Front Country’s “Amerikan Dream” Is A Rage Against the Machine-Indebted Protest Anthem

Melody Walker—the no-nonsense, husky-voiced singer-songwriter behind Front Country—started crafting the Nashville-via-San Francisco roots trio’s latest single, “Amerikan Dream,” over three years ago, but the band only got around to releasing it last week. Today they debut a lyric video for the stirring protest anthem below.

Videos by American Songwriter

“A big theme in the song is economic inequality and how the ‘Amerikan Dream,’ a largely economic myth, is a dogma we are conditioned to accept without question as an attainable goal for everyone,” Walker tells American Songwriter of the video, which transposes the song’s lyrics onto a dollar bill. “And now, amid the widening wealth gap, we have a crisis of job, healthcare, food and housing insecurity due to the [COVID-19] pandemic. Money is on everyone’s mind, as congress debates whether we should buy war machinery or give unemployment assistance to those who have lost their jobs or cannot work due to the pandemic.”

Front Country, rounded out by Adam “Roscoe” Roszkiewicz and Jacob Groopman, is currently working on their third album, which will arrive later this year following 2017’s Other Love Songs and 2014’s Sake of the Sound. “On the 11 tracks of the new record, I explored many different ways of delivering a message, and ‘Amerikan Dream’ is definitely the most straightforward, pull no punches, protest song in the bunch,” Walker continues in an interview featured below. “It probably won’t change anyone’s mind, but maybe it will be cathartic in that same way Rage Against the Machine made me feel as a kid.”

We caught up with the trio over email about writing protest songs, using their band as a platform for activism, and deciding to move to Nashville from San Francisco, where they cut their teeth in the city’s acoustic scene at bars like the now-shuttered Amnesia. Read the full interview and check out Front Country’s “Amerikan Dream” lyric video below.

American Songwriter: What’s the story or message behind your new single?

Melody Walker: I started writing “Amerikan Dream” in January of 2017, right after Trump got elected but I didn’t finish it until right before we recorded it, over two years later. I think a lot of people can relate to the past few years bringing a lot of things to the surface, about the founding ideals of this country and whether we will ever live up to them. I think a lot of writers have been processing the urgency of the current moment, as well as the history that got us here, and our own role and complicity in all of it. The song started out as way more of an anti-Trump song, but as a songwriter, my job is to dig for the truth, and in listening more and discerning more, I think the truth is that it didn’t start with him and it won’t end when he’s gone either.

I have always wanted to be a political songwriter, to write protest songs — Rage Against the Machine and Ani DiFranco were my role models when I was 13 and picking up the guitar — but it has taken me decades to figure out what I wanted to say and how to say it so anyone will hear it. Protest songwriting is the hardest kind of songwriting, because you don’t get any pretense to hide behind; the point is to be plainspoken and understood, and timelessness is difficult because political issues are inherently timely. On the 11 tracks of the new record, I explored many different ways of delivering a message, and “Amerikan Dream” is definitely the most straightforward, pull no punches, protest song in the bunch. It probably won’t change anyone’s mind, but maybe it will be cathartic in that same way Rage Against the Machine made me feel as a kid. 

Adam “Roscoe” Roszkiewicz: We recorded the album at Goosehead Palace in Nashville with the fantastic Dan Knobler engineering and producing. Dan has such a unique approach to tracking and processing sounds; it was a super chill process and simultaneously very inspiring and interesting. I know it’s cliche to say that the engineer/producer was the 5th band member, but in this case it really is true!

How’d the video come together? Why was a trippy dollar bill visual the right backdrop for the lyrics of this song?

Melody: A big theme in the song is economic inequality and how the ‘American dream,’ a largely economic myth, is a dogma we are conditioned to accept without question as an attainable goal for everyone. And now, amid the widening wealth gap, we have a crisis of job, healthcare, food and housing insecurity due to the [COVID-19] pandemic. Money is on everyone’s mind, as congress debates whether we should buy war machinery or give unemployment assistance to those who have lost their jobs or cannot work due to the pandemic. Our job as touring musicians is all but obsolete at the moment, with no word yet on whether it will return as anything resembling what we knew before, but we are lucky to at least be able to make music from home and put this new album out into the world. 

I picked the dollar bill for the lyric video because it is a symbol of the state, and the main form of control we all buy into. It is what has typically kept us from protesting in the streets, from making too many waves, and even what has kept some musicians silent in times of injustice. But I think we are seeing the start of what happens when the paradigm shifts, the rat race stops, and people start envisioning a different way we can build together. We are donating part of the proceeds of the song to Community Change, a national organization that builds the power of low-income people, especially people of color, to fight for a society where everyone can thrive. 

What have the last few months looked like for you, individually and as a band?

Melody: I’m growing a garden for the first time in over 10 years, and it has been so wonderful. Looking back at how we were touring before the pandemic put the brakes on, it feels bananas to me now. Slowing down, growing and cooking my own food, learning new skills, and reconnecting with old friends have all been the silver lining of this whole thing. We’ve all got our remote recording setups going now so we can bounce tracks around to one another and keep ideas flowing.  We were in constant motion before, and I think we can see more clearly now and really plan what we want the next phase of Front Country to look like. 

Jacob Groopman: The last few months have mostly been spent at my house or the 5-mile radius around my house. I’ve been spending a lot of time recording my own music and working on improving my home studio skills pretty much like every other musician I know who’s stuck at home off the road. I’ve also gotten way into biking which is a great way to “see the world…..or neighborhood.” As a band we’ve also been working on some new music remotely which has been really fun. 

Roscoe: I’ve been doing a lot of writing and recording at home, contributing to other bands remote projects, some remixes, and teaching some remote lessons as well. I’ve also been running more than ever and focusing on being generally healthier! It’s a bizarre and stressful time in the world, but this break has given a lot of touring musicians the opportunity to check in both mentally and physically, something that I think was long overdue for me.

Your Instagram bio reads “#RootsPop from the SF Bay Area, secretly living in Nashville.” Where in the Bay Area did you cut your teeth? What brought you to Nashville?

Jacob: The band started in San Francisco and was a product of the acoustic music scene there. There used to be this amazing little bar called Amnesia in the Mission where we played every month for about a year and a half when we first started. San Francisco has always been a place supportive of pushing musical boundaries and creating new flavors. As we started touring more and meeting a lot of amazing bands and musicians out on the road who were living in Nashville, we began to feel the pull of that community. It felt like the right move to grow as a band and as musicians. 

What’s next for Front Country in 2020?

Jacob: Well, we’re gonna release this record! That’s the main agenda for the rest of the year. All of our tour dates have been scrubbed so we’ll be working hard to get this new music out into the world and hope it inspires people to keep fighting the good fight in this crazy new reality we’re all living in. 

“Amerikan Dream” is out now via AntiFragile Music.

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