The tricky part of releasing a topical song is having it anchored by current events that, in time, render it dated and passé. Even though Los Angeles-based duo Dauzat St. Marie walks the same path that doomed Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, Van Halen’s “Right Now” and Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now”, they sidestep that convention by wrapping their torn-from-the-headlines lyrics in a timeless and tender acoustic ballad that sounds like a 70s AM radio hit repurposed for contemporary pop radio.
“We find ourselves trying to stay adrift and navigate waves of uncertainty in these uncharted waters of our time. But in fact, we collectively are a product of uncertainty…. captains of uncharted waters,” says guitarist/vocalist Mat Dauzat of the anthemic track’s myriad of news subjects.
Steeped in nostalgia, Dauzat St. Marie reminisces about memories and events both personal and cultural. “Remember the time / We got caught drinking cheap wine,” vocalist Heather St. Marie intones in a voice steeped in sepia-toned reflection.
Limited by social distancing, the band pieced together the video from stock footage and TV footage of different defining news reels – from NYC during 9/11, to the passing of Prince and George Michael, to the wildfires of Australia. “We have weathered storms of biblical proportion and storms of political unrest,” Dauzat continues. “We have seen kings crowned and witnessed kingdoms crumble. We’ve witnessed births of new millennia and ends of eras. We’ve lived the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We are a kaleidoscopic quilt of colorful moments in history. We are living in a documentary of our own existence and penning new chapters daily.”
While the verses yearn for simpler times with images of children playing in sun-drenched fields, the chorus instead shifts tone toward a distressed call for accountability and responsibility with Dauzat and St. Marie harmonizing “Where were you when the levees gave way / Where were you when flew too close to the sun” while harsh imagery of flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina and the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger liftoff splays out on the screen.
“’Where Were You?’ bores a core sampling of key moments of our lives and puts them on artistic display in an emotionally-charged journey through our collective existence,” adds St. Marie about the pastiche of the indelible images and memories depicted in the video and lyrics. “Where were YOU when history was being made?”
While the world isolates in quarantine due to COVID-19, the track is an urgent call for awareness and the ‘woke’ mentality. “You may remember exactly where you were the day an excited nation turned a bright eye to the sky as teacher Christa McAuliffe and her fellow crew of six brave astronauts set course for new horizons in space, just to have all hopes disintegrate into thin air right before our eyes,” says Dauzat. “You may remember exactly where you were when the earth shook so violently that buildings collapsed, and you might have witnessed shaken neighbors selflessly assisting others in the aftermath. You probably remember watching in horror as the second plane disappeared into Tower number two, and may remember quite well the silent solidarity of a nation picking itself up from the ashes to rise back up in glorious fashion. You may recall a dark day as Hurricane Katrina’s wrath exceeded the limitations of the very levees protecting the Crescent City, and you might remember a subsequent rejoiceful homecoming of their beloved Saints fresh from an emotional inaugural Super Bowl win.”
All this nostalgic replay wouldn’t have added resonance to the band itself if it weren’t for their personal history as well. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 in the midst of tours with Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar, Dauzat St. Marie put their musical aspirations on hold as St. Marie underwent aggressive treatment. Thankfully cancer-free as of last year, both she and Dauzat are ready to get back to music.
Even though the world is at a standstill while it battles the pandemic, Dauzat St. Marie is hopeful. “This is our history,” St. Marie concludes. “These are extraordinary moments that make up the fabric of our collective being. These are the moments that define who we are. We are currently living in one of those extraordinary moments, and the power to pen the next chapter in history is completely in our capable hands.”
If you dig what you hear, you can pre-order the latest from the band.