Jay Farrar and Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard Write Songs For Jack Kerouac

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Jay Farrar (Son Volt) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, Postal Service) are having a go at the old indie-folk side project. While Farrar was finishing up American Central Dust and Gibbard had some downtime, the pair laid down some tracks last year for the Jack Kerouac documentary, One Fast Move or I’m Gone.  According to the film’s website, “The hauntingly intimate lyrics were taken directly from the pages of Kerouac’s [novel] “Big Sur,” and melded into a series of acoustic melodies over the course of three days.” Farrar and Gibbard worked together on just a handful of songs, but songwriters such as Tom Waits and Sage Francis also contributed to the soundtrack. You can watch a video to the Farrar/Gibbard/Kerouac track, “San Francisco,” here.

Launching a search for Kerouac enthusiasts in the music world, the film’s director (Curt Worden) and producer (Jim Sampas) soon found that Farrar was a huge fan. According to the website, “His unique interpretation of “Big Sur” emulates Kerouac’s spontaneous writing method with his poetic sense of urgency.” Gibbard was crucial to the project as well, as his “vocal approach to Kerouac’s thoughts and experiences from five decades past directly transports listeners to these troubled moments in ‘Big Sur.’”

Setting literature to music is nothing new. So many writers, especially those of the “Beat Generation” to which Kerouac belongs, exhibit an undeniable rhythm that is rather colloquial when read aloud. Though a rhythm’s perspicuity can vary over the course of a novel, this post-modern cadence lends itself well to folk music.

In recent years, several musicians have caught on to this notion. Just this year, Lucero frontman Ben Nichols single-handedly conceived and created The Last Pale Light In The West, a concept album inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s novel,”Blood Meridian.” Though Nichols’ project was a one time deal, one publicist insists that the Farrar/Gibbard partnership “seems to be ordained.” As Farrar tells The Riverfront Times, “We both wound up in the studio together, just sort of decided to take a step further and record a whole batch of songs. It’s kind of evolved into a real project.”

Farrar has been vague as to when anything will be released. He allows, “I guess there aren’t a whole lot of details about it yet, but it’s in the works, and it could possibly come out in the fall, like around October — which I think is a Jack Kerouac anniversary of sorts….” Until then, fans can catch Farrar “On the Road” with Son Volt.

View Son Volt’s tour dates here.


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