American professor Joseph Campbell famously paraphrased an old Native American proverb, once saying, “A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.”
This powerful sentiment serves as the backbone to indie rock band Save the Clocktower’s new song “Separate,” premiering today (May 12). With a smattering of psychedelia and pop, flecked across a classic rock backdrop, the group fully owns the idea of “leaving a world of comfort for the unknown─and intrinsic in that decision is the fear, doubt, and anxiety that goes along with such a bold move,” vocalist and guitar player Sean Paras tells American Songwriter. “However, the song isn’t necessarily encouraging recklessness for the sake of recklessness. Really, it’s about when a person has to leave an environment of safety for a less secure, less uncertain future─all because of one’s authenticity not being able to be fully expressed in their current situation.
“Strangely enough, the song actually grew out of that same mentality. We went into the studio with the intention of working on a different song,” Paras continues, “but a friend of the band was going through a bad divorce at the time, and this song kind of just erupted out of that session. So, we decided to just roll with it. Damn glad we did.”
The band─also consisting of Greg Newton (drums, vocals), Jimmy Shenk (keyboards), and James Washington (bass)─borrows from such influences as Talking Heads and David Bowie and “that sort of unapologetic peppering in of slightly funky elements into songs with more serious themes,” Paras offers. Playing shows with Toro y Moi and JR JR influenced an approach with a keen eye for the live arena, as well. “Now, it’s second nature for us to write more uptempo, often dance-y songs, even when we’re delving into more mature themes.”
Mirroring the message of the song, even the writing and recording process seemed to lean into the “‘throw caution to the wind’ spontaneity” for which they’d been striving. “Greg came up with the lyrics while writing and recording the music. He didn’t write any of them down, and he nailed the vocals on the first take,” notes Paras, “none of which is our usual metered approach to making music. Somehow, the older we get, the more willing we are to let go of the reins and let the art create itself.”
Out of Chicago, Save the Clocktower first hit the local scene with their 2011 debut studio record, Carousel. Their sophomore effort Through the Glass followed a year later and then a subsequent three-song EP, titled Taboo, in 2016.
“Separate” samples a forthcoming album called Renaissance, out everywhere June 25.