Eat the Shadow
July 12, 2019
When Grand Vapids appeared on the Athens, Georgia music scene a mere fistful of years ago, the group's blurry tales of emotional intensity drew listeners in like hungry wolves. Then, at some indeterminate point, the wolves took over and started pushing and pulling in all directions. Coupled with the band's own internal clockwork going awry, everything seemed to slowly limp to the pace of a broken heartbeat. Every new move felt like a false start, while each step seemed like forever. The first sessions for Eat the Shadow took place in the midst of all this, while the band was still bursting out of its starting blocks yet already feeling the beginnings of disillusionment.
Grand Vapids’ 2015 debut LP Guarantees proved a perfect postcard from the time when they were fresh and lean and full of nothing but beginner's hope, but now, nearly half a decade later, the long-awaited follow-up presents a band that has resurfaced after dark years of coping with personal tragedy, identity crisis, and dysfunctional relationships. The album opener, "Disjecta," was inspired by the latter, serving as catharsis for two partners in the midst of breaking up while still living together and attempting to rediscover their respective identities. The track’s slacker-rock vibes project the sense of foreboding that accompanies feeling isolated in a relationship that is consuming you. It is one of a group of songs on Eat the Shadow — along with album tracks "Shallow," "Creature Strain," and "Drowning" — that each capture different periods of the same long cycle of dissolution and unraveling.
With the help of producer David Barbe (The Glands, Drive-By Truckers, Sugar), Grand Vapids have created nine tracks of rebirth. Not a gentle sense of being born again into grace but a retaking of the reigns with one's teeth full of grit. Not a sense of ascendence so much as a clawing upward. This is as true for the rational, earth-bound details of the album’s production as it is for the emotional-sphere and depth of its songwriting. Developing out of very personal and difficult experiences, the songs on Eat the Shadow tackle themes of identity, self-worth, mental health, and coping with reality. But ultimately, the album’s arc is one of isolation, reconciliation, acceptance, and an underlying optimism of letting go and moving forward.
“The story of the album title Eat the Shadow comes from a sibylline moment I experienced shortly after my brother died,” says guitarist and lead singer Austin Harris. “I was sitting in a cafe in Atlanta on my way to volunteer for a summer at an intentional community. I was there eating lunch alone and an older gentleman stared into me and just said: ‘I can see your sadness and you have to eat the shadow.’ It was a powerful moment that has stuck with me, and I think it serves this collection of songs well. In spite of all the setbacks and disappointments, you have to release the ego and ‘Eat the Shadow.’”
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