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Best of What's Next: Transient Songs

July 5, 2010  |  6:00am
Best of What's Next: Transient Songs

Hometown: Seattle
Album: Cave Syndrome
Band Members: John Frum (vocals, multi-instrumentalist), Andy Gassaway (bass, slide guitar)
For Fans Of: Pink Floyd, Summer Hymns, Mazzy Star

When musicians John Frum and Andy Gassaway met three years ago, they immediately bonded over their mutual love of psych rock and dream pop. Before long, the two were holed up in Frum’s basement, cutting what would become Transient Songs’ first EP, Plantation to Your Youth; they were just beginning to gel as collaborators when they released that first collection, so hopes were already high for their next. But just as they geared up for their’ full-length debut, Frum—the duo’s singer and chief songwriter—broke his arm in a snowboarding accident. “A bad break,” he says. “It was the humerus bone.” Thus began his descent into the depths of an opiate abyss.

“It was one of the longest winters I can remember,” he says. “I was holed up in my house every day, isolated. My only outdoor activity was I’d walk around this lake in the rain with my fucking arm broke—and that’s when I started writing a lot of the lyrics for Cave Syndrome. Slowly, over that time period, things just started spiraling down—I started taking a lot of pain pills.”

Frum says the somber tone, haziness and dark subject matter of Cave Syndrome, Transient Songs’s long-delayed debut LP (out now), is a perfect snapshot of this grim period in his life. On top of the physical pain from his broken arm, his resulting inability to play guitar and struggles with prescription drugs, at the time Frum also had a close friend battling cancer; all this led to some intense soul-searching, which manifests itself in the album’s ethereal music and pensive lyrics.

“The song ‘Cancer in our Bloodlines’ is really about mortality,” Frum says. “As we age, we realize we’ve had missed loves, heroes we look up to aging and dying, that we’ve neglected those who care most about us. ... It’s basically about [realizing] the transience of life.”

Despite its bleak themes, Cave Syndrome is not a depressing record. The album’s heaviness is contrasted by its airy, unbound, often uplifting sounds. Just like the first single says, “In This Darkness Light Seeps Through.”

“I go for a big, organic, rich feel,” Frum says. “That type of music—Pink Floyd and stuff like that—it’s transportive to me. ... Even today, I hear new stuff like Beach House, and I like that feeling because it lifts you out of reality in a way—without pain meds or muscle relaxers.”

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