Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
As part of his debut session, Astronautalis' (or Charles Andrew Bothwell's) "Welcome To Daytrotter" tag features the voice of what sounds like a beleaguered man when he wishes us all the best, as he says, "I hope you are all well-fed, wealthy and wise." After hearing "Freestyle" and his prelude to it, telling us that he's been on the road for two solid years, we take Astronautalis as a man who's had enough of himself and of weariness for a great long while, and if he could, he'd try to get away from himself for a good, long break.
It wouldn't be forever, but without a doubt, he's had enough for a while, been tapped out for some time now - and though it might actually be fueling a new deposit of sunken spirits, turned creative prose, it's not actually healthy at all. He hopes that we're all well-fed, wealthy and wise, but he hasn't taken any pains to wish the same things for himself and he's kind of a wreck.
"Freestyle" is a dense song, filled with copious references to everyday things, feelings as they've been built up and have put the body and mind in question to the test. He sings about a life that has been made into an out-of-control parade of the zombie, of a man going round in circles - doing the same things, eating the same things, experiencing the same things, hating and loving the same things - or more, of a man twisting himself into the ground, like a screw. It's a scene that makes you feel as if you're suffocating, getting buried alive, even as you're drinking that good whiskey, even as you're doing what most regular people would consider the highest form of living: traveling, meeting people and playing music.
The question that arises though is, at what cost does one allow themselves to be driven crazy? It all just blurs and Bothwell raps that he vaguely remembers what his sheets smell like, thinking that they smell like his father's used to smell like when he was the age that the son is about to be reaching soon. He thrives on the sweaty ideas that come in passing and in a simplicity that comes with moving along from one day to the other without many strings attaching him to any one stop. It can be liberating and horrifying, all at once. He sings, "I traveled around the country, living off of dumb buddies and good looks/High fives and handshakes is all you need to get by/Drink tickets and cheap beer is all I need to survive." He sings all in a sort of monotone but with a flare that makes him seem as if he would still bleed if he were sliced. He's not a corpse yet, even if he feels like one.
*Essay originally published February, 2011