Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Matt Oliver
Nik Freitas whisks us away to a quiet little spot where there's always a pretty stunning view of whatever's going to happen with the sunset. We're pretty sure we know how it's going to go down every night, right around the same time, every night, but those sunsets sure can surprise you sometimes. There are definitely those that are better than others and for that, there's little explanation. It's mostly personal. It's us projecting our junk onto those horizons. We see and feel things differently, depending on the different ways we're glowing or not glowing. It's got little to do with the way that that huge sun is fizzling out all those many miles away.
Freitas, the Los Angeles-based songwriter who has enjoyed the friendship of Conor Oberst over the last handful of years, playing in his Mystic Valley Band, is a writer and purveyor of the examples that we count on hearing to explain the blues that we've sunk ourselves into and that, even if we find ways to get out of them, we sink right back into them again, faster than we'd like. Similar to the sun, as it disappears every night, there seems to be a system in place, or a mechanism, that reintroduces our sadnesses with impeccably spot-on timing. They arrive when the manmade lights have to come on, when we're surrounded by all of the yellow coming out of those 75-watt bulbs and we're feeling about as vulnerable as we tend to get. We're insecure and we're in need of companionship. We're back to feeling about as hesitant and partially broken as we were feeling the previous night. Go figure. It never went away.
The feelings that Freitas likes (not really the right word for it, or is it?) wrestling with in his music, are those that will never get figured out. All the geniuses in the world couldn't come up with any provable or adequate theories about the manner and mean of the human heart, that would satisfy any man or woman. They too would just shake their heads and continue to crumble and crinkle up all of the formulas and scratch-work that they were fussing with, tossing all of the paper into the wastebasket in the corner of the room, maybe even punching a hole in the wall out of frustration, vexation. There are numerous times on his latest album, "Saturday Night Underwater," where the theme of drowning in the minutia, of getting swept up in the swells of passion and friendship, and suddenly not knowing which is which, wondering what kind of a horrible mistake he just made in doing what he's been doing, rears its ugly head. There's the story of falling in love with your best friend, seeing it go bad and then realizing what a horrible thing it was that just happened. Now, everything's been ruined. Here we are, with Freitas, and we're guzzling right through the bottles of wine that are in front of us. We're playing the role of the ear or the shoulder and he is playing the role of the luckless lover, spilling his guts, with a hook and a shrug.