GREGORY ACKERMAN | AND FRIENDS | V2/MUNICH | MAY 25th, 2018
Gregory Ackerman has made an album that sounds as inviting as its title indicates. And Friends, the Los Angeles area-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s debut full-length arrives May 25th, 2018 via V2/Munich. The album was produced by Rilo Kiley bassist, Pierre de Reeder.
And Friends immediately showcases Ackerman’s warmth, opening with his own immersive double-tracked vocals, guitar and piano playing, along with the sincere contributions of Ackerman’s actual friends.
Swarthy drumming comes courtesy of high school friend, Keenan McDaniel, plaintive slide guitars from Tom Relling, a friend since middle school, and beautiful vocal touches are provided by singer, Malarie Howard, who Ackerman met in college. The song “Careening,” and dusty harmonica throughout the album, are by Ackerman’s brother Eric, who also performs in Gregory’s live band, and has likely been a friend of his brother’s since birth.
Everything else that we hear on And Friends (and what we see – Ackerman created the cover art collage) comes from Ackerman himself. The album represents a singular point of view that is uncommon on a debut. Where some might be finding their footing, Ackerman is firmly planted, having soaked up the sun and song of the Laurel Canyon air since childhood.
“I started playing guitar when I was nine, and I’d try to play every song I heard,” Ackerman says. “I took lessons for a few months, and then decided to go it alone and teach myself. I became very good at imitating different artist’s styles, and I started gaining confidence in my ability to play guitar like the people I admired.”
It wasn’t long before Ackerman began determining his own style and connecting it with songwriting.
“In my senior year of high school, I joined a band with my brother, but for my personal writings, music became an escape. I began writing lyrics and songs about worlds that didn’t necessarily exist.”
How unfortunately ironic then that much of And Friends is about one of those worlds that we thought didn’t, or at least wouldn’t exist.
“I find it absolutely fascinating how art reflects the socio-economic and political state of the place and time it was conceived,” Ackerman explains. And Friends is a direct result of feeling absolutely baffled with humanity after the Presidential election. It almost became a concept album in that regard. The title is meant to combat the division taking place in our country.”
As such, And Friends represents not only the beloved style of California in the 1960’s and 70’s, but as artists naturally react to the current political state of our country, the substance and resistance of those times, as well. But, somehow Ackerman takes unsavory subjects and turns them sweet.
For instance, how does the song “Mindless Age” come off so sensitive and pretty when it’s about the following?:
“I wrote this song in the summer of 2016 about my fears of the not-so-distant future,” Ackerman explains, alluding to the impending vote. “It’s about a dystopian future where we basically have no human rights and freedoms only exist in dreams or a past life.”
The lyrics of the song reference “memories wiped away,” “misery commonplace,” and “sentences programmed,” ideas that are closer to having dots to connect back to our current reality than at any other time in our lives.
We need to hear this, and think about it.
Ackerman’s method of administering medicine is to put these words to a closely plucked acoustic, light piano, his by-now-familiar (the track comes late in the record) harmonizing with himself and Howard, and some slide guitar playing that is all-California.
“I am very partial to live recorded instruments, and when the time and emotion put into perfecting a track on tape can be heard throughout the song,” Ackerman says. “I feel a stronger connection to older music because I think the music and lyrics meant more during that time.”
Ackerman’s songs mean something in this time, too.
And Friends by Gregory Ackerman is scheduled for release on May 25th via V2/Munich.
06/20/2019: Los Angeles, CA @ The Hi-Hat