Origins is a new music feature in which we task artists with dissecting the inspirations behind their latest single.
The rock star life is hardly ever as glamorous as the movies make it seem. Singer-songwriter Kevin Olken Henthorn knows this all too well, having jumped head-first into the industry — first as the main songwriter of Stone Cold Fox and now as the leader of his own solo project Cape Francis.
Henthorn’s time is divided between his creative pursuits and a much less thrilling desk job at one of the world’s biggest financial institutions. It’s not the ideal setup for any artist looking to steadily churn out material, but there is something of a silver lining to be found: The grueling, 9-5 grind has provided Henthorn with a good chunk of source material for his music.
Take, for example, “Button Up”, the latest single from his forthcoming album as Cape Francis, Deep Water. As its name suggests, the track is a bleak examination of The Cubicle Job and how it can very seriously drain a person of their artistic juices. “Button up, suit and tie/ Go work everyday in disguise/ Wonder how all my dead dreams died,” Henthorn sings, recounting his monotonous day-to-day.
In a statement to Consequence of Sound, Henthorn says the new song “was meant to be a small snapshot of where I am in my life right now.” He adds, “I’ve spent my entire 20s in Brooklyn, trying to piece together some sort of music career, like so many others I know. I kinda hate it here, I kinda love it here, but often I just feel numb and stuck in this broken loop of living a work life and trying to live a music life.”
At least Henthorn doesn’t try to sugar coat things a la Hollywood, and “Button Up” is a mighty fine slice of indie rock, bits of percolating guitar and longing vocals to match the anxiety and melancholy of his daily hustle. Check it out below.
Deep Water arrives March 1st via Sleepwell Records. For more background on the new single, Henthorn details a few of the major influences that informed “Button Up”, such as blues rocker Peter Green, his New York subway commute, and one of our former Artists of the Month, Phoebe Bridgers.
I grew up playing the blues as a kid, I’ve definitely strayed away from it over time, but the concepts behind it are integral to pretty much everything I do. A core idea in Blues is to draw emotion out of melody, something you can learn and apply to any type of music and is not just inherent to the pentatonic scale. Peter Green is a master at this and has always been my idol as a kid. I can’t think of another guitarist that knows how to pull raw emotion out of thin air more than him.
While staying away from traditional blues structure, I’ve always tried to adopt that approach to every song I write. If I had to live with just one riff for this entire album, it’d be the opening of “Button Up”. For me, the way that open D runs into those descending notes is the crux of the emotions I was dealing with at the time and says more than most words I can think of.
The J/M/Z subway line:
My commute is going from Bushwick to the financial district via J/M/Z. Every day I would pretty much rather be anywhere else in the world than on that train. Often I just imagine driving up north back to Maine, that type of day dreaming definitely played a role in this song and the album as a whole. I imagined the second verse on a late night drive getting as far away from the city as possible.
When I got my current job at one of the largest banks in the world, most of my friends were pretty bewildered, I’m literally the last person on earth they’d expect getting a job there. I have no financial knowledge, like less than zero, but somehow I ended up in their media department, editing some of the dullest videos known to man. It takes a good amount of completely dialing off your brain to get through busy work like that, and it feels like an easy enough task. But the long term effect of sitting in one spot for 8 hours tuning it all out has had massive effects on my depression.
This is something so many of us face, it’s definitely not a particularly exciting topic to base a whole album on. There’s nothing particularly innovative about writing it down, but as an artist it’s something I felt I needed to face and confront. For the longest time I’ve had this juvenile notion that I’d “never work a desk job”, and to some degree as an artist you need to stick to that notion, because striving for something more keeps you going.
However, right now the music world is a lot different than it was when I was a kid. The landscape has changed, the money’s changed, and as artists you have to learn to change and adapt to it if you want to get out alive. A huge part of this album is about coming to terms with this shifting idea of success as we get older and how to confront old expectations set by a younger version of yourself.
Fritz Lang — Metropolis:
When I was writing this, I always had this Metropolis-type visual of workers in a row, slowly slogging their way in lines. The tempo and slow chug of the song fed into that. It’s what your brain slows down to when you shut off and just do the job.
Around the time I was writing the record I was shown Phoebe Bridgers. I remember feeling like, how on earth did I not hear this album yet, it just blew me away. I must have listen to Scott Street a hundred times. The way her vocals were recorded, stacked up like that, was so clean and her harmonies were amazing. That album really inspired me to dig further into my own sound and not turn away from honesty, which I can often be persuaded to do when writing songs.
Cape Francis 2019 Tour Dates:
03/04 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bardot
03/06 – New York, NY @ Baby’s All Right