Today we’re Making Meaning with Heather Shore of Hemlock for Socrates!
Let’s make some meaning…
Making Meaning: The Background
Hemlock for Socrates make eclectic, melodramatic post-alternative rock-pop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They released Waveforms, their first album, in 2011. Barometrics, the follow up, evolved into a film collaboration with Alaric Heiss; the album and film were released simultaneously with a screening in January 2019. Their most recent offering, Paper Animals, was released in November 2019.
Heather Shore and Kegan Heiss have a rich musical history. They’ve been playing music together for about 20 years – almost as long as they’ve known each other. In 2009, they took a break from performing with other bands to start a family, and that’s when they began Hemlock for Socrates.
They describe the project as a synthesis of their musical and lyrical interests. Their lyrical themes of human morality, gender expectations, and the impact of technology on our society stem from their conversations about philosophy and social constructs, as well as their experience with parenting. Musically, they describe their songs as moody and dynamic, incorporating layered rhythms, guitar, harmonies, and synths. You’ll find elements of rock, electronica, jazz, cabaret, and pop craftily pieced together.
Hemlock for Socrates is: Heather Shore (guitars, vocals, programming) and Kegan Heiss (bass, vocals, programming).
Making Meaning: The Song
Listen to the song “supply” from Hemlock for Socrates’ album Paper Animals and learn what meaning Heather makes:
“supply” is one of 13 tracks on Hemlock for Socrates’ third album Paper Animals. It was written, recorded, and mixed by Heather and Kegan in their home studio. It was mastered by Emilia Gojlo at Lugove Mastering in London.
Lyrics to “supply”
What are we trying to hide?
What’s in the pocket / of your suitcase? / What’s in the suitcase / in your pocket?
Why are you waiting? / Where are you heading? / What are you taking there / Into the clearing?
Hidden, heavy and harmful / Miserable, moist, and mangled
The song, “supply,” started as a drum and bass idea that Kegan had recorded sometime in the lost years of our children’s infancy. At the time, I was making little multi-track song collages with overlapping guitars, synths, weird sounds, and layers of vocals – short minute or two snippets that I only allowed myself to work on in a single afternoon. These started as a collaborative idea with a visual artist friend, but I continued making them after that ended.
I had added two guitar lines to the slow groove “supply” was then, and it sat around like that for a long time. Then one evening I went for a run, and I saw a man waiting at a bus-stop with his wallet open. He glanced at me, then quickly closed it. Maybe it was the half-dark or the paranoid mood I was in, but I started wondering about what secrets he was keeping. Where was he going? What was he doing? I kept going, and literally just down the street, I saw another man dragging a heavy-looking suitcase across the street and down into the woods next to the road. What the hell was HE doing? I imagined all sorts of things – he had a cut-up dead body that he was burying in the woods, he was stealing something… whatever it was, he was doing something secret that he didn’t want anyone to know about. And there I was, spying on his secret. I didn’t want him to see that I had seen him. He luckily or maybe purposefully didn’t look around, and I kept on running. There are all these things we don’t want other people to know and all these things we can’t help being curious about. Do we really need to know other people’s secrets? Maybe not, but there are so many people that sometimes we can’t NOT see. Then what? What do we do with that info? Or can we just turn off our curiosity? Do we deserve privacy? Even when we’re doing sketchy things? So that experience became the lyrics for “supply.“
Once I added lyrics, it catalyzed the song to change into what it is now. I added a vocal percussion section (scat?), which caused me to start hearing the track with a dance beat. So I sped it up and overlaid a second e-drummed beat over Kegan’s original beat. I added a synth bass line and turned one of the existing guitar lines into the synth that opens the track now. Additional changes happened and it became the version it is on the album.
“supply'” and another track from paper animals, “something or nothing,” became the first songs I ever wrote lyrics for. Previously, Kegan had written all the lyrics for the band. We had both written songs with his lyrics, but I had never written lyrics myself. I guess I was intimidated by the idea – I mean, he’s pretty amazing at it, but writing “supply” became the jumping off point for my own lyric writing. This has led to a greater involvement in song creation and in the band itself. It also started me thinking about how for the majority of music history, men have been putting words into women’s mouths and what that means for who has the power. As of right now, we don’t have a song that he sings that I wrote the lyrics for, but it’s coming… — Heather Shore of Hemlock for Socrates
Thanks so much to Heather for sharing the curiosities that led to the lyrics and the experimentation that led to the music of their song “supply.” Questioning, experimentation, and self-reflection are crucial parts of creation. Thank you for making meaning with us.
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