Since Songs of Pain and Leisure was released in 2011, TW Walsh spent 18 months with a mysterious, debilitating illness, got interested in eastern mysticism, and started thinking about new ways to bring classic music production techniques together with modern technology.
Fruitless Research was produced in collaboration with Yuuki Matthews (The Shins, David Bazan, Crystal Skulls) and it features abstract ideas, retro-futuristic arrangements and a sense of spacious freedom.
From TW Walsh:
After every record, I think about packing it in. I mean, how long can I realistically do this? With Songs of Pain and Leisure, I felt like I had completed something. Like I had realized some kind of vague, ridiculous vision. I figured if that was the last one, I would be cool with it.
At the beginning of 2013, as a result of an extreme exercise regimen, insomnia and a poor diet, I came down with a mysterious, debilitating illness. For about a year and a half, I totally struggled through each day. I didn't have the energy to be creative... I could barely function at all. The only diagnosis I ever received was chronic fatigue syndrome, but I'm still not convinced that was correct. I'll probably never know what was wrong with me. I'm still not nearly 100%. Eventually, I started to feel a little better, but then I fell off my bike and broke my elbow. This made it impossible to play guitar or drums for several months. That was a bummer.
Over time, I did start to feel healthy enough to start messing around with song ideas. I recorded several demos, but I couldn't find the right sound. The songs were good, but I wanted the arrangements to be weirder and more varied, and I didn't know exactly how to do that. I had these patterns and ways of working I kept falling into and it made for stale bread. Yuuki Matthews (The Shins, David Bazan, Crystal Skulls, Teardrops) is a genius, and since working closely with Crystal Skulls back in the day, I had always wanted to do more collaboration with him. So in the spring of 2014, I reached out to him about working together. I think this was before Bazan started working with him on his monthly series, but I'm not sure. Anyway, he was down to bounce some ideas back and forth, so I sent him some songs.
This approach clicked, so over the course of exactly one year, we finished the ten songs that make up Fruitless Research. In a few cases, Yuuki reworked the songs from the ground up - keeping only the vocal and some drum elements, and building a new chord progression around the melody. In other cases, he added overdubs and did some creative editing. But in every instance, his vision pushed the song over the edge into something exciting... something that I wouldn't have done on my own. His mixes also blew me away. They're pretty unconventional at times in their saturation and character. It kind of sounds like a tape from the 80's you left in your car too long. It reminds me of my childhood in the best way possible. I was left in the car too long a few times.
Lyrically, this record documents a time of upheaval, discovery and change for me. I turned 40 right in the middle of it. I've been working through a lot of existential stuff. At some point, you gotta take a hard look at reality. Try to figure out what your life means. For real. I guess that's how I'll be spending the next 40. Thanks for listening.