By Sydney Shaw
Twenty-two-year-old Annie lives in a town called Slaughter Beach, where she navigates the trials of post-adolescence while juggling a blossoming relationship, self-doubt and the chagrin of still living with her parents.
Although Annie is a fictional character, her story comes to life by way of “Welcome,” the debut LP from Jacob Ewald’s band, Slaughter Beach, Dog. While the album is set to be released on Friday, Sept. 30, via Lame-O Records, it has been streaming on The A.V. Club since last week.
Ewald is best known as one of the voices of the Philadelphia pop punk group Modern Baseball. On the band’s most recent record, “Holy Ghost,” Ewald bares all as he tackles intimate topics like the death of his grandfather and missing the person he loves while he’s away on tour.
While he’s proven he has a knack for penning honest, deep-reaching lyrics, Ewald departs from that candor on “Welcome” with the creation of a constructed world and the fictitious folks who live there.
“When I wrote the Slaughter Beach, Dog songs, I had been stuck with writer’s block for multiple months, but writing about fictional scenarios as opposed to personal scenarios helped me jump out of it and get my brain going again,” Ewald told The Signal.
His first fictitious scene is introduced on the opening track, “Mallrat Semi-Annual,” where Annie meets a young man at a house party.
“This ain’t so bad now, darling. It’s nice to meet you here. We’ve got a lot in common. I’d like to keep you near,” Ewald sings on the track — this time as a male character — moments after pep-talking himself to “stand up straight, walk her way and say hello.”
Their relationship’s progression is evidenced on “Toronto Mug,” where Ewald details what happens after the party dies down.
“Note that our friends have gone home,” he sings as the male narrator. “I offer to leave, and you make coffee.”
Ewald succeeds in injecting his lyrics with short sucker punches like these, while longer verses, such as one in the song “Monsters,” have already found new life as social media status updates.
“I keep trying to outline a better life, but the pen’s run dry. The lines never come out right, anyway,” Ewald sings on the track. “There are monsters everywhere I turn in disguises my young self couldn’t discern.”
Hearing Ewald sing “I am the girl that I thought I outgrew” in his low-tone voice is surprising, but only at first listen. Through poignant lyrics and emotive playing, he convincingly pulls off his role as Annie.
Flipping the narrative from his usual male perspective to a feminine vista was no easy task. This new angle required brilliant self-awareness paired with the ability to concoct a compelling narrative.
“The coolest part about writing the fictional songs is that you can create incredibly interesting characters and relationships, but the difficult part is that you have to conjure all of their intricacies and life experiences out of thin air before you can write a song about them,” Ewald said.
“A lot of the songs came together slower than Modern Baseball songs usually do for me just because I had to come up with whole life stories before writing each song. I couldn’t just tap into my memory bank.”
Even so, Ewald said he pulled from his own experiences when he shaped his characters.
“I don’t really like going into details about the storyline because then it doesn’t let the songs speak for themselves,” Ewald said. “Of course, the Slaughter Beach, Dog songs still have a lot of influence from my own experiences, but shaping the characters was a pretty long and interesting process.”
Slaughter Beach, Dog is scheduled to play a CUB Alt show at the College on Friday, Nov. 18, alongside Sorority Noise and Weller.