Philly ensemble Northern Arms are masters of haunting moods and striking storytelling – which is why it felt appropriate to release their set so close to Halloween. Helmed by singer and songwriter Keith Richard Peirce, the ten-piece band incorporates dark imagery with a musical mystique that hits on jazz, folk, and gospel, and blends it with gothic Americana in the vein of 16th Horsepower, Tom Waits and legendary Austin cult faves Lift to Experience. While the profusion of imagery seems to swarm around historical fiction and the Civil War (even the name Northern Arms evokes tales of conflict and struggle), Peirce says the stories are much more specific – “little circumstances in lives no one would ever know about.” He shares this story about the song “Warm Springs Georgia,” which they recorded for their Key Studio Session:
I knew a woman who was killed when the small aircraft she was in collided with a flock of birds over Warm Springs, Georgia. She was my friend’s fiancée and it was her first time in an airplane. It was an hour before dusk. He had bought her a ticket for a flying tour over the area to help her get over her terror of heights and airplanes. After about 15 minutes he watched the plane disappear into an audience of dark clouds…a minute later it emerged in distress. He watched it plunge into a dense swamp two miles away. My friend hasn’t left Warm Springs. He’s convinced himself that he can hear her talking to him from the swamp. Our song is about those conversations.
Ultimately Northern Arms’ songs are more like short stories than histories, vignettes about fears and uncertainties, and the power of people bonding together in the face of these things. The band is wrapping up production on its debut full-length, which will be released in early 2014. In the meantime, they perform at Johnny Brenda’s on Saturday October 26th, opening for Joey Sweeney and the Long Hair Arkestra. Tickets and information on the show can be found here. Below, stream and download the band’s Key Studio Session.