8 years ago, in a dark moment of dissatisfaction with his life and music in general, Keith Pierce sat down with an acoustic guitar. The chords he strummed would form the backbone of “Tear Me Away”, a song his band Northern Arms recorded for Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through series back in January.
Pierce started out in the Philadelphia band Perils of Pauline. After the song “Tear Me Away” was conceived all those years ago, he realized his approach to songwriting was more grim and self-aware than Perils of Pauline. This realization led him to leave that band and form Northern Arms.
At its core, Northern Arms consists of Pierce on guitar and vocals, Angel Ocana on drums, and Rob Campbell on bass. But the band has expanded to include 10 members and a variety of instruments, including baritone sax, trumpet, viola, and two additional backup vocalists. Each member sits down with Pierce’s songs and writes their own part.
In addition to being the driving force behind the band’s origins, “Tear Me Away” also tells the story of Pierce’s battle with alcoholism:
I was quickly buying a whole bottle of vodka as soon as the store opened, finding some pretext to leave the apartment. In the middle of the night, having anxiety about whether there’s going to be enough to get me through the night, and going rinse, repeat – do it again the very next day. I’d run through friends, family, lovers like an open field. You try to convince yourself “I’m not bad, I’m not a bad guy. I love her, but I need to borrow from her. And when I get on my feet, I’ll just start paying her back.” This is how a sociopath thinks.
The group decided to show up to Shaking Through with an ambitious goal: to finally capture “Tear Me Away” to the band’s satisfaction, a feat that had not yet been achieved.
Once the folks at Weathervane knew the struggle it had come to symbolize, and how it kick-started the existence of Northern Arms, they agreed.
After a challenging session where Pierce placed enormous trust in his band members to complete the song briskly and decisively, “Tear Me Away” was fully realized.
Watch the story behind the song here:
And the behind-the-scenes production video here:
Northern Arms, Shaking Through