When I met up with Tim Arnold and Keith Goodwin last week at Spruce Street Harbor Park, they had a big week ahead of them. Tour was a week away, and they had to rehearse for three completely different sets. One is for singer-songwriter Anthony Green (of Circa Survive and more), whose backing band they play in; he will be performing his debut solo album Avalon in full for its tenth anniversary. Another is for their long-running band, Good Old War, who is direct support the show and celebrating an anniversary of their own; Only Way To Be Alone, the album that launched them into the folk-infused modern rock zone with the super poppy “Coney Island,” is also ten years old.
But most significantly for these two Bucks County born-and-raised musicians is the opening band for the night: Found Wild, their new duo project based around Arnold’s songwriting. Though he’s always been a vocalist as part of Good Old War’s three-part harmony ensemble, this project marks his first time singing lead. It’s also his first time as the primary songwriter in a band, and after an emotionally taxing handful of years, he had a lot to sing about.
The project launched this week with the debut of “Nothing Gold Can Last,” an aching but life-affirming rootsy tune punctuated by piano accents, emotive slide guitar and a catchy-as-hell chorus. Goodwin says the song was written on a whim last year as Good Old War was preparing to go into Conshohocken’s Studio 4 with producer Will Yip. “Out of nowhere, we were like ‘let’s just write some songs that have a little country flavor,'” he says. “We got a bunch of Philly guys in the studio that we know are good at that style and wrote three songs in three days.”
Initially, they weren’t sure what to do with the songs; they kept them to themselves, shared them with friends. But when Green heard them, he encouraged Arnold and Goodwin to chase the idea a bit further. “It was like ‘oh, wow, people actually want to support us,'” says Arnold.
Lyrically, “Nothing Gold Can Last” draws a picture of a character who’s at odds with the world around them (“remember the words you write, rehearse your smile / your heroes are always going in and out of style”), and learns to make their way through it by focusing on the now, the tangible, living in the moment but knowing that the moment is impermanent: “gotta give it all away, it might save your life,” Arnold sings.
“A lot of these songs are about redemption, or the past, or the future, and this one is about neither, it’s about the moment,” Arnold says. “Time is a big thing I write about, it interests me. I’m constantly working on myself, trying to be a better person. And if you just kind of experience life in the moment you’re in, it’s the only reality you have. It’s a beautiful thing, everything else is arbitrary in your mind.”
Arnold is initially guarded about discussing the deeper underpinnings of the music, but Goodwin jumps in to say that writing for Found Wild “seems like a form of therapy to work though. You’ve been through a lot in the last three years, so working through that, pulling yourself up out of hard times…I mean, anytime I’m writing lyrics, it has to do with how I’m feeling at the time, and that’s when you get the best songs.”
Arnold relaxes, and elaborates. “I went to rehab. I had a child. I left the band, and I came back. For a long time, all I cared about was doing drugs and partying, and once I stopped partying, the floodgates were open. I cared about things, I was inspired by things again, I started reading, I wanted to take care of myself. It was very cathartic, and every song is personal and about this rebirth.”
“That’s part of the reason we wanted to do this,” Goodwin adds. “Something positive, some release for that. It always makes me feel better when I write songs to get something out.”
Arnold’s lyrics poured out of him, and he described free-association writing sessions where he would get everything down on paper, and then pass it off to Goodwin, who helped him shape his ideas into songs.
“He’s like my involuntary sponsor,” says Arnold. “He helped me get sober, he helped me get my songs together.”
When Found Wild takes the stage at the TLA on Saturday, it will mostly be performed with just Arnold on piano and vocals, and Goodwin accompanying him on guitar and harmonies. It’s an appropriately pared-down and focused approach to an extremely personal set of songs, and as they reflecting on the venture — a gig where they’ll be onstage in one form or another the entire night, four straight hours of playing with minimal breaks — it seems daunting and thrilling all at once. “This is going to be a grind,” Arnold says. “But it’s going to be fun and fulfilling, the ultimate expressive outlet.”
Found Wild opens for Good Old War and Anthony Green at the TLA on Saturday, June 30th; tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar; Found Wild’s self-titled debut is available for preorder now, via Memory Music.
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