Andrew Mars likes to keep busy. After debuting his emotive, atmospheric songwriting project Settled Arrows with 2015’s Public Privacy — an album that finds moving beauty in personal tragedy, the loss of friends and the death of loved ones — Mars existed in that body of work for a year. He released Unsend, a stripped-down solo-piano revisit of the album recorded in one take. He released two live collections, one of Public Privacy performed before a studio audience at South Philly’s Buckeye Recording, and one a collection of covers from the same gig, rooted in his then day job at a piano bar. He even took part in an ambitious production with BalletX last fall, writing operatic lyrics for a production of Sunset, 0639 Hours at the Wilma Theater.
At the time, his next body of work was poised to be more surreal and abstract — and we definitely hear sonically free-form moments on INNOCENCE//The Fall of the Fool, the latest Settled Arrows album, released last Friday on Bandcamp. But topically, we find Mars responding to world events: a tense and uneasy climate both politically and socially, a litany of men behaving badly and a public demanding accountability, an uneasy undercurrent of aggression. On one level, the album is a takedown of toxic masculinity, but it also sees toxic masculinity as one component of much more deeply-seated societal ills. I caught up with Mars this week to chat on the phone about all of these things, as well as the current four-piece configuration of Settled Arrows that will perform live at Ortlieb’s tomorrow night.