What's The News You're Bringing - Wheat's Everyday I Said A Prayer For Kathy... turns 10
Roughly eight years ago, around the time of the release of White Ink, Black Ink, Brendan Harney and Scott Levesque—the core duo behind the jangly indie rock outfit Wheat—gave an interview where they listed off their favorite underrated or misunderstood albums: Miracle Legion’s sparse Me & Mr. Ray was on the list, as well as Horsedrawn Wishes by the Irish shoegaze band Rollerskate Skinny.
Also included on the list was their own album—2007’s cumbersomely titled Everyday I Said A Prayer for Kathy and Made A One Inch Square.
Wheat has never had it easy—but, if anything, it is admirable how Harney and Levesque have taken pretty much everything in stride. Plucked from the New England indie rock scene in the late 1990s, the band (then a trio) found a home on a Sony Music subsidiary, Aware, home to acts like John Mayer and Train.
After much delay and gestation, Wheat released their only major label effort, Per Second, Per Second, Per Second…Every Second, in 2003, and in fact, toured with Mayer in support of it. Receiving little, if any, support from Aware and Sony, the band was dropped, and by all accounts, was inactive and possibly broken up by the time I heard of them in the summer of 2004, a roundabout story where I was attempting to figure out who sang a song I heard on the radio.
Turns out the song I had heard was, unfortunately, “On The Way Down” by Ryan Cabrera, but in scouring the Cities97 website, I came across the listing for “I Met A Girl” by Wheat, and I fell for them hard.1
Wheat resurfaced in the summer of 2006, down to just Levesque and Harney, teasing the release of Everyday I Said a Prayer. It, as well as a like minded EP, Exactly What I Wanted, Exactly That, found a home on the now defunct Empyrean Records—the release of the EP was delayed by roughly three months, and an additional EP in late 2007 was promised, and pre-orders were placed, but nothing materialized; then the label disappeared.
Something similar happened with a botched rollout for the most recent Wheat effort, 2015’s Wishing Good Things For The World. But the band, for better or for worse, just keep looking ahead, and, like my boss’ coffee mug says, practicing “reckless optimism.”
Everyday is a curious record that attempts to reconcile opposites, or at least, things with stark differences. There is a darkness, and a sadness throughout—it’s always ambiguous, though, as to what this sadness is in regards to; however, there are small glimmers or hope. The same can be said about the band’s sound this time around—not nearly as sleek as the Per Second-era, it owes a lot to the band’s earlier, ramshackle beginnings, and a kind of rudimentary minimalism that only comes from no longer having major label money to throw around for the slickest and largest possible sound.
It’s impossible to find record of now (I tried), much like the aforementioned article where the band themselves said Everyday was a misunderstood record, but the band’s website during the 2006 to 2008 period was like a labyrinth of sorts; arranged around black squares (of course), they led you to different, short pieces of very evocative prose—some of which are included in the album’s liner notes. One was about getting into an argument and throwing car keys into the snow. One was about an art opening gone wrong. One ended with the line “I’m torn between the fiction that I am and the reality I imagine for myself,” and god damn, that’s the kind of thing that sticks with you over time.
The music, too, as well as the stark and brutal humanistic qualities found within Levesque’s lyrics on Everyday, has also stuck with me over the last ten years.
The album, a slim 11 songs (some of which are instrumentals), begins with a blast of dissonance, prior to the very long build up of keyboards behind Levesque’s voice—all leading up to the cacophony that arrives shortly before the two minute mark of “Closeness”—a song that doesn’t so much set the tone for the rest of the record, but is one hell of an attention grabbing opening track. Strangely enough, on the “This Wheat” fan website, it lists a different song, “What You Got,” as the album’s first track on a promotional version of the record—which would have worked, too, I suppose, but would have been slightly more subdued and a little more introspective.
Missing that Sony budget, as well as producer Dave Fridmann being behind the boards—Everyday I Said a Prayer not only has a ramshackle, homemade feeling to it, but it also is one of Wheat’s more uneven albums. There are tracks that are among the band’s best, there are tracks that teeter into experimental territory, often with mixed results, there are pieces that feel more like sketches rather than a finished product, and off kilter songs that may have the power to charm with their looseness.
Among the band’s best—“Little White Dove.” Not nearly as slick or upbeat as, say, their breakthrough single “I Met a Girl,” but that’s not the point. It takes that aforementioned sadness, or darkness, and runs with it into a place where there’s distended guitar chords, crisp and precise snare hits, a short shout-along hook near the end of the song’s second part, and handclaps. HANDCLAPS.
“Little White Dove” is split into three distinct parts—the first begins with the piano, and Levesque’s effected, slightly out of reach vocals (there’s a lot of that on Everyday); Harney’s drumming and more instrumentation fall into place shortly after the introduction; the second part is also the shortest—possibly just best described as a short bridge section, arriving at the 1:53 mark, with a crunchy electric guitar blast, which builds things up to the song’s final, and most surprising part—the last minute and change, structured around a quiet drone, Harney’s snare rolling, and Levesque layering his voice, somberly singing in a round.
Arriving second on the album, “Little White Dove” is certainly a highwater mark for Everyday—there is nothing that is both as accessible and as emotionally charged on the rest of the record.
Following the other two ‘catchy’ songs on the album—the repetitive “Move=Move” and the uneven “I Had Angels Watching Over Me,” Everyday descends pretty quickly into its experimental territory, some of which works well, and some of it doesn’t. The hypnotic “Init. 005 (Formerly, A Case Of…)” works; the oddball synth layering of “Saint in Law” doesn’t, and neither does the antiquated sounding charm of the album’s slow-shuffling closing track “Courting Ed Templeton.” And, for the most part, “Round in The Corners” and “What You Got” both work to split the difference between a traditional song structure and something slightly less approachable.
Arriving near the end of the album, and really, it could have been the last track, with “Ed Templeton” serving as an epilogue of sorts, “An Exhausted Fixer” is one of the album’s most memorable songs—specifically sticking with me over the last decade during difficult times. Structured around bombastically mixed percussion and intense, spoken word lyrics about the balance in a relationship, making art, and the struggle to continue believing in what you are doing, each ‘verse’ culminates in a half spoken/half sung refrain—“It ain’t like I ain’t been trying to give you everything…Chains of gold and diamonds/clothes and cars and rings/I just hope you still don’t want any of those things.”
In a sense, it serves as a late in the game thesis, or mission statement for the entire album—despite its unevenness and collage-like pieces scattered throughout, Everyday I Said A Prayer for Kathy and Made A One Inch Square is a bold and fearless artistic statement from a band who, at the time, had absolutely nothing left to lose. Trying to overlook its shortcomings, or at least less accessible moments, it’s a record that tries its best to juxtapose a youthful feeling with that of maturation and wisdom; with sorrow and some kind of bittersweet joy that tries to keep whatever sadness or darkness inspired this record at bay. It’s representative of a different time for the band—coming back from the disappointment of the major leagues, but coming back on their own terms, making the kind of music and the kind of record they needed to at the time.
1- My wife can attest to how big, regionally speaking, “I Met A Girl” was in the summer of 2004—she heard it all the time on Cities97, and if you’re lucky, you may still hear it played in various retail establishments of businesses on the overhead music. Recently I heard it in Chuck and Don’s while buying hay for my rabbit. Brendan Harney told me that the song was ‘the gift that keeps on giving.’