Combining the yearning Americana of Good Looks with the dynamic, driving melancholy of Friendship, the debut eponymous album from Convinced Friend is a winding, ebbing journey through the lived experiences of Austin Wilson. Hailing out of Providence via New Orleans, the album’s title is a Quaker colloquialism meaning ‘conversion’, and as the record plays out, it becomes more and more apparent that the conversations in this music – be it looking inwards or outwards – give the listener a nuanced, enthralling experience. Bruce Springsteen once said that he always saw his music as being an analysis of the disconnect between the American Dream and the American Reality, and you can really hear a similar thread coursing through the veins of this record.
Austin spoke to us about the art that helps inform his own in the latest installation of Sound and Vision:
Three albums I love:
Low – Things We Lost in the Fire
Low have been a companion to me for as long as I’ve written music, and it’s hard to imagine where I’d be without their work. I could have picked any of their albums, but this one came at the right time in my life. The fragility of their harmonies, how repetition conjures worlds out of simple instrumentation, how Laser Beam is the best example of Hemingway’s iceberg in lyrical form – I hope to keep learning from it. I wrote all this before Mimi’s death, but her voice holds it all the more now. Memory eternal.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Bad Debt
Simple songs recorded to cassette from a kitchen table, trying not to wake his newborn son. There’s nothing missing from these songs whatsoever. As a songwriter, it has served as a reminder to build a sturdy house where everything else can live. I lived in Durham, NC when this album was released, and my wife worked a desk job at the building MC Taylor managed at Duke before his career took off – lovely guy!
The Durutti Column – The Return of the Durutti Column
An utterly singular record – whenever I need to break out of whatever rut I’m in and to be reminded of the strange and beautiful things a guitar can do.
A film I love:
Drive My Car by Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Absolutely gorgeous movie, adapting a Haruki Murakami short story I also love. It’s a really subtle film with a long runtime, but I found it totally engrossing in how it elevates really mundane interactions – say, a cigarette hanging out of a sunroof – to vast emotional ends. The soundtrack by Eiko Ishibashi is one of my favorite examples of music in film I can think of.
A book that I love:
Tony Hoagland – Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God: Poems
Any of his collections would do the trick, but this feels like a good starting point. I was reading him pretty faithfully as I wrote the songs on this record and tried to glean as much as I could. He combines this observational angle that almost feels like stand-up comedy with gut-wrenching pathos, twisting the knife at just the right angle. He has a plainspoken sense of his own complicity in the world’s suffering without getting sentimental about it, a tough line to walk well but one I try to shoot for in life and song. Here’s one from that collection called No Thank You.
A song I can’t live without:
Prefab Sprout – Desire As
‘I’ve got six things on my mind. You’re no longer one of them‘ is the coldest line of all time. A perfect pop ballad. Paddy McAloon is an absolute crooner and should be numbered among the greats in terms of songwriting.
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