Contributed by Sullivan Dildine, AMF Intern
WILLIAM HARRIES GRAHAM
William Harries Graham has been a prominent figure in Austin rock since he was a small child. Being the son of legendary True Believers and Skunks guitarist John Dee Graham, it always seemed young William was destined for greatness, and he proved the world right at the young age of six when he performed his first show in front of a thousand people at the Austin Music Awards. It was only a few years after that the ambitious teen formed his first band The Painted Redstarts, with whom he put out his debut record Foreign Fields.
Music critic David Crowely may have put it best when he wrote of Foreign Fields: “This debut record positions him towards the experimental end of Americana with copious nods towards the music that was called indie-rock before indie became a meaningless term. He has an aesthetic built around loud guitars, an ear for melody, a fondness for messing with time signatures, and if this record is any indication, a massive future.” The opening title track feels like a personal diary entry that was never meant to be seen, verses feed a massive chorus filled to the brim with swollen guitars, and William’s voice carries the hook to the bitter end where feedback bleeds effortlessly into the angry chords that introduce “Curtains Wide.” From then on, listeners are locked in, helpless victims to a sonic odyssey characterized by earnest lyrics, booming choruses and thick, overdrive ridden chords. Tracks like “Puzzles” and “Watch Over Me” offer welcome reprieves and show off a wide range with guitar pulled back to accentuate the vulnerable lyrics and William’s straight-forward vocal delivery. All in all Foreign Fields feels like a love letter to the greats of Americana, and the sound introduced was only built upon when William Harries Graham shed The Redstarts and put out his first true solo record, Jakes.
This exploration into the experimental side of Americana is an aggressively thought provoking journey to witness. While the charming loud/quiet dynamic that defined Foreign Fields is still present, William introduces listeners to a new dimension of himself with tracks like “Wolves” and “Light it Up” where the arrangements are sonic canvases that nostalgic lyrics are painted across. The melancholy tone, present throughout Jakes, feels especially melodramatic on “Silence” and is brought to a head on the closing track “Quiet.” Where Foreign Fields feels like a loving tribute to Americana and garage rock, Jakes feels like a fresh new take on the genre.
William Harries Graham is still riding the wave of success Jakes has brought him and after being listed in Wired Magazine’s “World’s Top Changing Innovators: 50 People Who Will Change The World” it seems rock critic Doug Freeman may have been right when he described William as “an ambassador to the next generation.”