Virginians Kendall Street Company explore introspective themes on their latest album, The Stories We Write For Ourselves, which had to be completed remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A crowd is mingling as the sun sets, with the strum of a guitar drifting through the air. Kendall Street Company presides over this crowd at Virginia Beach’s Elevation 27, an outdoor venue. The site would seem to some almost foreign now: it’s a concert.
The performance is outdoors, with spread-out tables for parties to maintain social distance. Everything, from the assigned seats to the attendees meticulously applying hand sanitizer, reeks of attention to detail.
Earlier in 2020, a sight like this seemed unlikely. Kendall Street Company had just returned home from a long tour when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the final touches on their newest album, The Stories We Write for Ourselves, were completed remotely.
However, as summer transitioned into fall, the band was able to start playing smaller, socially distant shows again, with safety still the paramount priority. They’re not touring, nothing like normal, but it’s still live music with a crowd; almost normal.
This attention to detail is reflected in the album itself, which lead singer Louis Smith defines as separate from their previous work due to the “sensitive nature of the songwriting.”
While it would be easy to associate the introspective, sometimes melancholy album with the current world, Kendall Street Company actually began writing the album in 2016, beginning with the song “Earth Terms.” The songwriting process stretched almost four years, with “Waiting on a train” written over quarantine during the summer of 2020.
The album is structured like a book or epic movie, starting with a prologue and ending with an epilogue. While the initial notes of the prologue are slow, it ends with the voices of the bandmates at the beginning of “Snowday in the Fan,” the last song of the album. The epilogue is a bookend, returning to the same song. As a whole, the album is remarkable for it’s little bursts of sound and exclaimed questions by the band.
The Stories We Write for Ourselves also differs from Kendall Street Company’s previous work due to the found sounds the group blended with their instruments throughout the album.
“We took some rain sounds and some talking and some piano,” Smith said. “And all five of us played piano on that track at the same time.”
The second interlude uses sound to create a sense of place.
“We sampled a train, and we had this thing that Dan was doing on guitar in the basement, that we layered over [the sample],” Smith said. “And then just some sounds from the Kendall Street Beach, which is our namesake street in Virginia Beach, where I’m from.”
The record seeks to combine folk rock, post-rock and Americana. Smith hopes that it carries a sense of hope, and that things will get better.
“The record delves into a lot of heavy stuff: life, death, time passing, cycles of life, things like that,” Smith said. “But I think overall it’s a hopeful message.”
He hopes that the album makes listeners think, and leaves them with a different perspective than before they listened, ideally a more hopeful one.
With restrictions on crowd sizes tightening as we move further into winter, the future of even socially distant concerts like the one at Virginia Beach is up in question.
“We’re always kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen next,” Smith said. “And nobody knows.”
The Stories We Write For Ourselves is currently available digitally on iTunes and Spotify. The album’s vinyl version, which is expected to ship later this month, can be pre-ordered at Kendall Street Company’s website.
Top Photo by Graham Barbour, via Kendall Street Company/Facebook