Ashley Morgan and John Flanagan make up the folk/pop duo known as Faultlines. Their latest album, Bittersweet Revival, offers equal parts optimism and outcry. “Rain,” the first single release, shines its spotlight on the threat to women’s, LGBTQ, and immigrant rights. Morgan and Flanagan hope it encourages people to the polls as they discussed via a recent exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you first realize that you wanted to be a musical artist?
Ashley Morgan: I started singing when I was three years old and it was around high school that I knew that I wanted to make music my career, although I had no idea what that would look like. When I recognized the power that music has to create a positive change, I just knew I needed to be a part of it. After graduating from college, I went on to be a freelance background vocalist and session singer. It wasn’t until I met John and heard some of his beautiful demos that would eventually become our first EP, that I finally decided to step forward from the background and be a part of an original project, Faultlines.
MM: How would you describe your sound?
John Flanagan: Bittersweet Revival represents an experiment in expanding our records sonically. This album includes traditional folk instruments like the guitar, banjo, and mandolin. We prioritize vocal harmony, usually in three parts. The departure for us is in the obvious use of electronic plug-ins on songs like “Heartfire.” We set out with our producer, David Kidd, to see how we might blend the genre of folk and pop into something new. We had a lot of fun in the studio, and we think that comes across in the sound of the LP.
MM: What events inspired “Rain”?
John: In the nights following the 2016 election, I was having trouble making it a full eight hours until morning. I’d wake up at 2am, 3:30am, jolted by what felt like nightmares, but what was, in fact, reality. In those last days of Barack Obama’s White House tenure, when gay and immigrant rights seemed as though they had just been secured, a foreboding began to make its home in my conscience of the battles that were yet to come. One night that November, I shot up in bed and wrote down what would be the verses of “Rain.” Women’s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, and voter rights; all of these would come to be issues in our lives again over the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
MM: Did the lyrics or beat come to you first?
MM: What is your favorite lyric in the song and why?
John: “If you wanna see the change, you better stop prayin’ for rain.” There are two reasons. One is because offering “thoughts and prayers” instead of demanding actionable change in the wake of tragedy is one of my greatest pet-peeves as an American citizen. We’re living through a scourge of gun violence and domestic terrorism in the US, and token support for the victims while taking no charge to fix the root of the problem is gross moral self-licensing. It wouldn’t be until months after recording “Rain” that we would add a dedicated verse addressing the issue of gun violence to our live performances.
Secondly, fear inspired voter turn-out in the last election – a fear stoked through racism and nationalist rhetoric by the conservative cable media and then-candidate Trump. That fear which got him elected in 2016, however, has turned into a fear by a polling majority of Americans in 2020 of his possible re-election and a subsequent four years of disorganized chaos in America’s highest office. Many of the people who elected Trump in 2016 have gotten more than they bargained for and are sick of the deluge of misinformation and scandal.
MM: Who came up with the concept for the music video?
Ashley: John had the amazing vision of our being blindfolded (representing blind patriotism). As each of us sing our verses we take off our blindfolds as we “wake up” to the reality of what is happening around us. I love this visual! No one can take off the blindfold for us. It is our responsibility as individuals to make that decision. We all got together for a collective planning meeting and came up with the idea of projecting protest images across, which I filmed at The Women’s March.
MM: How long did it take to film?
Ashley: Eight hours. We filmed in Los Angeles. A fun fact is the brick wall in the third verse is actually just one wall in the studio. Our video director, John Mediana, created camera magic by making it look like two people were on opposite sides of a wall.
MM: What has been the best thing about working in the music industry so far?
John: We’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to sing for inmates in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at Folsom State Prison. It’s opportunities like these which remove us from the comfortable reality of our everyday life that humble and reform our worldview.
MM: Why is “Rain” the perfect intro to Bittersweet Revival?
Ashley: “Rain” sets the tone for the entire record. Bittersweet Revival is a story that speaks out against the current political climate and fights for love, inclusion, and community. Songs like “Save Us” deal with the state of healthcare in our country, while “A Long Way” ties the album into a bow by beckoning the listener to consider love and an open mind.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to tell fans?
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View the music video for “Rain” at https://youtu.be/Gd2XVW2sNUU