What initially started out as Jake Ewald's attempt to break through his writer’s block has now blossomed into Slaughter Beach, Dog, his emo-tinged indie-rock band built on more mature songwriting and healthier living.
After his other rock project Modern Baseball went on an undefined hiatus, Ewald turned his focus toward the solo project titled Slaughter Beach in 2015, which eventually became Slaughter Beach, Dog.
Just like that, a new era had begun.
Before the shift, “I couldn’t write any songs. I was stuck in a rut, and I was used to writing hyper-personal stuff,” says Ewald. “All my songs are basically lists of things I had done on a certain day, which I loved and thought was a really invigorating way to write.
“But at a certain point, I was trying to write songs and was like, ‘I didn’t do anything interesting today; what am I supposed to write about?’ To kind of flip it around, I tried writing a little bit of a fictional story and using that story to write songs about my fictional self.”
By learning to feel comfortable drawing inspiration from the real world and his imagination alike, Ewald solved his writer’s block and took an important step along his songwriting journey. With two albums since 2016 and a live Audiotree album released in 2017, as well as new music on the way, things seem to be going just fine for Ewald.
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Almost by necessity, he demystified the magical nature of songwriting and became more prolific in the process.
“It’s kind of funny, because my life has changed a lot, but in more of a grand settling-down kind of way," he says. "I’m on the road a lot less, I spend a lot more a time writing now, as opposed to doing all the other daily grind ins and outs of being in a band.
“I’m home and I write and record and we have band practice with the band, and we play shows around Philly," he continues. "I spend a lot more time with my partner and my friends and writing music. My life is a lot more balanced now. It feels pretty good. It’s a lot better for my brain.”
Sonically, Slaughter Beach, Dog sounds like a tempered-down version of Modern Baseball. The music is driven by an acoustic guitar and punchy lyrics, but his palette for storytelling has widened.
He’s able to bounce around as a songwriter without being tethered to a particular world if he doesn’t want to be.
“I was able to lift the pressure off a little bit — it worked, and that’s how I was able to write the first record. It freed me up writing-wise, so now when I write a song I can pull a little bit from my personal life, pull a little bit from thin air, and just sort of meld things together to make something new. Ever since I began combining the two things and pulling from everything, I’m a much more productive songwriter.”
What happens if he confronts writer's block again? Ewald jokes that he’ll be "screwed."
Though he laughs at the thought of eventually finding himself back at square one with writer's block, Ewald has made sure that the things that have made his life more fulfilling — the enjoyable time spent with loved ones, the less-frivolous band work that took up most of his days — are like songwriting in that once the magic is removed, a strong foundation remains.
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“The thing that I’ve accepted now is that if I let myself walk away from it for a few days, or a week, or two weeks, and I don’t let myself become afraid of never writing a song again, then one day I’m going to wake up and a song will appear," he says. "I really have so many different resources to pull from every day, whether it’s new songs for the band or whether I need support from a friend when something is going on.
“It just feels like a couple years ago, I was on this weird auto-pilot mode where I had this idea in my head where I had this little tiny pocket of energy and inspiration and good feeling that I would draw from each day," he adds. "But now that things have slowed down and I’m able to spread everything out, I feel like I do have more songs to write, and I don’t feel pressure to write those songs — and if I don’t feel like writing songs, I can just go do something else.”