New Debut Album From Oregon Folk/Rock Duo Alma Mater
Alma Mater is Dirk Sullivan and Andrew Paul Woodworth. The two are veterans of the Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon music scenes. Sullivan was signed to Interscope Records with his band Love On Ice and Woodworth fronted Elephant Ride, signed to Sony Records. They have since spent two decades recording and touring in various projects.
Anxious for some musical therapy during the pandemic, the two started meeting in Woodworth’s garage. Sullivan was enthralled with an alternate tuning on his guitar and found himself writing songs at a blistering clip, totally inspired by this fresh reverence for his instrument. He found the perfect partner in Woodworth, who could add pathos and melody to his already provocative landscapes. Sullivan was wrestling with a recent divorce and with the slow demise of his mother. By contrast, Woodworth was about to welcome his first child. They found a kinship in the intensity of their disparate stories. Somehow those contrasting life experiences brought out something completely raw and beautiful and melancholic and utterly explosive in their writing.
Both men love hard and laugh big….both were suddenly unafraid to be uniquely and totally themselves, understanding that in a world full of temporary things, we are a perpetual feeling. The sound became a portrait of combating themes….time versus eternity, strength versus surrender, and hard love versus fake hate. With Gregg Williams in the producer’s chair (Sheryl Crow, The Dandy Warhols, Blitzen Trapper, Pete Droge, Emmylou Harris) the recordings became orchestral and vibrant and full of page-turning narratives. It is a dream team for these three Oregonians who have amassed decades of honest, soulful and heartfelt music.
The leading single “Fading Moon” is a poignant folk-dipped indie pop track. Andrew of the band confides, “I was never afraid of dying until I had a child. Fading Moon, on the surface, seems like a love letter to my two baby boys. But, in reality, it’s a means to comfort me from my overwhelming fear of leaving them behind when I die. When pure and intense love is experienced, there is a level of pain associated with it. I’ve never been more happy, but I’ve never been more scared. So this seemingly sweet, folky ditty is really a pretty dark, anxious proclamation.” Musically, the hypnotic guitar riff of “Fading Moon” was written when Dirk was in hospice care, visiting his sick mother. Performing for her brought her joy and “Fading Moon” also represents the magic and healing nature of music.
The second single “Mercy” is a heartfelt song all about showing compassion and love to the world. Andrew confides the single is a reminder “to be kinder and to be softer when reacting to people who confuse me. Showing another human compassion and patience and empathy is such a soulful way for me to experience pride.” With intricate acoustic guitars, floating lush melodies and emotive vocals, “Mercy” is an important folk-pop anthem.
“Big Sideways” features driving guitars, upbeat percussion and soaring melodies for an intoxicating listen. The single details the need to control the unbalanced outside world.
Alma Mater is a direct reflection of what is happening in the world today as much as it is defined by generations of influence. From its warm and rustic and plush production to its earnest and candid and sometimes irreverent writing, Alma Mater is a collision of opposing forces….like they’ve blown the dust off of an old box in the attic, only to find new pictures inside. Their debut full-length album The Beginning of Everything is out now.