If rays of hazy sunshine mixed with a touch of nostalgic memory could be transformed into music, it would be something like ‘Salt and Seagulls’, the new video from Strange Pilgrim. Over a strong, hypnotic rhythm, the band deliver an absorbing sonic dream, oozing with atmosphere and perfect for late summer nights. At the centre of Strange Pilgrim is the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Joshua Barnhart, who supplies drums, guitar and vocals on this track. Alongside Barnhart, ethereal vocals are provided by Kelly McFarling and Taylor Belmore and Adam Nash’s guitar reinforces the mellow mood. In the video, the old footage feels like the perfect accompaniment to a song steeped in nostalgia. It was filmed by Roberleigh Barnhart and Dhyana Lynn in 1974 and this authentic family footage really adds to the nostalgic feel of the song.
Barnhart says of the song and its inspiration: “I wrote Salt and Seagulls after visiting Los Osos, the sleepy fog-covered town where I was born on the central coast of California. I spent my first few years there before my parents split up and we moved to a different nearby town. That place Los Osos conjures a nostalgia that’s hard to pin down. The trees, the ocean, the mud-filled bay, they all take me back to a time I can’t recall very clearly. As life moves on and the cost of living in the area keeps skyrocketing, a longing for the past overpowers the present moment. The physical space, still so familiar, has in many ways become unrecognisable. Much of the lyrical content can also be left up to interpretation, which is usually how I attempt to write. The central coast of California will always hold importance for me and for my sense of self – that place will always be home, no matter how far away I may find myself. The basic tracks I recorded myself at home, when I was living in Oakland. I sent the tracks to Adam Nash, who recorded the guitar lead at his house. I was struck by how well his part fit the vibe of the song. This recording was at first intended to be a demo, but it felt so right that I didn’t want to try to recreate it. Instead, I re-recorded the drums, to get a better sound, at Paul Dutton’s beach shack in Cayucos, and then Sterling Schlegel re-tracked the bass. Joel Tolbert added the DX7 parts. Kelly McFarling’s background vocals were the last addition. Her call and response parts brought the song to a really satisfying completion. Scott McDowell’s mixing and his careful attention to the needed aesthetic was crucial to getting it right, and I couldn’t be happier with the final result.”
Barnhart has played in various bands, including Port O’Brien, with whom he spent years touring the USA and Europe as their drummer. Then, in 2016, he recorded ‘Turn Out The Light’, an album under his own name in collaboration with guitarist Paul Dutton. So, although Strange Pilgrim is a relatively new band, he has spent years in the industry already. ‘Salt and Seagulls’ is from the forthcoming self-titled album, which we can expect soon. It was recorded in an isolated cabin deep in the canyons of California’s central coast. The Portland, Oregon-based singer explains how the project came together: “Strange Pilgrim is a continuation of a project that originally started with myself and guitarist Paul Dutton, who also played with me in Sparrows Gate. The band grew and eventually included Adam Nash (Goodnight Texas), Pat Spurgeon (Rogue Wave), Sterling Schlegal (Camp Bud), Taylor Belmore (Arthur Watership), and Joel Tolbert (Sparrows Gate/Zeb Zaitz). My friend, Kelly McFarling, who’s an incredible songwriter, also sings on a good portion of our album, which I’m thrilled about. I’ve always been obsessed with wandering, searching, or being out of place, and our songs often centre on those concepts. The idea of the band name itself comes from ‘Doce Cuentos Peregrinosa’, a collection of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which are concerned with strangeness and dislocation. The name is a reflection of that, I think. It’s strange to be a person, to exist at all, and I think that a huge part of the human experience is that search for belonging.”
This could be the sound of your summer. Enjoy.