Stereogum Premiere: SONTALK – ‘I Am A War Machine’
By Gil Green
Channeling a War On Drugs vibe with enveloping soft-rock warmth, SONTALK is the current project of rocker Joseph LeMay, previously known for his 2014 solo Americana album Seventeen Acres. LeMay’s new single “I Am A War Machine” — off SONTALK’s three-song debut release Act I, out Friday — is an emotionally restorative song that takes you on a prayer-like journey through the discovery and affirmation of the human experience. Full of empathy, LeMay seems devoted to the idea that within everyone there exists a duality, a twoness of struggle and redemption. Act I is his healing antidote.
LeMay speaks of his music’s purpose:
For anyone going through a hard time or just getting through life, I’d love to provide the sense that someone else knows what they’re feeling and understands their pain.
“I Am A War Machine,” features a tranquil voice amid a bright, reaching guitar that moves in circles, switching between dissonance and explorative distortion. Showcasing LeMay’s skill of character-driven storytelling, it’s a song about unraveling, realizing your destructive nature. With introspective lyrics like “If all I am is all I’ve seen/ And all I’ve done/ What I mean/ I am war machine,” there’s a dedication to power and acceptance through fragility. LeMay sounds vulnerable, but the sunny, thumping instrumentation delivers enough momentum to aid in a kind of soul-saving atonement.
“I Am A War Machine” is a song I wrote at a time when my own volatility and instability was manifesting itself in unsettling ways. My mind wasn’t a safe place to be, and the world with all it’s hard truths, confusing contradictions, and painful histories didn’t feel any safer. In writing this song, which began as a manic tirade with pages of alternate verses and multiple chorus variations, I confessed what I had become and how I felt about myself before my better judgement and fear of being found out could intervene and shut it down. Simultaneously, I accidentally created a character on whom I could project whatever feelings or circumstances I needed to, real or imagined, in a way that told the deeper truths of my story in a more effective way than I could with a 100% autobiographical approach. So that’s my long winded way of saying, this song is about me admitting what I am and recognizing my faults, but it’s also about every person I’ve ever known in any substantial way. It’s about our fragility and brokenness. It’s about dissonance longing for resolution. It’s about honesty and confession. I think it’s about the human condition.
05/01 Lexington, KY @ Cosmic Charlie’s^
05/02 Columbus, OH @ The Basement^
05/08 Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater*
05/09 San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord*
05/11 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge*
05/12 Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern*
05/13 Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett*
^ with Wilderado
* with Field Report
Act I is out 4/27 via Sony Music Masterworks.