Paul Bessenbacher – classically trained musician and esteemed film and television composer – with his Santa Monica-based indie-rock band, Opus Orange, has released his latest effort: object lessons.
The eight-track release was recorded in lockdown at Emoto Music, mixed by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Sufjan Stevens, Modest Mouse) and mastered by Doug Van Sloun (Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit, Damien Jurado). It’s an accomplishment in its ability to tip its hat to the indie spirits of the 90s while deftly modernizing its sound in many sonic spaces.
Bessenbacher is the son of an immigrant from the Philippines and a Marine from Kansas City. He’s been making music since he was 8, and his work as a composer — as well as with Opus Orange — has appeared in documentaries like A thousand, a thousand and a half, movies by Catherine Hardwicke, Brin Hill and Ric Serena, TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, vast city, Younger, and A deviation, and in advertising campaigns with Google, Apple and Samsung.
With release day being release day, Bessenbacher wrote a “track by track” for the American songwriter detailing what was going on in each of the eight tracks.
Press play, check it out, and if you dig it, be sure to support Opus Orange.
1. I got it all wrong
We constantly experience it: something bad happens, then we scream and point fingers at what/whom we believe to be the culprit. To fight against this knee-jerk reaction, I needed to face my own responsibility for the way things were. This song is that confrontation. This album was recorded in song order. As such, this first track was a great way to get back into recording mode, having to self-design (due to lockdown) with a vibe and feel that is out of the norm for us.
We can often get caught up in deliberating over life decisions, creating static anxiety. Since no one (not many anyway) knows the future, you might as well actively take the next step and see what happens. Jump in the dark with both eyes wide open.
Many communities identify with the term “other,” whether they are LGBTQ people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, women, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, of Hindus, etc. It is a plea for connection with the realization that we are all so intimately connected.
4. Waltz and Collision
There is a difference between being forgiven and forgiving yourself. It’s kind of an awkward dance, like trying to waltz with a shooting star. We recorded this with the drums (James Neil) playing very softly, which is out of our norm, but the song demanded it.
5. Break the mirrors
At this point in the recording of the album, James (drummer) and I had a heated disagreement and a resulting stalemate. We went through it and this song is what happened. Rather than trying to move something still, we focused on tuning the toms! Breaking Mirrors finds abandonment, joy and impulsiveness in not knowing all the answers.
6. The Burning Question
This is an exploration of self-sabotage. The incessant refrain is a kind of mantra for self-realization about the uselessness of my current practice. James and I continued to tune and record the toms with song-specific intent.
7. Dizzying Turn
Emotional confusion set in during the 2020 isolation. It felt like a downward spiral, unable to guess what might happen next. The verses are intentionally a physical challenge to sing in one breath, requiring you to grab some oxygen before/after each. The chorus stumbles rhythmically/lyrically, trying to find some semblance of balance.
8. All for Me
I’m amused by how love is sometimes (often?) measured on a scale of quantity – like when a sugary ballad might proclaim “I couldn’t love you more” or when Morrissey wryly sings “I love you still loves, only a little less than before. This song winks on the sliding scale (“I love you the most when…”) while celebrating the fact that love can simply and beautifully exist.
For all the up-to-date information on Opus Orange, stay tuned at www.opusorange.com.