The Actual Goners recently released their new EP "Curbside Finds" and to celebrate we asked Tristan Armstrong to tell us about the single "Back Lane". Here is the story:
Making a living as a musician, for me, has meant having to piece together a few different sources of income. I spend a couple of days a week teaching music lessons to students at an elementary school in Toronto's east end. When there is time to kill during breaks in between lessons, often the only place where I can hang out and play guitar without bothering anyone is a storage room in the basement. It was there that I wrote most of "Back Lane". It happened to be a fortuitous burst of inspiration, because I also came up with the bulk of another song we play in The Actual Goners called "Wide Awake" during that same half-hour period.
I had moved to Toronto from Vancouver Island with the intent of pursuing a career in music more seriously. After having spent four years living here, this was the first song I'd written in which Toronto was the setting. A lot had changed during that time. My partner, who I had moved here with, and I had parted ways after a long and gradual decline in our relationship. Were it not for the fact that finding a place to live in the city is so logistically challenging and financially burdensome, we likely would have parted much sooner. In the end, it seemed we were both quite happy to be moving on. One of her last statements to me during that process was, "I want my (expletive) life back."
So that was the inspiration for "Back Lane" - a celebration of taking back control of the direction of one's life, and not having to compromise to accommodate paths and wants that weren't aligning.
Being away from Vancouver Island also came with its own set of challenges to overcome, and by this point I was feeling more comfortable and at home with living in Toronto. The song talks about some of the things I would do during that time to find moments of tranquility and contemplation in the urban environment.
Verse 1: Looking out from my 2nd story window at the brick wall across the back alleyway. Verse 2: Walking around down by Lake Ontario. Verse 3 and the Bridge: go on to talk about the coldness of adjusting to newly found anonymity.
I would say though, that the overall sentiment of "Back Lane" is one of optimism. When it came time to start playing it with the band, we thought it would be fitting to end the song with a cathartic guitar solo. That's how it feels whenever we play it.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the EP right here!
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