Queer country act Secret Emchy Society's new album The Chaser, out this Friday, May 15, brings more music and meaning from a West Coast Americana act described by No Depression as "equal parts June Carter Cash, Nick Cave and Murder By Death."
Album cut "Hell is a Hard Place" depicts life on the road through the lens of singer Cindy Emch and her bandmate's personal experiences.
"You have the most intense and intimate relationships with your road dogs but at the same time everyone is still pretty isolated and lonely being away from their partners and families," Emch says. "This was me trying to tap into a little of that. I started writing this song when I was watching a pair of friends break up and it seemed like they were hurting each other just because they could. That was where the first line - 'Hell is a hard place to take a man just to prove a point' showed up. From there it became a song about band relationships. How we hold each other's dreams in our hands on stage every night, about how you roam and ramble and have these wild rowdy adventures but we all go to bed alone on tour. Touring is one of those things."
Emch shared a longer, more detailed explanation of the song and its influences for today's (May 13) premiere:
The first line of this song came to me when I was out on tour in Brooklyn, about to play Karen Pittleman's (Karen & the Sorrows) Queer Country Quarterly and my amazing guitarist was hurting about a relationship recently gone wrong. It brought out my protective side and I was thinking - hell is a hard place to take a man just to prove a point. So that was the jumping-off point for the song. Holistically though - it's about that strange sense of isolation and camaraderie that comes from touring, from being with people 24/7. Sharing stages, couches, getting lost in new cities together, you end up forming your own language as a band, as a family - but at the end of the night you all still end up going to bed alone. That loneliness of the road can still just grab hold. I think that happens to all of us out in the world too. Sometimes I feel, especially when I'm out on the road and so often staying with strangers, like everyone else is cooler, other people always know the right thing to say, other folks always know how to have a good time and there's me, stuck in my head again. So... it's about heartache, chosen family, loneliness, touring, and still sticking together through it all.
The strongest influences on this song were definitely Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, Shovels and Rope, Neko Case, and David Lynch - yes, the filmmaker. One of the theories I had about the sound of this album was that every song should sound like it would be appropriate in the background of a David Lynch spaghetti western film. That was an easy cultural language for the whole band to get on board with. Then I just kept playing my Waylon / Buck Owens station on Pandora for eight hours a day at my job and I feel like the right musical landscape wrote itself into my subconscious while I was practicing the song and working with the band on arrangements.