Right around the time the Beatles broke up, Paul McCartney put out a strange record of improvisations, musical doodles and intimate ballads. That album, 1970’s “McCartney,” served as a sort of a rough draft for the more polished and accomplished works McCartney would release later, but it announced to the world that he refused to be defined by his three famous bandmates.
It might be an unfair comparison – after all, it’s McCartney we’re talking about – but Spokane native Erik Walters is taking that same route. His band the Globes, which was started in Spokane and flourished in Seattle, had just started heating up before dissolving in 2012. They were signed to Seattle’s Barsuk Records, which released the band’s 2011 album “Future Self,” and they had toured with the likes of Minus the Bear and the Dismemberment Plan.
Walters took the breakup in stride, immediately setting out to record his own compositions by himself – many of them were initially intended to be fleshed out as full band arrangements. “I just had these songs sitting around, and I felt like I needed to do something with them,” Walters said. “I needed to prove, mostly to myself, that I could make a record alone.”
Dubbing himself Silver Torches, Walters recorded an album, titled “The Living Fact,” and released it online this past July without much fanfare. “I didn’t really know what to expect, or if fans of the Globes would like it,” he said. “And I feel like a lot of people haven’t heard the album yet, which is kind of nice because it still feels new to me.”
Produced and engineered by Steven Aguilar (his credits include the Dave Matthews Band, The Head and the Heart and David Bazan of Pedro the Lion), “The Living Fact” is a mostly hushed, unhurried affair, and you can hear echoes of Nick Drake, Jeff Tweedy and Elliott Smith in the lilting, melancholy melodies and lush, pastoral imagery. It’s miles away from the twisty, proggy alt rock of the Globes.
Walters played most of the instruments on the record himself, occasionally enlisting his musical friends to fill in the gaps. Most of the record’s songs were written as he migrated between Spokane and Seattle, where he’d crash in the kitchen of his younger brother’s college house. “So a lot of the songs are about feeling stuck,” Walters said, “feeling lost and having anxiety about not knowing where you’re life is going.”
The recurring themes in the songs transform “The Living Fact” into a portrait of loneliness and longing. “Wooded Hill,” for example, conjures images of driving “lost and misguided,” and “Thinking of Her on Highway 90” swirls with memories of a far-away lover. But there’s also a glimmer of optimism in Walters’ writing, with tracks like “No Direction” embracing the bliss of being unshackled from responsibility.
Although Walters said he’s now focused on playing locally and regionally, the next chapter of Silver Torches is still uncertain. Because “The Living Fact” is without a record label or major distribution, Walters isn’t sure where the project will lead.
“The plan changes all the time,” he said. “Because I just threw (the album) out there, I really don’t know what will happen. Right now, I’m just trying to get my feet wet and enjoying making music for the sake of making it.”