Colin Keenan goes with the flow of life (and death) in his beautifully grim new single and video riverrun — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
Arriving just in time for Halloween, the dark-hearted L.A. singer-songwriter’s latest release finds him in a reflective mood, with lyrics that surrender to the endless, inevitable human cycle of aspiration and defeat. Co-produced with mix specialist Michael James (New Radicals, Sammy Hagar, Edwin McCain, Jawbreaker), the starkly elegant song features Keenan’s soaring vocals backed by the emotive playing of Rick Musallam and Mike Olekshy on guitars, Joe Travers on drums, Hayley Jane Batt on bass and James on guitars, treated piano, string arrangement and fretless bass.
“Inspired by James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, riverrun takes a circular journey from life to death and back again,” Keenan explains. “Beset by images of gravestones and funeral pyres whose smoke rises to clouds and falls as rain, it is the never-ending return to the river that speaks to the necessity of hope and loss:”
“Run river run, over the stones
Pick through my grave, carry my bones
Out to the sea, the immigrant sands
Salt and the sun will know where I land
Burn on the beach, reach me to cloud
Turn me to rain, watch me come down…
Around and around and ‘round we go.”
Dubbed The Minister of Sinister by bassist Bryan Beller (The Aristocrats) for his dark-hued lyrics and cynical outlook, Keenan started his music career in Connecticut, where he played in various forgettable and rightly forgotten bands. After a series of clearly foreseeable failures, he entered Berklee College of Music in Boston as a bass player and composer, where he impressed absolutely no one with his skills. Fortunately, Berklee did provide a fertile ground for his latent songwriting skills, and he was soon writing and performing with Brad Fernquist (Goo Goo Dolls), Wes Wehmiller (Duran Duran), and film/TV composer Shawn Pierce, among others.
After graduating and moving to Los Angeles, Keenan fronted the seminal but notably disinterested band I, Claudius with Wehmiller, Travers (aka Frank Zappa’s Vaultmeister) and other session musicians. Following the dissolution of I, Claudius, he started the Mother Eff project with Musallam (Ben Taylor, Carly Simon), Beller and Travers. Their Are We Famous Yet album was met with critical acclaim, and featured guest artists such as Mike Kenneally.
Relying on his classical composition background, combined with Berklee’s jazz-infused palette — and an abiding love for the simplicity and lyricism of the American singer-songwriter tradition — Keenan soon turned to creating his own complex yet accessible music. “I try to blend the linear quality of classical with the more vertically stretched chords of jazz, but in a contemporary song structure. I only really care about the song — the rest is only how you get there.”