Faultlines Prepares to Release Their New Folk Album, “Bittersweet Revival”
By: Shane Gallagher/Special to TRT—
Ashley Morgan and John Flanagan make up Faultlines, the dynamic modern pop folk band with a unique sound that combines tight harmonies that warm like the California sun with lyrics that speak to the gritty, universal inter-human experience. One of their most popular releases, “Rain,” was written in the days following the 2016 election. It highlighted the collective trepidation John, an out musician, and Ashley felt after the U.S. elected an openly racist, nationalist, and sexist candidate to its highest public office.
Donald Trump’s policy record and the public outcry from members of America’s more marginalized groups—including the LGBTQ community, BLM members, immigrants and POC—has made the message of the song even more relevant through the years. It is the reason the duo chose to re-release “Rain” before the election.
We spoke with the rocking duo from their home in Los Angeles as they were putting the finishing touches on their next album, Bittersweet Revival.
Q: How confident are you guys feeling that Biden will win the presidency?
Ashley: If 2016 is any indication, we have to ignore the polls and get out the vote. The past four years have encouraged division and sown deep, unexposed bias and privileges sleeping next door on every American street. Fear rules the day. People vote differently when they’re scared. That said, I have never seen a push for voter registration like I have in the past few months. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Q: Do you believe Trump when he says he is a friend to the LGBTQ community?
John: I believe that Donald Trump was elected at the first time in American history when Gallup polls indicated more citizens supported marriage equality than didn’t. I think that for the first time in an American election, it was safer for a candidate to support gay rights than to oppose them. He wagered correctly, and it paid off. Look no further than his policy on trans rights in the military to see how his friendship is playing out.
Q: What are your thoughts on gays who support Trump?
John: Parents of small children still keep guns in their homes after knowing accident statistics and risks. Religious leaders voiced their support for Trump even after the Access Hollywood tapes. It’s easy to be manipulated into acting against your own self-interests if you haven’t been taught to think critically. Who you vote for is private information—unless you choose to put a sign in the yard or write albums like we do—and I love even the American’s who voted for Trump. I hope that people can learn to love others and themselves when they show up to the voting booth in November.
Q: Ashley, what are your thoughts on women who support Trump?
Ashley: Even among all the scandals and the way Trump talks about women with such misogynistic disrespect, I don’t quite understand how people can still make excuses for him and vote against their own interests. At what point has he gone too far? Where is the line?
Q: Does it make you feel safer that he has nominated a woman to the Supreme Court?
Ashley: Representation is important but I worry that the new justice may help to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is my personal belief that women should have the right to their own reproductive health. We don’t know each individual story of what a woman is going through and it’s unfair to force blanket laws that shame women and then do nothing to take care of mothers after birth. The point is that every woman should have the right to choose and that right doesn’t affect anyone else’s rights. I hope ultimately whomever fills that seat won’t be biased to their own personal beliefs, but will consider the rights of all Americans and how women of all walks of life are affected.
Q: As a folk/pop duo, do you worry your strong political views may turn away some fans? Folk music tends to lean republican.
John: Folk music has strong roots in civic advocacy. Looking at artists like Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthry, and East Village 1960’s types, I would argue that folk music skews democratic even if people miss those messages. Folk is the music of the people. For each fan that we potentially turn away, I have experienced another whose mind was opened and whose heart was changed.
Q: What lessons have you learned from the Dixie Chicks (now Chicks)?
Ashley: Their music and their recent decision to change their name demonstrates how true they’ve remained to themselves despite the consequences of early cancel culture.
Q: Is all of Bittersweet Revival politically driven? What other topics do you explore in the album?
John: Bittersweet Revival is largely political, but we can’t escape our affinity for songs of love and loss. Heartbreak is our favorite subject, and songs like “Cry,” which comes out in November, explore this theme. “Love Supply” and “Heartfire,” which can be found wherever you stream music, are about longing. We mix up our subjects quite a bit.
Q: Are you the Will & Grace of folk music?
John: We are more the Jack & Karen of folk music.
Q: Are you single, John?
John: Who’s asking? Is he cute?
Q: How have you spent your time in quarantine?
Ashley: In music, there are times of feast and famine. At first, we kept our heads down like most musicians and waited to see how long this would play out. As weeks turned into months, we found our voices in advocacy—the BLM Movement, immigrant rights, voter registration—and in song writing. As difficult a time this is for creation, we have poured ourselves into making beauty out of pain.
Q: What are your hopes for 2021?
Ashley: A vaccine, a new president, and a lot of healing. We need to learn to listen to one another again, to choose compassion over being a Karen.
Q: Why is it important that fans make their voices heard at the polls?
John: It’s hard to feel as though your voice matters in something like a presidential election. 2016 saw around 138 million Americans casting their ballots. How do you feel like you’re making a ripple in so large a pond? Our message is that change starts at the community level. Be an advocate for your neighbors, for the causes you care about. Your example gives strength to others. Your voice may feel small, but adding it to chorus is powerful. You are powerful.
Visit http://www.faultlinesofficial.com. Follow them on Instagram at @officialfaultlines.