Wednesday’s ‘Rat Saw God’ is a new entry into the Southern Gothic cannon

Listen to the story here

The band Wednesday stitch together the details of their lives with triumphant guitar riffs and tragic lap steel. They see the big by zooming into the small bits of life in and around North Carolina. Their new album is our Record of the Week, Rat Saw God. In it, Wednesday are authors of a new Southern Gothic.

To listen to a Wednesday song is to sit in the living room of a small house at the end of a long driveway on the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina and tell stories long into the night with lead singer Karly Hartzman. So that’s what I did.

“We only have these two rooms to take over. This is my sewing space and my tiny kitchen.”

The house looks like it could be its own thrift store. The walls are covered in a hodgepodge of doodles from friends and VHS tapes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I stopped at one part of the wall and there was a receipt from Party City in 2018. I asked Karly what the occasion was and she said that she didn’t know. It was just a receipt taped to the wall. It’s a place that is lived in and has its own stories. Just like a Wednesday song.

“I think people just feel seen by you opening your life up to them. And not trying to say some really profound truths that should apply to as many people as possible, but the little truths that people can find their own life in a different way.”

These stories happening in the South has meaning.

The fact that we are a band from Asheville, North Carolina is a really limiting factor, although I knew that I wanted it to be a defining thing for the band because I want to be a source of pride for where we’re from. People don’t have access to stories of the South necessarily in indie rock music.

Though there are stories like that in literature. Hartzman is an extension of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Conner or many of the Southern Gothic writers. The stories in Rat Saw God are ones that happened in and around the house that we sat in.

Quarry plays Somebody called the cops on Mandy and her boyfriend

“That’s Amanda down the street.”

When they busted in they found her house was a front for a mob thing

“Jake’s (MJ Lenderman) mom told me about a pizza shop in her hometown that was a drug front for the mob.”

That big ole riff comes curtesy of MJ Lenderman. Lenderman is a fantastic artist in his own right. Last year he released the great Boat Songs LP. And this year he just signed his own record deal. Hartzman and Lenderman are what make Wednesday so special. They also live together and are partners. And as we sat just feet from their bed, Hartzman described a special act of love that she does just for him.

“He’ll watch Formula One or something else on his computer as I go to sleep and we will just keep the light on. For me it’s a way to show love to him. That I’m like, ‘I will go to sleep with the lights on so you can watch your little show.’ I don’t know if that’s communicating to him that I love him but to me it’s so explicitly like, ‘I love you this much.'”

I like sleeping with the lights on
You next to me
Watching Formula One

“Formula One”

Hartzman says that the band owes a lot to one band in the region, Drive-By Truckers.

“They’re the kings of just good solid riff, and then the best lyrics you have ever heard in your life. It’s not complicated. That thing that Drive-By Truckers do so good is telling a story that is so sad it’s devastating. But you can’t tell why because they are just words talking about a night.”

“Why do you think that works for you?” I asked.

“Everyone’s life is so extremely painful and wonderful. Even the story of the best night of your life has pain in it. I think they are the best at expressing that.”

The best, until now. Hartzman with the stories. Lenderman with the hooks. Triumph and tragedy in the valley of North Carolina. Rat Saw God is a Southern Gothic classic.