ep review / interview: animal parts – six arms to hold you

speakers in code garden party: animal parts

Toronto musician Joshua Cockerill — who performs solo and with a band as Animal Parts — came onto my radar about this time last year, when he played a couple of North Carolina shows with Scots Admiral Fallow and recently-visited Erin Rae and John Isaac Davey; he writes deeply intense and personal songs, often just accompanied by an acoustic guitar, and has in 2013 released two EPs: earlier this year,Other Rooms, and today the follow-up, Six Arms To Hold You. Six Arms To Hold You is a shimmering and electric ode to loneliness; opening track “Where The Heart Is” begins with the lyrics i made a home for myself in you / a cozy cave i like to go / midnight shelter when things weren’t my way / the more i see out there the less i say / home is where the heart is.  “Are You Man?” questions, plaintively, over a guitar melody that sounds like Gram Parsons and an echoing whistling accompaniment, whether the singer, or someone else, is enough for a woman. There’s an air of open desperation in the record, of promises made and promises broken — “Austin Pop Song” says i would buckle down, i would buckle down for you / if it’s not enough, i would go broke for you — and like Other Rooms, it’s incredibly intimate songwriting.The empty spaces, like the stripped down vocals + drums at the end of “the Grey Owl Call”, are as impressive as the full spaces. In six songs, Animal Parts takes apart your ideas of love, family, home, and puts them back together, and Six Arms To Hold You is one of the best EPs of this year.

You can stream the EP at animalparts.bandcamp.com.

Below, Joshua answers some questions about the EP and its genesis, touring the States, and a time machine show he’d like to see.

How are Other Rooms and Six Arms To Hold You related? How do they differ? Did you record both EPs at the same time, and if so, what made you decide to release the songs in two parts, instead of as a longer LP?

Both EPs were written at the same time, in a period of ten days, and I set out from the start to create two contrasting albums. The difference is in the performance. Other Rooms is quiet and naked while Six Arms is loud in comparison. Both deal with the same subject matter, separated at birth. Other Rooms was recorded first, in one day, and Six Arms took three days, but was recorded the same week.

You spent a lot of last year riding a bus around the US with your guitar. What lessons did you learn from that (both good and bad)?

my body has limits and is exceeded by my will to play music

What’s the most important songwriting lesson you’ve ever learned?

It may be specific to me, but I write best if I do it in concentrated pieces of time. I’ve spent a long time thinking about process, and I work best if I do it eight hours a day, every day. It’s like getting on a nice long bike trip, but when I stop, I might as well have punctured my tires. It’s important to me to make decisions in the moment, not leaving anything to be decided later, and songs are completed relatively quickly. 
 
Tell us one thing about this EP that we should definitely know when listening.

I was a man in motion. I had more questions than I did answers.

What inspires you to write and compose? Are there any other pieces of media — audio, visual, literary — that influenced this EP and Other Rooms?
 
They could be called “Animal Parts does America” part one and part two. The country was heavy on me at that time, and the friends I made have an undeniable handprint on the music.
I write because it’s a document of my motion. Not a map from point A to point B. Rather a log of my survival. 
 
When are you coming back to the NC? :))

It can’t come soon enough! I’m looking to tour in early spring of 2014 and North Carolina is right at the top of my list of priorities.

If you had a time machine, and could use it to go back in time and see one show you missed (something before you were born, a show you simply missed, a show you’d like to relive), what show would it be? (Or a band on a particular tour, etc.)
 
I’d go see Magnolia Electric Co play at the Local 506 in 2009. It would help untangle me.

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