Not really a band in the traditional sense, Atlanta-based music act Drawing on Scars is the creative brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Thacker, who for more than a decade has collaborated with vocalists from across the U.S. and beyond in the creation of dramatic and edgy alternative rock songs. Will writes and performs all the music, and the different vocalists write the lyrics, which they then interpret in their own distinct vocal style. The result is an ever-changing music repertoire that always sounds fresh and unique.
After putting the act on hiatus in 2017, Will formed the band Fieldcrest with vocalist Jena Jones, and together they released an EP Canvas (which I just happened to review four years ago today). He resurrected Drawing on Scars in early 2019, and has been on a creative tear since then, dropping an impressive number of singles. His most recent collaborative effort has been with South African singer-songwriter Jodie Reid, a prolific artist from Johannesburg who’s released four albums of her own since 2019, at the rate of one per year! The two began collaborating by long distance in 2020, and released their first single “Here Comes Some More” that November. They followed in April 2021 with “If Only For a Little While”, and “Take It” (which I also reviewed) that August. All three of those songs are included on their new album A Bridge Across the Sea, which dropped September 30th.
Most of the songs on the album can best be described as melodic hard rock, tinged with elements of grunge, alternative metal and even power pop, and delivered with Will’s driving rhythms, scorching riffs and thunderous percussion. While these songs fall generally within Drawing on Scars’ typical music style, they’re a considerable departure for Jodie, whose solo music is more folk and soft-rock oriented. But she does a fine job as both a lyricist and rock singer, with a sound somewhat similar to that of Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams.
The album title A Bridge Across the Sea seems to reflect not only the long-distance connection between the two artists made possible by the internet, but also the themes of many songs, namely trying to hold onto one’s mental well-being, sense of self-worth or struggling relationships amidst breakdowns in communication, trust and/or identity. On the opening song “Desire” Jodie emphatically sings of her unrelenting and insatiable sexual hunger that’s overtaken her existence: “My self-control is crumbling, no matter how I hold it. I want it, I need it, I won’t accept defeat. Keep pushing, I crave it, as soon as I’m ready I’ll grab it and I won’t ever let it go. Take me to the edge and push until I break (let’s see how far I go) Down on my knees I’ll do whatever it takes.” Will’s jagged riffs serve to reinforce the emotional fire contained in the lyrics.
“What Day Is It” finds Jodie feeling lost and at the end of her rope: “I could have turned back. Retraced my steps. But that seemed like too much effort at the time. I just wanted to escape parts of myself.” And on “Encode“, she sings of the walls she’s built around her for self-protection: “And so you poke and prod to discover what makes me tick. You’d have me cuffed and caged, and treated like a lunatic. And when questioned I would stubbornly shake my head. I don’t want to share my secrets with you.”
The haunting and lovely “Bitter and Sick” is a cover of the original song by L.A. duo One Two, from their 2012 release Best Friend EP. Whereas One Two’s version is more ethereal and atmospheric, Will and Jodie give the song an edgier treatment, with heavier instrumentals and stronger vocals that become most pronounced in the dramatic chorus, while still retaining the song’s deeply emotional vibe. The lyrics seem to speak of a toxic relationship from which the singer cannot free herself: “Come on and break me down. I’ll let you ruin my day. Flow through my veins. I need a fix. Bitter and sick.”
The next few tracks are both hard-hitting and deal with dysfunctional relationships. “You Ran” speaks to a partner who just couldn’t be counted on, and I love these lines which really cut to the chase: “To be honest we were never meant to breathe the same air. Cause whatever I gave you stole from me and left me there.” And on “Take It“, Jodie rails against an indecisive partner who’s unable to ever choose a course of action or direction to take, causing them both frustration and ennui as they lumber along without direction. “Weighted down to your knees as you drag your feet along. And all questions are avoided with a shrug. Whatever’s easiest for you. Given time you just might drop that burden to the floor as you march alone unencumbered, but you’re weighing down on me.” It’s a terrific rock song.
“Broken Photo” touches on the perils of trying to be someone other than who you are, and living a superficial existence in an attempt to impress others. Jodie uses social media references to drive home her point: “You could have been so great, you might have been so grand if you had taken time to focus on the tasks at hand. Instead, you framed yourself a picture-perfect life. On display to show the socials, but didn’t even get a like.” I really like the song’s chugging rhythms and super-grungy guitars.
“Elephant” tackles the proverbial elephant in the room, namely how many people are afraid to speak honestly for fear of being harshly judged, even when we need to call out injustice or wrongs: “There’s an elephant in the room. Can you sense all the space in the conversation? Best eluded to keep the peace. Avoidance is encouraged by our generation.” This song strongly resonates with me, as I will not keep quiet about a lot of shit going on in America and the world, and it appears both Will and Jodie agree with me: “I can’t stay quiet anymore. Silence will not stop what’s in store. I will not roll over sweet submission. Forces will ensure that we learn our lesson.”
My favorite song on the album is the poignant “If Only for a Little While“. Jodie wrote the deeply moving song after the sudden passing of a close family friend, as a way of helping her process her feelings of grief and loss. Her vocals are heartfelt and tender as she laments “Cold down to the core of whatever’s left. I’m just matter lying still – hands on my chest. How I wish I could cry – let it all escape. Instead, I’m completely broken not even able to break. Lie me down, I’ll be right by your side. And I will hold onto you if only for a little while. Now you’ve gone, you left us all behind. But we will hold onto you if only for a little while.” The mournful piano and strings are beautiful and haunting, but also contain glimmers of hope.
The album closes on a high note with “Here Comes Some More“, a splendid nod to 90s grunge. I’m not certain, but the lyrics seem to be about someone who always needs to win, to be right, to be the best, yet never changing their approach, nor ever feeling fully content with themselves: “Every breath that you fake – you take it too hard. Each time, you start to lose faith, just to see if you’ve still got it in you (Well we all know you do). But you’ve been there before. You take a swing in the same old fight, hoping maybe this time you’ll strike true. The way you did before.” Jodie’s confident vocals are especially good on this track.
A Bridge Across the Sea is a fine debut effort from two very talented artists. Though they come from totally different environments, with divergent music styles and backgrounds, Will and Jodie have successfully managed to ‘bridge’ those differences to collaborate in the creation of a solid, well-crafted and compelling work.
Connect with Drawing on Scars: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Connect with Jodie: Facebook / Instagram
Stream her music: Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube