Behind The EP: P.J.M. Bond's Big Two-Hearted River: Part II

Keavin Wiggins | 07-21-2023

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P.J.M. Bond News EP cover July 21, 2023
EP cover

P.J.M. Bond released "Big Two-Hearted River: Part II", a special EP with three songs inspired by Ernest Hemingway's "In Our Time" today to coincide with the legendary author's birthday. To celebrate, we asked P.J.M. to tell us about the EP. Here is the story:

"Allow me to introduce myself: my name is P.J.M. Bond, a songwriter based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For years I dreamed of putting a literary work to music, and after writing my MA thesis on the work of Ernest Hemingway, I realised that his short-story collection "In Our Time" (1925) would be perfectly suited for such a project. I set to work and wrote a song for each of the 17 stories included in the volume. An elephantine task if I may say so, and one that had its very own unique and peculiar challenges. Although I did not have to think of a track listing (after all the order of the stories in the century-old volume was set in stone), I still had to consider the mood for each song and how they fit each individual story, and more importantly, the complete album had to be listenable as a single fulfilling musical piece, even if you had never heard of Hemingway before.

I proudly present to you this EP of three songs taken from my own "In Our Time," due October 6th, 2023. Symbolically, the EP is released on Ernest Hemingway's birthday, July 21st. In my mind, these three songs are perhaps the most successful in carrying the weight of the author's story, while simultaneously standing on their own as proper songs. A listener living in ignorance of Hemingway's existence could even be tempted to write a short story based on them if they liked (now there's a plot for a postmodern nightmare). The lead single from this EP is "Big Two-Hearted River: Part II," arguably Hemingway's most famous story. In it, the protagonist - Nick Adams - travels into the Michigan woods for a much needed fishing trip. Although the war is never mentioned, it is clear that Nick has come down with some sort of PTSD from his experiences at the frontlines of World War I. In this story, nature is the great equalizer, offering a constant quietude and a resilient force that shan't be bothered by man's folly. Nick fishes, puts up his tent, makes some food, prepares an onion sandwich and smokes a cigarette, and regains control over his life by imposing structure and discipline on these small actions.

Although I had the melody and guitar riff for "Big Two-Hearted River: Part II" lying around for quite some time, the lyrics just wouldn't come to me. They never felt quite right. That is, until I FaceTimed with Lily Morcos, a Hemingway scholar, who I met at the Hemingway conference in Paris, in 2018. She suggested "Big Two-Hearted River" was really about "the big exhale," and there it was! Boom, I borrowed Lily's phrase, set down to write the rest of the lines, which easily flowed through me this time and the song was finished. Fingerpicked acoustic guitars, light percussion, piano and a bass guitar, my own vocals and a blues harp, and that's it. Although the rest of the album includes strings, flutes and other instruments, I felt this one needed a more rustic and rural quality. I recorded the acoustic guitars in a log cabin in the middle of the woods (where I isolated myself to finish writing the record, fine tune lyrics and demo some tracks), and already, the essence felt right, and it became clear that for this track there was no need to distract the listener from the song/story's simple and universal message.

All in all, I had some big shoes to fill, but I am convinced I did this to the best of my abilities, and in a true and honest way, all the while respecting the source material, the author, but also the great art of music. Hopefully, "Big Two-Hearted River: Part II" succeeds in elevating both music and literature, and helps to explore the boundaries of both art forms. My personal happiness is guaranteed if the song somehow reflects Hemingway's legacy, and you find yourself transported to the lakes and woods of Upper Michigan, undisturbed by the demands of society, and quietly fishing away. Enjoy!"

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself below and learn more about the EP here

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