In the summer of 2003 I renovated and moved into a house that had been my great grandparents home for nearly 70 years. My great-grandmother had died in 1968 and my great-grandfather lived another 35 years in the house all by himself. And, now I was living in that same house. As I began writing new songs, I noticed that they were all built around a theme of early death and spousal separation. Everything I wrote seemed to be focused on this theme. While the songs on Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings are not directly based on my great-grandparents, I can’t help but feel there is a very strong connection between living in that house and writing these songs. There was never any intent to make a record based on these ideas. They just sort of came to me. I would sit and just write for a while and when I took a minute to look at what was on the page it almost always revolved around the idea of a marriage ending early because of a death.
These songs are not a history of my family, nor are they even based on events in that history. What this record really is to me is an example of twisting the idea of a love song. Taking the idea of love and making it something more than just sentimentality and romance. Adding the depth and character of real day to day life to it. There is heartbreak in this record and there’s triumph. I think the real story of these people and the power of these songs is in that stuff.
This record also marks the first official release where the band is billed as The Pantones. In 2000 I put out “Cosmic Americana” which was billed as a solo record. Then, in 2004 I released “Memory Is All” under the name Matthew Carlson and the Pantones. This time, we’ve have decided to take a more unified approach. David Baldwin has been involved since the making of “Cosmic Americana”, collaborating with me on both of the previous records. In the fall of 2004, we teamed up with Jacob McCarthy, Joel Kuiper (both of whom are also in the Gentleman Callers) and Paul Delamater (also in Dirt Road Logic) and within just a few weeks it was obvious that we were on to something special.
A myriad of influences appear in the thirteen songs on “Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings”, but it really feels to me as though the sound and aesthetic of the record is unique and original. I think we have found a way to combine our influences and tendencies into something that’s our own sound. We use a lot of the same tricks of the trade as any other band might, but we’ve found a way to put our own face on it. Those influences and tricks have conjured up comparisons to Wilco, The Jayhawks, Neil Young and many more. And, it’s wonderful to be mentioned in the same breath as people you admire, but at the end of the day you don’t want to be the band that sounds like some new version of another band. You want people to be excited because you sound like something they’ve never heard before, or because your songs speak to them in some unique way. I hope that we have been able to accomplish that with this record.