History can be a tricky thing. It’s often referenced as “being written by the winners” but that ol’ bit of homespun knowledge overlooks how there’s always something more, a b-side to history’s greatest single. This is where the dark, American Gothic sounds of The Payroll Union come into play.
The band’s history is akin to a travelling troupe that changes members during the first years of the journey, until gelling into a somewhat solid (but not entirely cemented) monolith that moves as a landslide. Kinda like Dr. Who and his companions, but with less hanky panky and more sweet notes of Americana rock.
Their first EP, Underfed & Underpaid had songs about witch trials, family killings and the infamous Trail of Tears. 2011’s Your obedient servant was their second album, recorded at the great 2fly Studios, was both lyrically and musically stark, with nary an upbeat moment. Such is the dark side of history and the faster we are at peace with that, the better. Highlights from this second EP are ‘Jake the Pistol’, ‘1826’ and my personal favourite, ‘Julia died of cholera’. Again, all are short stories based on actual facts from American history.
Their first album was 2013’s The Mule & The Elephant, perhaps lighter in some parts (or is it?) but still chock-full of both obscure and popular facts from history. Particular highlights are the stark ‘South’, the wistful ‘Hard times’ and a re-telling of a duel called ‘Through the trees.’
Currently working with a second album in conjunction with the University of Sheffield’s History Department, The Payroll Union continues to strive into popularising a love for history whilst still keeping on sight that history is highly subjective and never objective.
If you are attending Tramlines 2014, do not miss The Payroll Union‘s gig. Main Stage, Sunday 27th, 2:30 Pm.
Want to contribute to their new album? Here’s a lil’ Pledgemusic campaign you might want to look at.
Previous coverage of The Payroll Union.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.