Although Tucson is not an overt character in Bradford Trojan’s new album Meanwhile, the project may never have come to fruition if not for the city. The album was written and recorded over the course of three years, and marked a return to collaboration between college friends Trojan and Scott McMicken, founder of the indie rock band Dr. Dog.
“We’ve been through a lot over the course of the years, but there was a big break where I moved back to Tucson and Dr. Dog took off, and so we didn’t have a lot of chances to meet up unless it was at shows,” Trojan said. “So it’s been kind of spotty over the years, but then Scott ended up in Tucson and we got to reconnect in a lot of ways with our music… We weren’t even planning on an album at first, we just wanted to meet up and play, then we realized it was turning into a project.”
Meanwhile is a carefree album on its surface, skirting the pop, rock and folk spheres. It’s perhaps best described in Trojan’s own words as “music that feels fun and easy.” However, the lyrics contain deeper themes of polarity and opposites, something Trojan admits was a bit difficult to maintain over three years of recording. In fact, one year ago, the duo had what they thought was the finished album, but three of the songs didn’t quite fit with the original theme. This resulted in the album being reworked, and ultimately releasing during the current pandemic.
“Timing-wise, it just felt right to get it out there when we could,” Trojan said. “And if people can benefit from listening, then that’s even better.”
Trojan had always planned for an album release show for Meanwhile, and still hopes to perform the mildly psychedelic tunes to a live audience at some indefinite point in the future – perhaps fitting for the mellow yet cryptic songs detailing dissolving worlds, modern life and “undying.”
This blend is best exemplified on tracks like “Someone Unknown,” which features a simple acoustic melody becoming lost in hushed percussion and warbling reverb as Trojan sings "a million souls all alone, to be someone, to be unknown." The track “Modern Man” begins reminiscent of the jangle pop that Tucson once housed, before incorporating slide guitar into a surreal folky celebration. The entire project manages to balance being soothing yet existential.
Meanwhile was recorded at McMicken’s Press On Studio between February 2017 and April 2020, and released by Press On Records, which describes the project as “a kaleidoscope of styles and recordings that came together slowly over occasional hangouts between old friends… a lyrical cohesion began to develop that touches upon the paradoxical nature of truth and well-being. The negatives and positives are left to bask in equal measure in the enriching sunlight of eternal mystery!”
While the album is a Trojan project in name, McMicken’s influence is clear from the free-and-easy choruses and rhythms. Meanwhile unfolds like a box of joyous, weathered photographs.
“I feel like Scott brought this sound on the album that is so fantastic,” Trojan said. “And the songs that I brought into the project were morphed. Normally I can hit this pretty straightforward pop style, but with his hand in it, you can hear the McMicken sound or the Dr. Dog sound… He’s an incredible musician and songwriter. He’s just a master of the craft.”
Though not premeditated to be so, Meanwhile serves as an excellent companion album to Trojan’s 2018 release First Sunrise. This is most apparent from the tracks “Mrs. Moonlight” on First Sunrise and “The Return of Mrs. Moonlight” on Meanwhile. However, similar themes can be found on both albums, and their cover art even compliments each other, one with sunbeams and the other with stars.
While McMicken held more of a producer role, both men shared instrumental roles. The entire album was recorded analog, with the help of “old preamps, compressors, and effects.” The only computers involved were for mastering, performed by Nathan Sabatino at Hi-Dez Recording in Joshua Tree, California.
From one desert to another, the album maintains the warmth and timbre found in many familiar local styles: alternative rock, dream pop, folk rock and more.
“I always have to tip my hat toward Tucson in what I’m writing or creating in any form,” Trojan said. “With bands like Golden Boots, Calexico and Howe Gelb, there is a desert sound that comes through. I’m not sure if I can point to any one thing in my music, but the energy of Tucson certainly added to the vibe of this album. Tucson lends itself to creation being more expansive. I think it would have been a totally different album had we collaborated somewhere else.”