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Away and back again: Frank Schweikhardt

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Album artwork for Schweikhardt's latest album,  Kitchen Table.  - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Album artwork for Schweikhardt's latest album, Kitchen Table.

Frank Schweikhardt's second studio album Kitchen Table is big-eyed and hushed; an honest, simple dip into the steady perceptions of this Midwestern musician.

Standout tracks include "Motel," with its soft pick electric guitar, paced percussion and lulling space between lyrics. The track sets the album's precedence, seems to take us back, give us the perception of our world before us with this steady beat toward some sort of understanding.

Kitchen Table keeps us driving, rocking back and forth with a sense of speeding down an open road. That open road is a constant character in Schweikhardt's life as a former tour bus driver, and thus a character introduced to us, his listeners. Third track "Marble Mountain" alludes to Vietnam, where the artist spent six weeks stacking mile upon mile on a motorbike. "I walk through the valley / Was it the shadow of death / You walk through the valley / It was something like death." The track asks the listener to curl into the coaxing hush of deep vocals, feel these extra miles away, the depth in repetitive lyrics. "Budapest" is similar, but more upbeat, a churning track contrasting the similar, sleepy vocals. "Woke up slow on the train / Looked out for an hour / Didn't brake, the ground was rolling."

But tracks like "Cottage Grove" bring us - the Midwesterners - home, all those miles spinning back on themselves to present the front porch, the kitchen floor, maybe the familiar kitchen table. "You should come down to my town / It's not too far / We can sit on the front porch or walk around." The lyrics are repetitive, like the others, but there's something less sure about them: like being at home, living in this familiarity, causes a yearning for an "other." The journey is over: here is my front porch, here is my Indiana (no surprise either that Cottage Grove is a road in Schweikhardt's current home of Bloomington).

The familiar electric guitar picking builds up, ascends momentarily into a full gasp of sound, a revelation from the previous thoughtful pluckings. It yields a disconnect from what is being said and what is being felt: how very Midwestern. This assurance of sound yields an assurance of emotion, that these hushed words meant something, they mean something.

And the album, appropriately, convenes at "the end of the road." Final track "The Kingdom" strums to a melodic halt in its center, but a raspy, hushed Schweikhardt creeps in, tells us that "like a wheel in the mud, it won't go." The consistent strums, tapping along percussion, yield this sense of continued repetition. The rolling of the tire.

Kitchen Table is full in its empty space: the space between words, beats, strums; the space between people, between here and home. It's Schweikhardt's journey to find that space and feel it, to give it to you to feel it too. Lean into that open air.

Here's a few selections from our conversation with Schweikhardt.

NUVO: This week I've been getting into the new album. And I've been interested in this concept of "staying" or "going" which I feel is encased in your album title Kitchen Table.

Frank Schweikhardt: The title of the album has been around for a long time. I was really wanting the title of the album to be something that everyone related to in a personal way. Like those words are going to evoke some sort of meaning to anyone. With those songs, it sort of felt like there was a communal essence to those words, what a kitchen table is. The past four years, I've been gone a lot. It is something like the contrast between this intimate thing and then what it means to be part of that and what it means to be away from that. The songs stem from the contrast. I probably settled into that like three years ago and I actually haven't thought about it completely since.

NUVO: Yes, I read that you spend a lot of time away. You spent six weeks in Vietnam on a motorbike!

Schweikhardt: I spent six weeks in Vietnam, yeah. I bought a motorbike and traveled about 1,800 miles or so. I was in Southeast Asia for five months. After that, I did some traveling around Europe. There's definitely a lot of influences on the album from those travels. From like the grand ideas, the perspectives that you get from travelling. One of the tracks in the album alludes to Vietnam, "Marble Mountain." It's really personal stuff. You have these things you put on records, like really personal stuff.

NUVO: So [did] this traveling between your first and second album affect the way the second album came out?

Schweikhardt: My last album was a lot more inward - - focused. And intentionally on this album, the root of the songs is more inward, but these songs express themselves more through outward experience. And I think it's definitely related to what I've been doing the last few years and the place I've been in. The way I've been living has affected the way I think about writing.

NUVO: What is it about the Bloomington music scene that makes you stay?

Schweikhardt: Living in Bloomington, it feels like there's a lot of support and there's a lot of encouragement and a lot of people doing similar things. There's a lot of camaraderie. Specifically with this album, there's about five or six people that play on the record. A full band album. If I didn't have those guys to play with, the music wouldn't be very good. For me, without Bloomington, this album wouldn't be possible to do. A lot of people want to put in the time, actually want to pull together. It's an easy place for that to happen. Everything is easy here in a way.

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