A Brooklyn Band Finds Inspiration In Stormy Seas

Apr 8, 2017
Originally published on April 11, 2017 2:23 pm

A couple summers ago, Sarah Kinlaw of the Brooklyn indie-rock band SOFTSPOT was on a boat off the coast of North Carolina with her father. A sudden thunderstorm swept in, disrupting the previously calm waters — and inspiring the song "Maritime Law," which appears on SOFTSPOT's new album, Clearing.

"We just kind of waited it out," Kinlaw says of that storm. "I feel like it's very symbolic, because growing up ... I looked towards my parents for guidance, for safety, for comfort. And the symbol of just being out with him in an unpredictable setting and something which he couldn't control — that was powerful to me."

Hear Kinlaw tell the story of "Maritime Law" at the audio link.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A couple of summers ago, Sarah Kinlaw of the band SOFTSPOT was on a boat off the coast of North Carolina with her father. A sudden thunderstorm swept in, and it inspired this song from the band's new album. It's called "Maritime Law."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME LAW")

SARAH KINLAW: I often go out on the water with my father because that's what he enjoys. It's something that we do together. It was a beautiful day. It was calm.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME LAW")

SIMON: (Singing) The unabated winds weren't in warning...

KINLAW: And it felt like all of a sudden waves were breaking. There's lots of wind. It was - it was scary.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME LAW")

SOFTSPOT: (Singing) But I feel they found me out, woke me from my sleeping as I felt my ship touch its east end down into the sea.

KINLAW: We just kind of waited it out. And, I mean, I feel like it's very symbolic, you know, because growing up obviously, well, at least in my case, I looked towards my parents for guidance, for safety, for comfort. And the symbol of just being out with him in an unpredictable setting and something in which he couldn't control - that was powerful to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME LAW")

KINLAW: I knew eventually that things were going to be OK, that we weren't going to get into any kind of super serious trouble, but to see him worried even for a moment really stuck with me, made we feel like a child again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME LAW")

SOFTSPOT: (Singing) Waiting for some kind of clearing, the kind that seeks me out, makes me feel I've earned it. Stood saint-like in prayer for some kind of mercy, but the sea said to me that it owes me nothing.

KINLAW: I think safety is something that I sometimes take for granted and something that when lost even for a few minutes causes an immense shift in perspective. And I think something that the song purposefully explores is what happens during that shift.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME")

SOFTSPOT: (Singing) Oh, like her. Oh, I sail alone.

KINLAW: So in the song, I find that when the element of safety is lost, you hear the song flip into more of a chant, more of a prayer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME LAW")

KINLAW: A lot of the work that I most often explore is really emotional. It's, like, psychological. It has to do with, like, feelings or perception. And in this case, it was a byproduct of something bigger, something more than just feeling. It's weather. You know, it's the boss.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARITIME LAW")

SIMON: Sarah Kinlaw of SOFTSPOT - the band's new album "Clearing" is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF , "")

SOFTSPOT: (Singing) There's a pool between the endless love that comes from me that keeps my arms and (unintelligible) and folding cards steady. And (inaudible)... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.