Analogue Music | Daring & Comfortable: Behind Unwed Sailor's 'Look…

Daring & Comfortable: Behind Unwed Sailor's 'Look Alive'

By Johnathon Ford

'Look Alive' was an adventurous album to make.

We were constantly navigating into new musical worlds. The album is about pushing what you perceive as your creative boundaries and challenging what you believe you can create. The songs take Unwed Sailor into previously unexplored territories, but oddly, these territories feel like a new home. Even with the new explorations coming into focus, familiar places and song structures would appear that created the perfect mix of new and old. Daring and comfortable.


The title suggests a menacing meaning, but in my reality, the word "glaring" is referring to a group of cats. Starting the album out with this juxtaposition of meaning was purposeful in that I wanted this new wave of Unwed’s musical personality to congeal with something that I love and find familiar and grounding: cats (especially my own two cats, Voodoo Roux and Veruca Salt).

The song, like most current Unwed songs, started with the bass line. I wrote the simple bass line in a matter of minutes, and I honestly thought, “How in the hell can I use this as an Unwed Sailor song?” To me, my years of listening to Joy Division and classic punk rock came screaming out at me through the bass line. These were obvious subconscious influences on this song. The rest of the instrumentation was then built in the studio.

I wanted a driving, punk, pop drum beat to really move the song and make it danceable. We then added short guitar solo bursts in the vein of The Grateful Dead and Johnny Marr into the choruses. This was the most perplexing idea in the song to me, but I’m happy with the results.

"Look Alive"

The song "Look Alive" represents freedom in movement and pure self-expression without overanalyzing. It’s about those life-affirming moments when you connect with your true self and abandon the constructs you’ve made to hold yourself in.

I’ve always found dancing to be a key conduit in finding the inward bliss that exists outside of the burdens we tend to build for ourselves. The idea of modern free-form dancing came to me immediately when thinking of a way to represent the music on "Look Alive" in video form.

These dancing aspects mixed with the timeless dance song structures of New Order (specifically the Substance album) and the haunting, mysterious visual elements of David Lynch films all contributed to the realization and making of the "Look Alive" video.

The song was such a trip to write. The first two bass lines you hear (verse and pre-chorus) are focused on the E string and have a heavy percussive vibe. They remind me of Helmet and Killing Joke. The bass line that starts the chorus has a slow, dark, ominous vibe that in a weird way reminds me of an early Metallica melody.

The bass melody and hook really kicks in when the lead bass line hits in the second section of the chorus. My love for Peter Hook from New Order is no secret, and his influence shines through in this section. This bass line also has a sped up Bedhead feel to it.

'Look Alive' cover art
'Look Alive' cover art

Put all these together, add drums inspired by Iggy Pop and Nine Inch Nails, some classic Unwed arpeggiated guitar lines, and some '80s-inspired synths, and there you have it, an Unwed Sailor song. This was the most challenging song in the record to get just right. From mixing to tracking to writing it feels like a big accomplishment in the Unwed Sailor musical canon.

"Camino Reel"

When I wrote the verse bass line for "Camino Reel," my first thought was, “There it is. My love for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin has finally come out to play!” After the Ned’s influence revealed itself, we spent a lot of time in the studio to create and achieve that joyously searing guitar sound that Ned’s got on the God Fodder album. I felt this really rounded out the energy and feel of the song.

The video for "Camino Reel" was inspired by the Ned’s Atomic Dustbin's "Grey Cell Green" video that I used to stay up late to watch every Sunday night on MTV’s 120 Minutes.

"Gone Jungle"

With "Gone Jungle (GJ Mix)", I wanted to expand on the mix and instrumentation from the original "Gone Jungle" track that we released in 2019 after the Heavy Age album was released. The original version was pretty much written in the studio, so once it was recorded, we were able to play it live throughout 2019. This allowed us to expand on more instrumentation ideas for the song and mold it into a newer beast.

The original "Gone Jungle" version was the first Unwed Sailor song where I really started experimenting with multiple bass overdubs. This new version of the song allowed me to expand by adding even more bass line overdubs in the mix. We also went in and tweaked specific tones on the drums and guitars. With these changes, I think we created a more realized and fulfilling version of "Gone Jungle."

"It also wraps up the idea behind the 'Look Alive' album: pushing your creative boundaries and challenging what you believe you can create."


"Retrograde" is the most obvious nod towards our 2019 album, Heavy Age. The song has an industrial grunge feel to it. Again, the bass was the first element of the song that was written. I celebrated my love for bass harmonics and huge distorted bass chords on this song. That mixed with distorted, grungy, almost bluesy guitars really makes this song stand out as the rebellious attitude driven song on the album.

"Spring Theory"

As we were re-mixing "Gone Jungle (GJ Mix)," there was a particular section in the song where we had every instrument muted except for the synths. The part sounded beautiful to me on its own, so I was inspired to create a song out of it. We eased some of the original guitars in and threw some underwater effects on them to create an other worldly guitar vibe that meshed well with the synths. The mood this track created was the perfect segue way into the album closer, "Haze."


"Haze" is the first Unwed Sailor song that I played all the instruments on. Vulnerability pushing past comfort zones was the idea. There are rhythms and sounds in the song that harken back to the Marionette and the Music Box album. I actually used some of the same instruments that we used on the Marionette album on "Haze".

My love for ambient and New Age music is a strong influence in this song. It’s an element of Unwed Sailor that I would like to explore more often on future records. I think Unwed achieved some great moments on our earlier ambient releases The Marionette and the Music Box and the Circles EP and I think "Haze" is the next step in that element of Unwed’s sound.

The song ends with me adding layers of my voice singing a vocal melody over the long instrumental outro. To me, this was the ultimate gesture of pushing yourself by using your voice to express yourself in an otherwise instrumental band. It also wraps up the idea behind the Look Alive album: pushing your creative boundaries and challenging what you believe you can create.

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