Analogue Music | Good Old War

Good Old War

By Matt Conner

On a crisp Monday night in Seattle, an impressive crowd in an intimate venue told the story.

Throughout the entire show at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard, the crowd had cheered for and engaged with the headliners that night, but it was when Good Old War closed things out in the middle of the main floor that you could see the connection.

Armed with only an acoustic guitar, Keith Goodwin, Dan Schwartz and Tim Arnold performed several requests from the fans encircling them. Within that musical ring, it was easy to see and hear what makes the Philly folk-trio so special—an earnest songwriting approach that connects so deeply with the listener. On this night, the band could have stopped singing entirely and the loyal audience would have carried those melodies on into the night either way.

This has been a long and fruitful year for Good Old War. A series of EPs have kept new music flowing throughout and the band's tour schedule has carried them coast to coast and back again. This summer's tour run with original band member Anthony Green (front man for Circa Survive) helped them celebrate their 10 year anniversary even as they release so many new songs.

Analogue: You guys played through your debut album earlier this year to celebrate 10 years. How was it to revisit and reflect on the band's tenure?

I've come to the realization that there's very little chance of us writing some song that gets real lucky and picked up and we all become rich and shit like that. That's fine. If that ever happens, we'll see. But we just make songs because we want to make good songs.

Tim Arnold: A lot of it was about playing those old songs we never play, like "Stay By My Side." There's a few on there that we rarely play and it was fun to bust those out. It was definitely a nostalgic thing to play these songs that you haven't even heard in a long time, let alone to play them. But it was also seriously hard work on that tour, so there wasn't much time to reflect or think back or ponder the good old times because Keith [Goodwin] and I were opening the shows with the band we started Found Wild and we were closing the show with Anthony [Green] so it was insanity at all times.

Analogue: That's a lot of lifting in one night.

Tim: Yeah it was crazy. That was the craziest tour I think I've ever done. They were long drives with very days off, but it was good though.

Analogue: Was there some reflection outside of that? After all you've been together much longer than the average life span of a band.

Tim: Yeah, we've all thought, 'Wow, it's been 10 years. I can't believe we're still doing this after 10 years!' But that's immediately overshadowed and pushed aside by, 'Fuck, now what do we do? How do we keep this going?' You can't really rest on your laurels in this business. You have to keep moving forward. It's fun to look back at the good times. They were good, I guess. But not much time is spent dwelling on what was. It was fun to do that record and play those songs. It really was. But we just try to move forward.

Analogue: The other day I had a great conversation with a friend about all of the disparate styles of music he likes. He said if something was earnest, then he's all in. It felt a bit revelatory to me in that I agreed so much with that idea, and I think it helped even distill down a big reason why I love your music. It feels so earnest even 10 years in. Would you agree with that sentiment or do you disagree or agree with that description?

Tim: I would totally agree. I think that applies to any art, and I agree with your friend, too. As long as it comes from the heart and it's honest, I can appreciate it in some way, shape or form. It's pretty easy to spot the people and artists who are doing it for reasons other than the enjoyment of art. If you do it with good intentions and it's honest and it's coming from the heart I think that's huge.

Good Old War

I think we tend to do that. When we sit down to write songs, it really is just to make a good song. I've come to the realization that there's very little chance of us writing some song that gets real lucky and picked up and we all become rich and shit like that. That's fine. If that ever happens, we'll see. But we just make songs because we want to make good songs. We get pleasure out of that and we like it when other people like the songs. When it's coming from a pure spot like that, it'll be okay. It may not be some massive, crazy thing, but at least it will be like you said, earnest. It will mean something and not just be trash.

Analogue: Is that instinct difficult to maintain knowing there's an audience?

Tim: There have been times where labels or people have said, 'You should write a song like this because that's what the kids are liking these days.' We always naturally resist that shit. Sometimes if that's the vibe we're going for anyway, that's great. We can all try to make the majority happy, but when it doesn't come from us, those ideas never see the light of day. It's hard for us to fake it. So I don't even know if it's much of a thing for us. We don't have to try to be more earnest or more honest or more from the heart. That's just naturally happens because that's how we've always written songs.

Analogue: You guys are also playing with the format by releasing three EPs this year. Is this your version of experimenting with the industry and seeing how to navigate releasing music these days?

Tim: There are a lot of reasons we did it like that. We wanted to test how people receive music nowadays. It seems like it's a lot of single-based stuff. People move on pretty quickly, so in this way we thought we could just give them chunks of songs and have content coming out all year long. I feel like it's worked out pretty well.

We're supposedly putting together a vinyl package of all of them so eventually it will live as a full-length album. That should be cool. So we're trying to have our cake and eat it too, so we'll see how that works.

Analogue: We're nearing the end of the year, so I'm curious how you'll remember 2018?

Tim: Time for me is very strange. I have a very odd concept of it. I have a weak grasp of it. One, I've poisoned my brain for so many years that I can't remember shit. [Laughs] Time, as a longform thing, seems abstract to me. The good news is that we haven't stopped working, so that's good. We had a tour with Josh Ritter. There were other things. But we're still here, so that's good.