The End Of The Line: The Mendoza Line
The words "album" and "record" are often used interchangeably when discussing music, but the term "record" can indicate so much more. A record is also a document, an official artifact marking a place,The words "album" and "record" are often used interchangeably when discussing music, but the term "record" can indicate so much more. A record
is also a document, an official artifact marking a place, time, or event.
The Mendoza Line's "30 Year Low," then, is a record in all senses of the word. A collection of raw, honest tunes, "Low" intimately charts the end of principal players Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle's marriage. Following the completion of the album, the couple divorced after nearly a decade of writing music together.
Released Aug. 21 via Glurp, the country-rock menagerie is a party, a funeral and a memoir wrapped up in a pair of discs. The second disc in the "30 Year Low" package, "Final Reflections of the Legendary Malcontent," is a collection covers, demos, alternative and live versions of songs recorded throughout the band's history.
Bracy and McArdle took time out to answer Billboard's questions about making music one final time together.
Did you consider continuing the musical partnership despite the divorce?
Shannon McArdle: It would be too painful for me. I found so much comfort in having not only my musical partner, but my partner for what I thought was
life with me. I couldn't imagine touring now that we are not together. I can't imagine collaborating. I suppose you can never rule anything out entirely, but I think the body of work we made together worked because I
thought we were in it for the long haul.
Which tracks are the most revealing about your relationship together? Which ones are most revealing about the reasons for the divorce?
Tim Bracy: I don't think any are [revealing]. They are works of imagination. They don't have any special relevance to my personal life.
McArdle: Looking back, I think "Since I Came" is the song of mine that portrays most the sense of loss I feel. Though it was written on an entirely different subject -- the wife's pain over losing her husband, though hers dies -- her feelings of having and being nothing resonate with me now. That's not to say there are not extremely personal songs on the record. "Stepping On My Heels" is about my desire to have a family and thoughts that maybe one gets to an age that you have to give up touring or living on no
money. I certainly would have given up touring to have kids with Tim. But we didn't see eye to eye on that subject. To be honest, I've not listened to any of the songs in months because it would destroy me at this point.
What will be different about the music of your own individual projects compared to what you did with Mendoza Line?
Bracy: It's difficult for me to say at this moment. I'm not really doing anything different, just trying my best to write and record with my friends, and try to fashion something resonant and enjoyable in the tradition of
music I love. Obviously not working with Shannon is a huge challenge because she is so gifted. But I'm just going to try to persevere as best as I can, because frankly, I have no idea what the alternative is.
McArdle: It's not so much how my writing or singing style might change, but the context will be so different, seeing as it will be an album of all my work, not a collaboration with Tim. It's pretty daunting, but I am finally picking up the guitar again. Everyone says the end of our relationship and all of the anger, hurt, confusion, and sadness will make for incredible
material, but I have to say, I've been pretty paralyzed for the past six months since Tim left.
Was it emotionally cleansing or painful for you to make this record?
Bracy: I guess neither? I don't know. I like making music. I find it enjoybale and diverting. I wasn't really conscious of it being anything but enjoyable at the time. Recording a record is like a break from the problems of real life. But I can't say that I can really listen to it now, it puts me in an ill humor. So I guess there is something painful about it.
What went into the thinking of packaging "30 Year Low" with "The Final Remarks of the Legendary Malcontent?"
Bracy: Just fun. Something to lighten the atmosphere. A thank you to friends and mentors and influences and contemporaries and family members who have shared in this labor of love.
McArdle: I had nothing to do with any of the packaging. It was the first time since I've been in the band that I did not have any input. It's certainly not how I like to work.
In what ways is this album essential to Mendoza Line's legacy?
McArdle: I think the last record of any band or artist's career is pretty important. I'd like to think there's strong material on there too.
Bracy: Well, it brings together a lot of musical and emotional themes which sort of exist throughout the catalogue: aging; political, institutional and emotional disenfranchisement. The idea of trying to put together several different idiomatic musical styles which have influenced us in a coherent and enjoyable way, trying to employ humor and sadness to convey a really
honest and authentic statement, that's what we were always trying to do with the band. And I don't think we have faltered by making this a kind of last
What are your plans for the foreseeable future?
McArdle: I'm just recording when I can, song by song, hoping it will come together as a powerful and meaningful record. It's pretty scary for me, I
Bracy: I don't know. I'm just going to write songs and see what happens. Maybe I'll come up with something good, and if I do maybe I'll make a record of it. Maybe I'll play some shows. I am really not too sure of anything in my life at this moment, if that makes sense.