By David A. Mitchell
Communist Daughter Bridging The Gap
It’s always great to see a self-contained indie band thrive in this uncertain marketplace; a band that can navigate through challenging obstacles and come away even stronger.
Such is the case with Johnny Solomon: guitarist, singer, songwriter and leader of the Minneapolis-based Communist Daughter, which released its second project July 2012—an EP (Grain Belt Records), containing a compelling collection of six songs titled, Lions & Lambs. Of late, Solomon and his band have been on the grind, hitting dozens of cities including Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, New York City, Chicago, and on the Minneapolis home front.
With elements of country, pop and rock-alternative leanings, many of the songs featured in Lions & Lambs refer to Johnny’s past demons with alcohol addiction and the triumph of his near two-year sobriety.
“The EP is the jumping off point of where we get to introduce ourselves to people and fans. With it, I’m bridging the gap, because the EP contains a couple of songs of when I was still using, and a couple of songs when I was sober,” says Solomon. “It’s like the ying and yang of my life.”
No song more depicts Solomon’s struggles than the album’s opener, “Ghost,” the first he wrote while in treatment. “It rather summed up where I was in my life at the time,” he says. “I was accepting my humility and with ‘Ghost’ it gave me a bit of backbone.”
On “Speed of Sound,” Solomon puts us in the vein of Johnny Cash, musically, but it’s his honest lyrical delivery that listeners may find most intriguing: “Man I hate this town/So I’m looking for the only way out/And the life I wanted years ago is maybe not the life I should have found.”
Prior to the release of Lions & Lambs, was the 2010 full-length album, Soundtrack to the End. It was a critically-acclaimed debut; as hailed by the StarTribune, “a mostly acoustic, lo-fi but highly melodic and inventive folk-rock collection that falls in with modern taste buds somewhere between Bon Iver, Blitzen Trapper and Belle & Sebastian.’’ That is exactly the type of review any brand new band would love to read.
Initially Solomon formed the angular indie-Pop band Friends Like These in the mid 2000s where he toured the Minneapolis/St. Paul area extensively, but after bouts with mental health issues, alcoholism, and a stint in jail, a need for change became all too apparent. Solomon formed Communist Daughter, titled after the song by alt-rockers Neutral Milk Hotel, whom Solomon is a fan. “It’s kind of ironic to have a named based on another band,” he says, “but I saw the fit.”
Communist Daughter is comprised of fine musicians and loyal friends who struggled alongside Solomon: Adam Switlick, Al Weiers, Jonathan Blaseg, Dan Demuth, Dillon Marchus and Molly Moore, who is Solomon’s fiancé.
Molly has certainly been a ‘rock’ for him. “I met her while recording Soundtrack to the End. I was living in Wisconsin, and definitely down on my luck at that time,” he recalls. “Molly saw through a lot of it. Everything changed as soon as she started singing with me. I had a reason to get sober. Now, I write a song
and immediately take it to her. She puts her harmonies on top of it. Now, I can write knowing there’s great icing on top of the lyrics. It makes it easier for me, because no one wants to see a big bearded hairy guy in front of them all of the time!”
When discussing the rigors of being on the road and playing clubs, nightly, Solomon says, “I feel like I am a songwriter more than I’m an entertainer. I enjoy introducing people to my music and doing shows, but I do look forward to going home so that I can spend some time alone with my guitar, writing and recording music. But, I love what I do. It’s not a bad job if you can get it.”