Eric Krewson started his band the Chairman Dances just after completing a musicology program in 2010. Around the same time, he was experiencing what he calls a spiritual reawakening, and themes of faith found their way into his songs. “The lyrics from the start had to do with what I was reading: fiction that has to do with faith, especially Marilynne Robinson,” Krewson said. “But also theologians. William Stringfellow, [Walter] Brueggemann. … Those were the things that excited me, so I paired them with music that excited me.”
Krewson, a member of Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Philadelphia, describes the Chairman Dances’ sound as “rock and folk and whatever we’re interested in at the time.” He studied under a jazz singer and finds those elements in his work as well.
The Chairman Dances’ latest album, Small Comforts, was released in January. Krewson says the band tries to do something different with each album. This collection of songs is presented as a series of short stories. “Rather than sitting down and writing lyrics and music at the same time … I was starting with the text and setting the text to music,” he said. “So on our album, it’s a number of free-verse poems specifically and short fiction. I think that’s maybe what makes this album unique.”
The song “Alone at Waverly” is written from the perspective of an older man who has recently moved to an assisted living facility after his wife has died. “It was inspired by dear friends of mine who are a bit older,” Krewson said. “I met them in a church basement at a soup kitchen that they helped run.”
“A Year Spent Floating” was inspired by a weekly online evening prayer liturgy Krewson and his wife attended. “I love the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours—I think they’re just beautiful,” he said. The song, about a specific evening prayer meeting, quotes the liturgy and involves a character named Jason sharing during a time of intercessory prayers.
In “Margaret,” a single mother-to-be hosts her own baby shower with three other attendees, one of whom offends the other guests. “What I like about it musically, my part, is I’m mostly playing 18th-century classic voice-leading and harmonies,” Krewson said. “I found it compelling to set music to.”
The narrator of “Everything Slant” has one day off of work each week, and instead of using it to rest, he drives around town. On autopilot, he arrives at the house where he grew up. He parks and remembers what it was like to live at the house.