There are stories that float around Savannah about The Train Wrecks and how they earned their name.
The stories are always boiled down to a simple, probably reductive, yet true phrase, “back in the day, they were a train wreck.”
One of Savannah’s most prolific live acts, The Train Wrecks have been churning out alt-country ballads and anthems, hard-chugging stories about life and love, for nearly two decades. They were the party band at one time.
Frontman Jason Bible, however, has been clean and sober for years now. As the Train Wrecks have continued their hard-gigging lifestyle, Bible has also been spending spare time working on his own solo material. After two years, he’s set to release “Anicca,” a joint project with novelist William Sackler, the first week of March with four release shows.
The project will be released as both a novel and an album, the first acting as liner notes to the 10 songs penned by Bible and his longtime lyrical collaborator David Williams, as well as his side band The Rights.
Hat Light Studio
Walking through the portal-like basement door of Hat Light Studio, Bible’s home studio nestled discreetly on the islands, is transformative. The quaint little white house seems only a shell for the studio, which, without knowing that it’s in a house, looks like every other independent professional recording room in America.
There are a lot of guitars. They’re mostly left-handed (wrong way), to fit Bible’s southpaw style. Keyboards, organs, stacks of compressors, speakers, an image of Johnny Cash giving the finger, and Bible’s own personal ensign, the Texas state flag, dot the entire room. A rare photo of a young Bob Dylan hides behind a rack of guitars, like he’s waiting to be called on for inspiration.
Behind the studio computer monitor is a Panhandle Slim painting of a Johnny Cash quote: “I love songs about horses, railroads, land, Judgement Day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, domination, home, salvation, death, pride, honor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, tyranny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak, love and mother and God.”
Recorded entirely at Hat Light Studios, “Anicca” follows Bible’s adopted Cash mantra of telling the stories you know, in new and interesting ways that captivate and compel.
For two years, Bible and Williams have been exchanging emails. The novel was mostly finished when Bible came on board. He helped Williams edit and add in some comedy. From their conversations emerged an idea to pen a full album with each chapter of the book related to a track.
Billed as a “contemproary Southern Gothic tale,” “Anicca” is the story of a band of rural Georgians, peddling pills and battling with addictions while making their way through life.
“As we got to the end of it, he asked me, what if we did a song per chapter,” Bible recalled. “I remember titling the chapters. That’s how the songs all started to take shape.
“We discussed [the novel] being the liner notes to the album. The album being the soundtrack to the book. You can kind of read into where the characters are based.”
The word Anicca comes from the Buddhist doctrine of ti-lakkhana, the three basic characteristics of existence. Annica represents the impermanence of life, Anatta, the absence of self, and Dukkha represents suffering.
Bible recorded demos of the songs and then with the help of Savannah musicians Anna Chandler, Joe Nelson, Jeremy Riddle, Stuart Harmening and Jeremy Hammons, who make up The Rights, he began to suss out the arrangements.
“It talks a lot about addiction, from the view point of the addict,” Bible said. “Some of the stuff was kind of, where I did a couple vocals on the track and that was it. I was like, I don’t want to sing that again. The point of view that it’s from is this very desperate, kind of junkie.
“We got the test presses in. I listened to three of them and I had to leave the house and go on a drive. This is heavy.
“The pills are a weird thing for a lot of people, addiction wise,” Bible continued. “You get subscribed them for surgery. If you have an addictive personality, within three days, you’re like wow, I am writing songs, I am painting! You feel great. There’s no pain. There’s no aches. Having been through it, it’s something I never want to put myself through ever again. That’s kind of what we wanted to say with the thing, just tell that story of the perils of that world.
“[Sobriety's] enabled me to get a lot more clarity and purchase more guitars. That’s the needle in my arm now. The guitars. That’s the vice! Tea and nicotine gum and guitars.”
Through a connection at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bible hopes to take the album into detox and rehabilitation centers.
“The recovery side of things isn’t really in these songs very much,” Bible said. “The second one on the record, that song was probably the toughest. It’s a happy sounding pop song. It’s talking about subject matter that from that point of view, it was very difficult to get to. It says a lot in the four-minute time frame.”