Premiere: The Black Watch, ‘Georgette, Georgette’

The Black Watch (Photo by Brendan Holmes)
The Black Watch (Photo by Brendan Holmes)

Songwriting is not a competition, but it is frequently a challenge. And the irrepressible John Andrew Fredrick, who minds the store at the Black Watch, is always up for one of those.

Fredrick — novelist, English professor, obsessive — is on the cusp of releasing his 16th album in a three-decade run as the Black Watch. If that isn’t unlikely enough, consider: The album is titled “Witches!” even though he’s not particularly interested in sorcery; he conceived it as a dance album, although without drums; and he was supposed to quit the whole songwriting game a long time ago, if you’ve read his various threats (empty, as it turns out) over the years. “I think of it more as bowing out quasi-gracefully,” says the man who released a career retrospective five years and three albums ago, adding, “I’m concerned about me. Maybe I just can’t stop.”

His contrarian streak extends to “Witches!” itself, which doesn’t sound much like the Black Watch’s well-received 2016 album “The Gospel According to John.” Says Fredrick: “I imagined Syd Barrett joining New Order, who really are my favorite band — with just the kick drum, the 808 state or whatever it’s called, for the pulse. I hoped to make something as a sort of reaction against the shoegazey wall-of-sound that was ‘The Gospel According to John,’ which had just come out and had inexplicably done so much better than many of our other, earlier LPs had. Typical me: ‘Oh, that worked quite well, commercially and critically — now let’s get back to our roots in obscurity!’”

And there’s even a bit of that impulse in the new album’s first single “Georgette, Georgette.” He wrote the song on the fly at a party at the home of Rob Campanella (of the Brian Jonestown Massacre), who produced “Gospel” and 2015’s “Highs and Lows.” Fredrick met a woman named Georgette, who, upon learning he was a songwriter, challenged him to write one with her name in it. “She was very, very drunk, I recall,” Fredrick says. “I went into Rob’s studio control room and came out and played it for her maybe 15 minutes later. That sobered her up a bit, I shouldn’t wonder. Hers is such a perfect name for a song title anyway, isn’t it? I mean, Jolene has around a hundred songs about her, whoever she was or is. Now it’s Georgette’s turn. Here’s to imagining she’ll hear it on the radio and have a sort of deja vu. I mean, I never saw her again. Hi, Georgie. How’ve you been?”

“Witches!” is out July 27.

||| Stream: “Georgette, Georgette”

||| Previously: The Quixotic Adventures of John Andrew Fredrick