Philadelphia’s rising guitar-rock stars Empath have shared another single from their forthcoming album Visitor (Feb. 11, Fat Possum), one of Paste’s most-anticipated 2022 releases. “Passing Stranger,” out now alongside its music video, is the third single from the band’s Active Listening: Night on Earth follow-up after “Diamond Eyelids” and “Born 100 Times.”
Where Empath tracks are typically upbeat and guitar-driven, “Passing Stranger” finds the band opting for more of a mid-tempo synth haze. Catherine Elicson’s vocals strike a bittersweet balance between nostalgia and disillusionment as she sings, “At 17 you heard she had a child / In a few years she would overdose and die.” It’s her next lyric, though, that sums up “Passing Stranger” in a sentence: “When you go back, you can’t unsee / and remembering is like pulling up weeds.” The track’s spacey synths and guitars reinforce its feelings of being unmoored and afloat through memories made painful by time’s passage.
Elicson recalls how “Passing Stranger” came together in a statement:
The beat was inspired by druggy Velvet Underground drums, on top of which Randall began improvising a heavy tremolo on his synth. One of the slowest songs we’ve ever written without an abrasive moment. We finally got to do a fade out. This song was written in a similar way to “Diamond Eyelids” i.e. collaging together memories. This time I pieced together different memories from my childhood, some idyllic, some difficult, but as if it were a story about someone else returning to their hometown. The melody of this song was actually in a really old iPhone voice memo that I had made and forgot about. When I re-listened to it after a year or so, I was like, “Damn this is catchy, I gotta finish writing this one.” I also wanted a song where I could bust out my sweep picking in a non-cringe way. I hope to be considered at the vanguard of sweep picking in pop music, thank you.
Elicson adds of the “Passing Stranger” video, which she directed and edited:
This video was shot in my apartment in one night. Garrett had ordered a bunch of candles online. We bought some supplies from the deli across the street and also a box of wine. We set up a bunch of colorful lights and props in my studio room and improvised most of the shots. The outdoor scenes were taken on the roof once we needed some fresh air. We ordered Indian food and didn’t really feel like working on the video anymore after eating, so I did a few shots alone and we called it a night. The video was shot by Halle Ballard on iPhone 11 at a high frame rate and on a DV camera. I edited it over the holidays on a copy of premiere pro cc that I have access to via my friend’s login she had when she worked for a documentary filmmaker. She hasn’t worked with him for a couple years though, so I’m grateful the login still works.
Watch the “Passing Stranger” video below and see Empath’s upcoming tour dates further down. You can preorder Visitor here.
Empath Tour Dates:
19 – Ottawa, CA @ Club SAW ~
20 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz ~
21 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair ~
22 – New York, NY @ Brooklyn Made ~
23 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts ~
24 – Washington, DC @ Union Stage ~
25 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls ~
26 – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups ~
28 – Detroit, MI @ Shelter ~
(~ w/ Fucked Up)