Formed in 2011, Teach Me Equals began and remains a showcase of an intense collaboration between its two members, New Jersey native Greg Bortnichak (cello, sequencing, guitar, vocals) and Floridian Erin Murphy (guitar, violin, keyboard, vocals). At the heart of their debut, Knives in the Hope Chest, is Murphy and Bortnichak’s shared affinity for writing along the edges and exploring the limitations of their instruments. “At no point in the record is there a moment that both of us did not develop together,” explains Bortnichak. Though the only instruments used in the making of the album are cello, guitar, violin – and, on a song or two, keyboard and Theremin – the album inhabits a massive space, one created through a meticulous recording process that included, at times, dozens of layered tracks. Informed and educated equally by the DIY/Lo-Fi scene – Bikini Kill, Unwound, Eric’s Trip, the Microphones – and classical composers and jazz musicians, Teach Me Equals blend the minimalism of punk and modern composition with the epic expressions of Wagner and Coltrane.
Inspired by the rawness and tactility of DIY classics such as Unwound’s Leaves Turn Inside You and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Teach Me Equals built an entirely analog home-studio, recording Knives to 8-track ¼” tape. The beats are all homegrown samples derived from effects pedal manipulations, electrical noises, and old metronomes. The band mixed the record themselves then had it mixed twice more: first by Steve Marion (Delicate Steve, St. Rich), and then by Joel Nanos (Rad Key, Mumford and Sons).
It feels like summer’s always a ways away / will you be taller? will you love me the same? / I wrote you letters but threw them all away / it feels like summer’s always a ways away
Track Name: Dictionary of Imaginary Places
I said I’m just a small town whore / with big city dreams as she whispered in my ear / don’t you forget them, boy; between you and me, we have nothing to fear / I’ve been waiting for so long for someone like you to come along / oh, I’ve been waiting for so long for you / bless the kids who grow up slow / I was never one of them so I fed pigeons to atone / for all the things that you’ve been blamed / like eating the fruit and holding the snake / but there was nothing at all I could blame you for / and maybe you’re the one that I’ve been waiting for / I’ve got to learn not to mind / at the cost of it not feeling right / and your pure little heart running suicides / I’ve been waiting for so long for someone like you to come along / oh, I’ve been waiting for so long for you / I’ve got to learn not to mind / at the cost of it not feeling right / and your pure little heart running suicides / oh I’ve been waiting for so long for someone like you to come along / oh, I’ve been waiting for so long for you
Track Name: Coelacanth
It’s the only way that I know how to be / faithful to the seeds of scattered dreams / I waited upon their every need / I had no other hungry mouths to feed / but the seeds of scattered dreams plucked from my own / fill in phrases I resolved to run amok / to the ocean off the coast of Africa / where you and I have caught a Coelacanth / COELACANTH / can’t overrun my will to see the light / that charges from the caverns of your eyes / and wrestles all the static from my hands / so furiously seeking your command / COELACANTH / now I was young when I first met the sea / I’ve sunken below when I was weak / but the plea that I had bargained in the weeds / beheld the lure and surfaced from the deep / COELACANTH!
Track Name: As the Crow Flies
A masterpiece of cracked paint / thus far saved by cloth’s decay / you know you feel too much when only your heart breaks / so blow your mind on make believe / fondle every hair you can lay / just to show how lifelike they can be made to ache / with both backs turned and thoughts unread / they’ll mourn the loss with other men / with sighs a fitting farewell for a little death / so turn a cheek and mouth (dear) / when you hit your peak I hope to feel / as the crow flies over barren fields / you’re thinking of me, you’re thinking of me / when the music they play on cloud nine / isn’t in a key you like / I’ll laugh so hard I’ll cry
Track Name: Spider Rope
The run reveals itself to be much more than tape to break and miles underfoot / lost amongst the wood / a pack of wolves who blush too much to fool red riding hood / the narrative is blown to bits / confetti scraps that go out singing / in the miracle mile where all things enter autumn and spring / when you’re dying to know / the song comes out in mumbles / tracing hearts with your name in the snow / wild as the dawn we’re burning up the road / to eternity in love songs / the kind I never wrote / but we’ll spin them like to spiders weaving fine, silken rope
Track Name: I Do
It’s moving in like a rogue wave now / coming faster than your old face / haunted in new ways, but the look is still the same / so I get it off like a prop plane / and steal the coins back from the arcade / it’s stolen from you before, so I guess that it’s okay / I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care but I do / I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care but for you / loosen the ribbon around the map / tied to a bow like a present / roll it out on the tabletop and smooth the creases with your hands / ‘cause the truth remains where the grass grows / bent at the waist where the wind blows / feel the rise and fall of the landscape / plan the scenic route for your conquest / I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care but I do for you / so fasten tight your lines of love / the sea forgets fair weather storms / yet churns tides on distant shores / where children carve their signatures / on ancient walls, in sacred caves / on trunks of trees we could not save / and in cement, not yet dry / and in our history, multiplied / I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care but I do for you / yes, I do
Track Name: Lullaby For Piano
Heavy winds point spectral fingers where no one remembers / recounting over brown bag lunches and in the trenches / when little whims birthed psychic powers that tread on like iron / still, many yet could stand to wonder (about) those from elders / but who could find the words to say those hardships yield the finest clay / use your knife / be polite / wait your turn / stay in line / place your bets on this lost cause / rest your head in this lost world