We Can Get Together

Album: Heaven is Whenever (2010)
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  • This song is from the American alternative rock band The Hold Steady's fifth studio album, Heaven is Whenever. The track pays tribute to suicide victim Matthew Fletcher, from the Oxford band Heavenly. "He wasn't just the drummer/He was someone's little brother," sings Craig Finn. The lyrics also refer to American hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü, a key influence for the Hold Steady.
  • The album title comes from a line, "Heaven is whenever we can get together." Finn explained in publicity materials: "I think it has to do with the way that love can help us rise above our modern struggles. It also speaks to how I feel about our shows, the communal aspect of the audience and perform."
  • The comment was made in an interview with Pitchfork that the band scaled down on the guitar solos on Heaven Is Whenever. Guitarist Tad Kubler replied: "Actually, there was a big guitar solo in 'We Can Get Together', and we still do it live, but I ended up taking it out of that song. I felt like the recorded version, there was this really beautiful texturing with the guitar tracks and the piano and the vocals at the end, and I thought the solo seemed a little gratuitous. I've heard people say it's a bigger guitar record, which is funny because I ended up playing a lot of piano on this record, and I ended up writing a lot on piano. How it became a bigger guitar record I'm not really sure. Essentially, we're a guitar band. I think our previous two records the piano is mixed a little loudly, so maybe that's why people got a little confused about that."
  • Finn told the story behind the song in an article he wrote for The Guardian May 27, 2010: "It's a song about how fans use songs to communicate with each other. It's about the way a couple, or prospective couple, can build their own little world sitting in front of a turntable, playing their favorite songs for each other. It's about how sometimes the songs we love can often say things so much better that we can. It's about how we can make these songs our own, injecting our own feelings and meanings into words and music played by someone we don't know. And Mathew Fletcher – a young man I never knew – was able to help frame my thoughts about some of what matters so much to me about rock'n'roll music.

    Tad Kubler, the Hold Steady's guitarist, had written and recorded the music for 'We Can Get Together.' I sat at my desk, listening to the melody, trying to come up with the words. At the time, I was thinking a lot about the relationship between struggle and reward. It is a concept that informed the majority of the new album. I started thinking about heaven, which Christianity deems to be the ultimate reward. I started riffing on the songs I knew that had heaven in their title, and before the evening was over, I had finished the lyrics.

    Some of the lyrics nod to some classic rock staples of my youth (Meatloaf, Todd Rundgren's Utopia). Most of the other lyrics are insider winks at some of my favourite bands (Hüsker Dü, Pavement, Psychedelic Furs). But at the heart of the matter is the band Heavenly. In some ways, it was an odd choice, because Space Manatee remains the only thing by Heavenly I own: no matter that I was an obsessive record-buyer, I never became obsessed by Heavenly. I never saw them live. I never sought out their back catalogue. I'm not even sure I've ever even heard Talulah Gosh, the band that gave rise to Heavenly, and who many indie pop enthusiasts consider legendary.

    When I started writing, though, Heavenly was a pretty logical thing to stumble over as I played with the word "heaven." It struck me as a perfect coincidence: I was trying to capture in words the fleeting euphoria some songs can offer us, and while Heavenly had brought me moments of joy, they had also slipped out of my memory to be placed with new bands, songs, moments of joy. When I did an internet search on them, as I wrote, I was reminded of Mathew Fletcher. His sister, Amelia, had been Heavenly's singer and would form new bands, but Heavenly ended with Mathew's death at the age of 25.

    I still spend time thinking about Mathew Fletcher, his sister, and their other bandmates spending time in a rehearsal space somewhere. My version goes like this: Someone came up with the chords to Space Manatee. Someone added the lyrics. They probably took a break for a beer or cigarette break. They made inside jokes with each other. They came back and played the song even better. They added it to their live set.

    At some point, they recorded the song and pressed up a single. It made its way to KUOM in Minneapolis and got played on the radio. I was driving. I heard the song. It felt great. I bought the single. It's a simple story, but a moving story as well. Mathew Fletcher and his band mates put their time, energy, and love into their art. A distant world away, this effort brought me a small bit of euphoria. This is the beauty of the relationship we have with music, the way it can bring small doses of joy into our lives."
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