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No Arrows Wasted

In Every Ghost a Song

 · May 30, 2024

In a new occasional feature the Delaware Call will be highlighting local arts and culture. In the first offering we are publishing a review of area band Wasted Arrows new single “There’s a Ghost” which premiers on streaming platforms tomorrow.

Often known colloquially as “Florida Dave” amongst locals in the know, David Norbut (who’s actually a New Jersey native but with the stories and scars that often come with a stint in The Sunshine State) has been a fixture of the Delaware arts and music community for more than a decade. As a photographer, he is a go-to guy for cliché-free band pictures with a moody, artistic edge whose credits include Low Cut Connie and Cosmic Guilt. He is also a champion of wet plate collodion tintype photography (a process dating back to the 19th century involving a time window of only around 15 minutes from exposure to development) which yields a result that evokes the photographs of the Old West or Civil War, and sometimes has Norbut developing photos in the back of his trusty jeep on a busy city street. 

With its haunting soundscapes, plaintive lyrics, and relative lack of glitz, Norbut’s musical aesthetic is a true companion piece to this visual point of view. Working under the name Wasted Arrows for half a decade, Norbut has created a unique brand of Americana which blends a patient, story-telling lyrical style with music that ranges from singer-songwriter folk in a Townes Van Zandt vein to the slow-burn country-blues of Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night

Though Wasted Arrows has settled into a stable lineup in the last year, it’s been a bit of a revolving conglomerate of friends and local luminaries for much of its tenure, and is, at its heart, a creative vessel for Norbut’s songwriting. 

“The band has been through more changes than I can list. The band is a vehicle for the songs I write.  There are stops along the way, and some players hop off while others hitch a ride for a while (some a long while). As the personnel has changed and evolved, so has the sound,” Norbut explains.

From the band’s austere start as Norbut’s voice and guitar recorded live on a 4-track cassette recorder in an apartment in New York City (with some finishing flourishes overdubbed by a friend’s band) and quietly released on cassette before the pandemic to the early 2023 release of a 5-song EP entitled Wharfman’s Blues featuring half of the band’s current members, Wasted Arrows has been on a trajectory that brought them to the chemistry of their present incarnation.

Aside from Norbut on guitar and vocals, the band features visual artist and multi-instrumentalist Monika Bullette (formerly of the much-missed shoegaze duo, The Sky Drops) on fiddle, tambourine, and gorgeous background vocals, Jon Monck (of the great Morphine tribute, Cure for Pain) on bass, James Johnson, frontman of country outfit, Edgewater Avenue, on drums, and the longest-tenured member of the band, Billy Shato, on lead guitar and pedal steel. 

Collectively, the members of Wasted Arrows cite influences that run the gamut of musical   and experience. Bullette mentions The Louvin Brothers, The Everly Brothers, and The Beach Boys when describing the “blood harmonies” she strives for when singing along to Norbut’s melodies, as well as the tension created by the vocals of John Doe and Exene Cervenka of the legendary L.A. punk band, X. Guitarist Billy Shato brings up alternative country legends such as Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and the late Jason Molina (of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.) as inspirations for his contributions to the band. Norbut describes his influences as “anything that feels authentic” and credits a fan after a show for nailing down the band’s sound as “Leonard Cohen and The Heartbreakers.”

Self Portrait, Collodion Tintype, David Norbut

Though the band has been playing live consistently throughout the region over the last year, the release of the single “There’s a Ghost” marks Wasted Arrows’ first new material since the Wharfman’s Blues EP and the recording debut of the current edition of the band. Recorded at Noisy Little Critter Studio in Downingtown, PA, the basic tracks were done live, with vocals and extra color added later. The mix of methods makes for a recording that is simultaneously immediate and polished featuring the best elements of a D.I.Y. punk ethos with the convenience and fidelity of modern digital recording.   

The song simultaneously conjures alt-country bands ranging from Old 97’s to The Jayhawks and punk legend, Iggy Pop’s, classic track, “The Passenger,” with its loping, unrushed shuffle and strummed minor guitar chords. The track’s theme of loss is brought home by the song’s slow build and the introduction of the stars of the show: Bullette’s beautiful trailing vocal lines during the verse that lead into her singing dialed-in harmonies with Norbut, and Shato’s haunting and melodic lap steel lines that serve as both an additional hook to the vocal and an anchor for the whole enterprise. 

“There’s a Ghost” premiers on Friday, May 31, on Wasted Arrows’ Bandcamp page and all major streaming platforms. 

Matt Morrissette is a freelance writer and music-obsessed Southerner living in Wilmington, Delaware.

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