Sam Beam, the bearded bandleader and creative force behind Iron & Wine, has put in some serious time on the road since releasing The Shepherd's Dog on Sub Pop last year, including a recent taping of Austin City Limits. In '08, Beam and company, including sister Sarah, have honed their twisted Southern sounds from the UK to Australia and home again. Positive reviewers concluded that the sophisticated direction hinted at on the studio album had not only borne fruit but had been squished into a tasty jam.
"At the end of the day, I can't sit down and write a song to sell," Beam told the Chronicle just before going out on tour. "I try to make each song stand on its own. As a listener, I like shorter records, because you can really absorb the songs. That doesn't make that much sense with what goes on now, but it's what I like to hear and what I like to do."
According to his label, talk of a new album remains premature, so the older material remains the crux of the band's live show. "I love to sell records," Beam said, "but that's not what I'm into. Instead of gearing promotions toward selling records these days, it's about selling singles. That's not my department. I'm aware of things that go on. When it's time to put [an album] out and you get to that weird place where art and commerce meet, you know you've got to play the game."
One guesses that after Iron & Wine wraps up its fall tour with stops on the West Coast, across Canada, and lastly on the East Coast, Beam will have plenty to write about. "I try to write humanistic songs," he said. "In the context of our culture, Abraham and Jesus are our mythology. We don't have the Greek myths. We've got Cain and Abel."
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