Singletrack: Bill MacKay of Darts & Arrows

Bill MacKay of Darts & Arrows
"Mystic" from the album Eyes of the Carnival

I'd been thinking about "Mystic" awhile before presenting it to the band. I wanted to record it while the song was very fresh, so its innocent and searching qualities remained intact. To this end we didn't perform it live until after it was recorded.

We played the song twice in rehearsal the week prior to recording it at Brian Sulpizio's studio, The Chateau, in Humboldt Park, Chicago in summer of 2011. The band got a strong feel for it very quickly. The version here, which appears on the record Eyes of the Carnival (Darts & Arrows, 2012), was the second take, so perhaps the fourth time we'd played it.

Though this is a pretty full-sounding song, we played it all live, without overdubs nor any overt separation: no booths (only baffles). I played a Gibson Les Paul and Ben played a Fender Rhodes. We both played through vintage Ampeg tube amps from the 1960s. I think that sound choice really gave the record a specific sonic character. Post-production was minimal (some added reverb in the mixing, and mastering).

The mood and melody came out of a primal sense I have of nature. It's an enigma to me, full of messages reserved for those who keep an open ear or eye. It is a guide from beyond that is present everywhere, but eludes our grasp. I feel the song works in that space.

We have played it at almost every show we've done since this recording. To me it is a statement with a particular energy and grace.

On this track:
Bill MacKay: guitar
Ben Boye: keyboard
Kyle Hernandez: bass
Quin Kirchner: drums

Purchase Recording

"Mystic" written by Bill MacKay
Song recorded and mixed by Brian J Sulpizio, and mixed by Peter Andreadis

Darts & Arrows grew out of songwriter-guitarist Bill MacKay's vision for a folk group. They played their 1st gig at South Union Arts in Chicago in 2006. The band’s mixing of folk and rock with avant-garde experimentation and pop melody started to gel on their debut release Bill MacKay and Darts & Arrows (2010). In particular, the hypnotic and psychedelic throb of "Road to the Seaway" caught the attention of listeners.

With their new recording Eyes of the Carnival (2012), the band's folk sense is further shaded by its art-rock and experimental leanings, a deepening dynamic range, and a more finely etched sense of melody and space. Excursions into Latin and Western sounds—and some luminous improvisations—point to new directions in timbre and theme.

Keyboardist Ben joins Bill MacKay as a writer in the band with his song "Frequent Vacation." Kyle Hernandez and Quin Kirchner have joined the group on bass and drums.

Bill MacKay is a musician-composer and music researcher for Chicago Artists Resource.

"Singletrack" is CAR's Artist Story for Chicago musicians in which songwriters and bands discuss a song and how it came to be alongside audio or video clips of the work. To submit your song for consideration, please email the music researcher.


Chuck Walker (art for album cover of Eyes of the Carnival)

Sarah Braunstein (photo of Bill MacKay)

Published by CAR_Editor on Mon, 03/11/2013 - 10:29am
Updated on Fri, 05/10/2013 - 12:45pm