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Standout Track: No. 3, “Jennifer,” the handclappy-yet-dystopian single from Southern Problems’ debut Space. Singer/guitarist Dan Schwartz says that “Jennifer,” set in the not-too-distant future, imagines a time when D.C.’s infrastructure has collapsed and another city (“The Crust”) has to be built on top. It’s a local anthem told from the perspective of a character “lamenting about what D.C. used to be,” which Schwartz suspects is common around here.
Musical Motivation: The high-concept narrative behind Space was a collaboration between longtime friends: “I had this goofy story that I never finished about Newt Gingrich going to space as an old man and being killed by a bunch of libertarians on the moon,” bassist Andy Bowen says. When Schwartz, a Takoma Park native, came back from grad school wanting to start a band, he wrote a series of songs based on a more personalized version of the story. “It’s shot through with the hopelessness [Schwartz] was feeling at the time,” Bowen says. “But there’s also the specter of me working out my childhood demons about conservative politics.”
What’s Going On: Placing those personal demons and cosmic flights of fancy in the context of broader social issues, Bowen says, is part of Southern Problems’ philosophy. “I think the engagement of the personal and political is absolutely necessary,” she says, citing Marvin Gaye and Erykah Badu as inspirations. “If I’m going to make art, that’s always going to be where I’m coming from.”
Southern Problems plays The Dunes on Oct. 13.