Being left on “read” is a new kind of pain we’ve invented for ourselves in the digital age. I’ve got to imagine that it was a struggle in the pre-digital, pre-phone age where you’d have to wait anxiously for days or weeks for your letter to come by horse and buggy (my perspective of that era is entirely informed by The Oregon Trail computer game), but even that seems more reasonable. Knowing that your message has traveled at unfathomable speeds and can reach anyone in the world in an instance, yet the person hasn’t looked at your message and just has it sitting it there… that’s a new form of torture, especially if you’re pouring your heart out.
Okay, maybe that’s all a little overdramatic. But it’s a symptom of a larger hurt, just as Portland songwriter Schaus examines in “Unread,” the first single from his upcoming Quite Okay EP. It’s not really a song about texting, but the allusions to the way we’re constantly communicating is pivotal to the message of aching, burning love he’s outlining in his sultry baritone. Throughout the sprawling, swirling mix of keyboards and drum machines, Schaus uncovers more about himself – tackling internalized toxic masculinity and relearning how to love in a proper way. Maybe when we’re left on read, the anguish isn’t always about us. Maybe there’s a reason why the person at the other end isn’t eager to respond. In examining his own hurt, Schaus finds more about himself. Here’s what he has to say about the song:
‘“Unread’ started without words; a digital instrumental that poured out in a day – a throwaway until convinced otherwise by a friend two months ago. Writing lyrics a couple weeks ago, everything that was true during the initial tracking had shifted into a different perspective. The lyrics span various angles but the main theme is, of course, packed on in the chorus. It’s a song of growth, learning how to love, and a thanks for those patient enough to teach it. It manifests in unlearning bad habits and toxic masculinity, while also unveiling new ways of showing love from my mother and close friends. The last act distills each theme into a single moment: the present. Just like that, I have the hindsight of a songwriter: framing and corralling my truth from the pen's distance and yet so close that these words never left my head. There's more in there, but you should probably find that for yourself, Reader!”
Stream “Unread” below. You can also catch him perform on July 10 at Holocene in Portland.
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