One of the main problems with addiction is exposed on “Wolves,” the title track from American Aquarium’s upcoming album (out Feb. 3).
Namely, that we’re thinking of it all wrong. Addiction isn’t a simple, standalone problem.
“So many things come to mind when I think of wolves,” songwriter BJ Barham tells CMT Edge. “Strength, intelligence, instinctual, these insanely fierce animals free to roam wherever they please. But what really resonates with me are the social aspects of the wolf, the idea of the pack. The sum of all parts.”
By framing addiction as a pack of snarling wolves, Barham points out that the problem is really a whole bunch of things compounding on top of each other. There is no easy fix.
“‘When the wolves are hungry/The wolves they’ll eat’ is a Julius Hodge quote from his time playing basketball for the Wolfpack of North Carolina State University, my alma mater,” Barham says. “I couldn’t figure out how to make an obscure sports reference fit into any sort of serious subject matter, but after a few months of repeatedly humming the hook, I set out to write a song about how strong the power of addiction can actually be, and the chorus finally made sense.”
Barham’s weary vocal and slanted roots-rock melody are perfect for the subject matter, giving the whole thing a knowing hint of helplessness. But with crunchy guitars and crisp hooks, he’s set to fight back the wolves at the door.
“The idea of these addictions and vices taking on the role of a hunter/predator was very cool to me,” he says. “The more personal problems sink their teeth into you, the harder it is to overcome them. So it’s just a song about all your demons ganging up on you at once and how hard that is to beat.”
Check out the CMT Edge premiere of “Wolves” by American Aquarium.