Under the direction of Minnesota musician Jeff Noller, who is the sole constant member, Skittish have been offering up gorgeous and immersive bits of bedroom folk-rock for well over 10 years, developing a considerable following in the Twin Cities area as a result of their affecting songs. Noller latched onto the name itself as a way of expressing his feeling of kinship with animals – and the lack of connection he often feels with people. When he is in the mood for company, however, he employs the assistance of numerous Midwest artists to help him fill out the space in his songs, making Skittish more of a musical institution than a solo endeavor.
After signing Spectra Records in 2013, he maintained an impressive touring schedule, culminating in CMJ recognition and two Independent Music Award nominations in 2016. But in 2018, he took a break and enrolled in graduate school in Savannah, Georgia. He describes the experience: “Dive bars were replaced with classrooms, and my days started at 8am. Yeah, it was a bit of an adjustment.” But eventually, that old need to create music reared its head, and he began using the school’s studio after hours to record some new songs that had been clanging around in his head for years. These songs would form the basis of his forthcoming album, Savannah Sessions, which he is self-releasing on Sept. 18. He brought on local musicians he had met in Savannah to help with the tracks.
On his latest single, “Intro (vert)”, Noller offers a gorgeous blend of folk-pop honesty and plainspoken sentiment. An acoustic guitar is strummed and rattled as he documents the decline of a relationship and the steps taken by each person to extricate themselves from it. But there is light here, not merely a wallowing in the fallow emotions that often accompany these painful experiences. There is humor and optimism buried in the words they share in their disjoining. There is hurt but also an understanding of how that hurt may shape them and offer solace in its embrace.
At times, the song ventures into blissful pop territory, recalling the work of They Might Be Giants or XTC – it’s a vivid and welcoming look at how separateness can also be used as a tool to rediscover your own sense of individuality. Noller explains:
“This was the first song I wrote when I got to Savannah. Two days after I arrived, a hurricane passed by and shut down the city. I thought it was a fun introduction to my new town. So that spice is added to the main hunk of the song, which is about parting ways with someone that you’ve grown apart from and being ok with it. I enjoy my solitude very much, but am worried about living that way too long, which is wrapped up in the chorus line ‘it’s a trial of solo vs. so long’.”
Noller has also released a lyric video for “Intro (Vert)”, wherein we watch as fish quietly swim around to the music. At the end, we get a glimpse of a submerged Noller singing along before rising out of frame. It reinforces this idea of peaceful solitude as well as his self-described comfort with animals. Check it out below.