After cutting his teeth in New York’s anti-folk scene, Daoud Tyler-Ameen moved to D.C. for a job and brought his musical project along with him. A few years later, that project—indie-pop band Art Sorority For Girls—has a new catchy single with a surprisingly dark narrative.
“Man With a Van” speaks from the viewpoint of a jilted New York, resentful of Tyler-Ameen’s move south. “There’s this subconscious voice about the city incarnate judging you for leaving it,” says the songwriter, a New York native who now works here at NPR. “It may not have anything to do with reality, but the city is bitter and jealous. It takes glee in imagining your downfall.” In his telling, New York doesn’t handle rejection well. “Though it’s still too close to call,” he sings, “there’s bets on how you’ll lose it all.”
Tyler-Ameen wrote half of “Man With a Van” in New York, and the other half in D.C. years later. The space between writing led to interesting contrasts—and some mistakes—on his forthcoming record. “I regret that on this album I refer to women as ‘girls,'” Tyler-Ameen says. It’s to his credit that he kept the old lyrics. Like some of the band’s other songs, it comes across as a snapshot of youth and the self-doubt that can come with it. The voice of an angry New York sounds a lot like a young man’s own anxiety.
The snappy chorus goes, “It’s nice to see you, and how have you been? The man with the van is a friend of a friend.” What does that mean? “It’s a coded message that’s a message to your future self, but you don’t have the wisdom to fully understand it,” the musician says. That refrain also happens to be a vicious earworm, a flash of poetry amid poppy guitar strumming.
After releasing his first record as a solo project, Art Sorority For Girls’ followup album—no title yet—ropes in drummer Joshua Gottesman and bassist Casey Holford. Does it mean the songwriter has found a home in D.C.?
Perhaps. But it also sounds like New York isn’t done with him yet. “You are made of what I gave you/You know that as well as I,” he sings. “Tell San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., you are marked and rights-protected/Best believe you haven’t seen the last of me.”