Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard draw from Kerouac's 'Big Sur' for 'One Fast Move'

Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard had never met before each was asked to contribute to the soundtrack for “One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur,” a new documentary exploring the Beat author’s last major novel.

The Son Volt singer and Death Cab for Cutie front man got along so well that what they thought would be a brief collaboration grew into a gorgeous 12-song album, also called “One Fast Move or I’m Gone” (out Tuesday on F-Stop/Atlantic). It’s a rootsy collection, built around acoustic guitars, pedal steel and piano. Farrar, who wrote 11 of the songs, shares vocal duties with Gibbard on lyrics built from Kerouac’s prose in “Big Sur.”

“We were the true believers,” Farrar says. “Or the true Keroauc geeks, I guess.”

Three facts about the project:

FACT: Like many Kerouac devotees, Farrar was a teen when he discovered the author’s books. “I first started reading Kerouac when I was 15 or 16,” he says. “I was working in a bookstore at the time, so that stuff was passing before me and I picked it up and started reading it.”

FACT: Despite building what he calls “a mini-Kerouac library,” Farrar hadn’t gotten to “Big Sur” when the author’s nephew, Jim Sampas, invited him to contribute to the “One Fast Move” project. After finishing the book, Farrar began the unfamiliar process of turning another writer’s words into song lyrics. “I started off with the ‘Sea’ poem, which is at the end of the novel,” he says. “Even though there’s a lot of oblique stuff in that poem, I felt like that was working in a realm I was used to working in, which was poetic lyrics. So that got me going early on.”

FACT: Farrar and Gibbard didn’t actually meet until the night before they started recording in San Francisco in October 2007. “It was through the process of recording that we got to know each other, basically,” Farrar says.

In addition to their shared affinity for Kerouac — Gibbard wrote songs for Death Cab’s “Narrow Stairs” album while staying in the same cabin in Bixby Canyon that inspired parts of “Big Sur” — they discovered a musical compatibility.

“I had about 10 songs that I brought to the studio with the main intention of just recording a few of them,” Farrar says. “But gradually it became apparent that we could maybe make a whole record out of what we had. Ben had brought one song to the project, and ultimately he helped rework some of the songs I had brought.”

(Photo by Autumn de Wilde)

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