“I wanted to use the 1920s and ’30s as a reference point for where we are today,” she explains of the song. “A lot of people are unaware that ‘America First’ was a Harding/Coolidge slogan. Warren G. Harding is universally considered to be one of America’s worst presidents, in no small part because his administration was plagued by corruption (though much of that came to light after his death). So this song is about a snake oil salesman type who finds himself in power due largely to scandal and grift,” she continues. “I purposely kept the song a little vague, because it’s not about any one leader. It’s about the way we allow ourselves to be divided into the red camp and the blue camp and we let the system play us off of each other, and it’s about the way that powerful people manage to grease their way to the top time and time again while the rest of us are left holding the check. Harding, the Teapot Dome Scandal, the Roaring ’20s, the rise of nationalism… it’s all happening all over again,” she adds. “I believe that historians will look at where we are now one day, and wonder why we weren’t able to learn from mistakes that happened less than a century ago.”
The inspiration may be from a century ago, but the sound is firmly fixed in the present. With yearning guitar riffs propelled by a driving rhythm section and coupled with Peters’ vocals which were made for musical storytelling, “Carnival Barker” is a desert-bound open-road tune kicking up its fair share of dust.