What are the biggest curveballs on the record so far?
It’s easy for me to say that, and it’s hard for me to say that, because I don’t want to say, like, “Oh you aren’t going to like this.” That’s not what I’m going for. We need to do different things, so you’re going to hopefully notice a heightened sense of melody and a more developed and focused type of song for us. I’m totally over writing hard music to perform. It’s fun in that it pushes you to the boundaries of your technical ability, but more recently, the challenge has been pushing out the boundaries of our songwriting ability. We had to say, “Sometimes a simpler song is a better song,” because you pay more attention to the song.
There’s less of an aggressive edge on the record as a whole—nobody’s going to miss that when they listen to it. It is less aggressive than our former music. That is almost definitely a result of us getting older and our interests broadening, but that’s always going to happen. That’s not to say at some point we won’t go, “Okay, now that we’ve softened up a bit, we need to get harder.” It’s just, whatever we said on the last record has been said so recently, we need to do something different.
And that makes sense. Many people forget that when you’re young, aggressive music often really speaks to you. As you get older, that changes.
Let me put it this way: I don’t think you let go of that anger. You just consider it in a different way. With age comes experience comes disapproval of things. The anger is more nuanced, and you have to deal with it in a different way. If this past year I had just been raging aggressively, hatefully angry, I would have written an aggressive and hateful record—that’s not the case. It was a bit more of a reflective year, so the music took a turn to be slightly more reflective—everything sort of falls into line after that.
We really try to pay attention to writing songs that mean something to us as we’re writing them. You can sit down and go, “Okay, there’s not enough of this that we’ve written, so let’s write something that’s mellow or heavy” or whatever, but it’s another thing to say, “This song feels right, right now. Let’s move forward with this.” On the whole, that’s what we do.
And I think that’s so much more authentic, too, when bands do that.
Authenticity is kind of double edged. Sometimes when you’re aware of the goal being authentic—when you have to put your mind towards being genuine, just by nature of that fact you’re becoming disingenuous. That’s the tricky bit for a band in our position. We’ve put out a couple records, we’ve toured—I can’t even remember a time in my life when I wasn’t touring. So when something sort of strikes me, when the creativity sort of starts happening, you just have to—and this sounds a little overly romantic—let it guide you. That’s the only way I can stomach writing music, because it really is all just a handful of notes, and it’s up to you how you put them together. If it feels right, we’ll write it. And this record feels really right to us. It’s going to be shockingly different—I can’t say anything less than that.
What are you guys reflecting on? What’s really been guiding you lyrically?
It’s sort of the same old thing. What I do lyrically is I write whatever is happening and whatever is on my mind. I think that’s a pretty typical thing. The past 10 years of my life, since we started this band, have been a series of ups and down, like everybody else’s life. So I want to try to capture that. What I definitely have been trying to do more recently is to distill down these things that I come back to over and over again and make them as relatable as possible without showing all my cards. That’s the challenge for all lyricists—communicating an idea in such a way that it just seems right. I’m writing about personal things, and I hope they’re relatable. I don’t go through different things than other people go through, so what I’ve always tried to do is present them in a way that’s interesting and engaging and can hint at the universal things that drive us in one way or the other. Thematically, there are no in-depth, over-arching concepts other than, just, “Here’s a handful of human thoughts. Let’s think about them.”
It doesn’t really get much simpler than that, but simpler in a really meaningful way.
I think that’s what everybody does, in some way or other. It’s just communication, that’s just what music is. It’s communicating an idea that would be not quite as interesting if just communicated verbally—we’ve got sound at our disposal. We’re trying to use that to get further into the subject or to create an atmosphere that’s right for reflection or whatever it is. It really is pretty simple to me—we are musicians who are just trying to create a type of art that says something the way we want to say it. The band has a unique voice, and we are just trying to say things in that voice. alt