On their latest album, Trash Boat break out of the pop-punk bubble to take on a variety of new musical styles while tackling personal and societal issues, from addiction and frustration to inequality and discrimination. For AltPress issue 397’s Album Anatomy section, Vocalist Tobi Duncan explains how it all went down.
NO GENRE, JUST GOOD ENERGY.
Even though vocalist Tobi Duncan says he and the rest of the band always made the kind of music they wanted, they were trying to fit in with a particular scene on their first two albums. “We were just thinking inside of a box because we really wanted to be in that box,” he says. This time around, instead of turning to artists and styles for influence and inspiration, the band focused on how the songs felt.
“Fuck a genre, fuck a type of show,” Duncan says. “Do we all think that this is engendering a vibe? Does it make us feel feelings? Does it sound huge? And do we like it?” What they ended up with was an album that doesn’t fit a particular genre or sound. Duncan cites Nine Inch Nails and Placebo as references for the title track, describes “Vertigo” as “trucker rock” and compares “Alpha Omega” to Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin’.”
“OUR GUT WAS CONTAINING BANGERS.”
Don’t You Feel Amazing? was mostly written over Zoom, “which was just terrible,” Duncan says, laughing. During their two-week stay at ICP Studios in Belgium last summer, Trash Boat scrapped four songs and wrote four new ones. “It really felt like we overcame something and managed to create something in spite of a lot of restrictions and a lot of hurdles. And it honestly makes me incredibly excited for the next one because we’re already going to have that mindset,” he says.
The compressed timeline meant there was less time for overthinking and overworking songs. Duncan also credits producer Jason Perry for helping them to not sweat the details too much. “We cared a lot less about the micromanagement aspects and just went with our gut,” Duncan says. “And it turns out our gut was containing bangers.”
“NOTHING TO HIDE, LOTS TO SHARE.”
The songs on the album address a wide range of topics, with Duncan writing about his personal experiences. “There are so many things for me to be honest about in my life, whether it’s shortcomings, failures, sadness, addiction, bad things or there’s a lot of retribution, power, love, sex drive. It’s just the extremities of my experience as a person, whether they be good or bad, put to music and in no uncertain terms,” he says.
When it came to writing lyrics for the album, Duncan adopted a more direct approach. “I got nothing to hide,” he says. “And I got lots to share.” Take the title track, for instance, an industrial, “slow-walking song” as Duncan describes it, which draws on his past struggles with addiction. “It’s a window back into that world, where I can just exist in that horrible, sexy, disgusting, hedonistic headspace for three minutes onstage,” he says.
Besides personal experiences, many of the songs look at societal issues. “Silence Is Golden” deals with systemic inequality, obstacles to social change and media bias. “I just wanted to help shine a light on those types of subjects and help guide people’s vitriol and their feelings of retribution and revolution,” Duncan says.
Early single “He’s So Good” talks about a young man who experiences prejudice because of his sexuality. Duncan, who’s a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, spoke about wanting to write a song for people who often aren’t represented in rock. “I just wanted to write a song for people who are and who be—simple,” he says. “It doesn’t actually need any further categorization than that because I wanted to write a song that made people feel heard and that they knew was written with them in mind but without having to single them out as an out-group.”
There are two features on the album, the first being WARGASM’s Milkie Way on the endlessly catchy “Bad Entertainment.” Duncan says the feature came together in just a few days, with Way recording her part in one take. For the second one, the band reached outside of the rock world and linked up with alternative rapper Kamiyada+.
“I was just like, ‘This guy fucking bangs. His whole ethos bangs.’ His beats are basically just beatdowns that he raps over, and he’s got the shouting rap element. And it tickled me and struck a chord, and I was like, ‘This guy needs to be on the fucking record,’” he says. Not only did Kamiyada+ do his guest vocals in one take on the explosive “Alpha Omega”—he freestyled them. Duncan found out when he asked him for the lyrics, and Kamiyada+ said he’d have to listen to the song to provide them.
This interview appeared in issue 397, available here.