Anybody who saw Kentucky hardcore coalition Knocked Loose on the Warped Tour in 2017 had ugly scrapes on their chins when their jaws dropped on the pavement in front of the band. It should have been no surprise: Their 2016 debut, Laugh Tracks, was a kill-’em-all blast aimed at the genre’s conventions.
But with the release of their new album A Different Shade Of Blue, they’ve focused their drive with laser accuracy. They didn’t refine, tone down or smooth out anything in the name of accessibility. What they did do was take their time and let the power rise.
“Going into the studio to make the first record, we were very naive,” frontman Bryan Garris admits. “We were excited and pumping things out just to get something out there. For this record, we knew that we had to really bring it. We took a long time during the writing process, and we stayed in the studio much longer than we did last time. We were in the studio for an entire month, and I think it made a huge difference.”
Knocked Loose didn’t change much for their second full-length foray, using the same studio—Graphic Nature Audio—and reuniting with returning producer Will Putney. The keys to Blue’s essence were not only the time they could put into it, but their ability to walk away when nothing was happening.
On the new record, Garris’ voice is adding new levels of sonic intensity, almost like a fifth instrument. You might think it sounds easy, and of course, you’d be wrong. Days were planned to record vocals, but even after regimens of stretching, warmups and drinking tea, at times it simply did not happen.
“When we write, we all sit down in a room and jam until we’re happy with what we have,” Garris says. “There is never a conversation of ‘This is what this song is going to be.’ We sit down in a circle with our instruments and ask ‘who’s got an idea,’ and we just build off that. There were songs we just scratched. We would write, come back in a month or two and be like, ‘Yeah, this isn’t that great.’ We didn’t want to rush it, put it out and then a year later think, ‘These songs suck.’”
“I hate recording,” he continues matter-of-factly. “As the vocalist, I’m the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to recording. Everybody in the band is like, ‘OK, we did it. Now it’s your turn.’ It’s putting your voice under a microscope where everybody can hear your imperfections. If my voice wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I wouldn’t record. Some days, after I’d be getting ready, Will would press ‘record,’ and I’d scream once, and I’d be like, ‘Nope. See you tomorrow.’”
There are 12 tracks on A Different Shade Of Blue, from straight-up rippers to migraine-inducing slow burns. Assisting in the Knocked Loose maelstrom are also some wondrous guest appearances from Every Time I Die mouthpiece Keith Buckley (“Forget Your Name”) and Emma Boster from Portalnd hardcore unit Dying Wish (“A Serpent’s Touch”).
“We took the same approach like we did on Laugh Tracks, featuring two guest vocalists, one more underground from a band we like a lot and want people to know and look up and the other someone more well known,” Garris says.
The singer has been listening to Every Time I Die since he first entered the hardcore scene, so having Buckley add his lyrics to a verse of “Forget Your Name” was a dream come true. “He’s such an amazing writer,” Garris beams. “I just sent him the song with my vocals [and] the lyrics I had written, and then I said, ‘OK, you write your own part.’ Which is a pretty cool way to collab with someone I’ve looked up to for so long.”
While he’s certainly proud of what he and his bandmates accomplished on Blue, Garris refuses to fall into the trap of being all about the new music simply because they’re fatigued over touring the previous records.
“A lot of people in bands are always [saying], ‘I can’t wait to release our new record. I hate our old one,’” he opines. “I definitely don’t hate our old record. I still enjoy those songs. [Blue has] fast songs and slow songs: It’s all heavy, but there’s more variety.”
And that variety looms large on their listening habits offstage, as well. Pro tip: Don’t expect the band to be 24/7/365 hardcore, either.
“I like a lot of pop music, and I like a lot of country music,” he adds. “Our bass player likes a lot of electronic music. [Our tastes] are all over the place, but it’s not like what anyone would expect. I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift a lot recently, which is something that people wouldn’t expect. I can’t deny a catchy chorus: It’s written to get stuck in people’s heads.”
With A Different Shade Of Blue, Knocked Loose aren’t using “blue” as a symbol of sadness. They’re obviously using it to describe a bruise. Let that hurt make you feel alive.
A Different Shade Of Blue drops Friday, Aug. 23 and is available for preorder here. Knocked Loose recently announced a series of shows to celebrate the release of the record. The short tour comes before the band hits the road in October with Rotting Out, Candy and SeeYouSpaceCowboy. Tickets are available here.
For more on Knocked Loose, check out issue #372 (our final Warped Tour issue), which is available here or below.