Pop singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson seems to have a love-hate relationship with high school. We think it’s more on the former side, though. His impending album, Class Of 98, is a valentine that would’ve looked good on your CD rack between Weezer and Green Day. Today, we’re premiering the video for “Good Things Come,” a song that will fit quite nicely between, say, “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and Hole’s “Miss World.”
“I wrote and recorded ‘Good Things Come’ long before I had any idea what COVID-19 was,” Hutchinson says. “But the lyrics have a whole new meaning to me now as I quarantine, self-isolate and social distance. I know that the simple pleasures of hugging a friend, dining in a restaurant or buzzing in a crowded theater are waiting for us all on the other side. I’ve had my dark days like everyone else during this weird and scary time. It can feel like we’re all stuck on the biggest airplane ever, circling the runway endlessly, waiting to land. However, I also find there are silver linings everywhere I look, if I feel like looking for them. Today, I choose to believe that good things come to those who wait.”
One of those good things is Class Of 98. Hutchinson went full retro on the record, using a lot of equipment from a pre-Pro Tools world. He even went so far as to enlist producer Paul Kolderie, whose list of productions from that decade (Pixies, Hole, Radiohead, Mighty Mighty Bosstones) is downright era-defining. Eric Hutchinson talked with AltPress about revisiting his youthful listening habits, conveying his intentions with the video and adding the one thing any ’90s-sounding record needs to have.
The whole vibe of Class Of 98, feels like a snapshot of life in that time frame contrasted against being an adult. You have that one quote in your bio, “I like the ’90s way better when I’m not living them.” The adult angst versus the angst of high school.
ERIC HUTCHINSON: I’m really nostalgic for the ’90s. I love all of the ’90s because it feels like my youth. But the ’90s for me were also very much about growing pains and trying to figure myself out. So I was actually unhappy [during] a lot of the ’90s, but I enjoy the ’90s artifacts. That was what this album was all about. It’s interesting you say it’s got this parallel to [it] now. Because I think so much of coming to the end of high school is feeling a bit trapped and feeling like you’ve outgrown your circumstances, which is I think at least for me, something [that] feels very familiar again now. This was the album I would have made back then if I had the means and the know-how.
What got you on the road to thinking about the ’90s? Was it something that’s always in the back of your head?
My road band always make fun of me because I just love the ’90s. I know the music so well, whether it’s alternative or hip-hop or R&B or whatever. I just know it all. It was really when I was starting to pick out music on my own. I was just saying how fun it would be to write these kinds of songs. And it was a project that I had in mind. When I sat down to do it, I think it made sense lyric-wise to write about who I was back then. I was surprised how much I could remember from back then and in detail. Some of this stuff is almost journal-like. I was surprised how many characters were still hanging in my head and how many circumstances and how fresh everything felt. So it was fun to try to live it currently and write about it.
I’m not obsessed in a negative way. I started visiting the ’90s so I could control who I visited and how I felt about it and who told the story. I felt powerful in this version of the ’90s, whereas I felt pretty lost and small in my high school experience. With the few songs we’ve released, people have reached out and said, “Oh man, this really feels like high school today,” or “It feels like my high school that I went to in the 2000s.” I think for anybody who felt like the underdog at all, it’s that kind of vibe, no matter when you go to high school.
Who are you talking to in “Good Things Come”?
That one I actually wrote from my current point of view. I don’t know: Who do you think it’s for? What did you get out of it?
I’m taking it from the point of view of, “Hey, just stay at home and maybe not go out. Listen to a scientist instead of a politician. Good things will come your way. You’ll be on the planet longer.”
It feels like it makes more sense now than ever. I wrote it for my daughter, who was a few months old and would just go scream crazy whenever we took the bottle away from her. That was the one song where I let my current life seep in and kept it in the same genre of everything. But I could be singing that song to myself back then in high school, just itching to get out of there and have my parents stop telling me what to do. You know, you look back and it’s a pretty good setup. [Laughs.]
What were your favorite musical memories? Did you have a complete collection of Weezer records? What was your thing?
With Weezer specifically, I love the Blue Album. And I remember really having to work my way through Pinkerton, and obviously, it’s become this behemoth cult favorite. I remember at the time just being a little confused by it. And there were certain songs I liked on it, but it was definitely a harder listen. I loved Green Day and Soundgarden, and I wanted to love Pearl Jam and Nirvana more than I actually did. I just always felt like I wasn’t quite cool enough, you know? And that’s what I always appreciated about Green Day and Weezer. Some of the stuff that I really looked to for this album was they all had a sense of humor, like, “I’m not very cool.” But there was a humor to it as opposed to just anguish.
It was really smart to do the “Good Things Come” video as an animated school notebook. The doodle images hyper-realized with animation sends the vibe home in a better way than any type of straight-up narrative would have.
The animator we used was really awesome. I had my 13-year-old cousin do all of the artwork for the album. She wrote all the lyrics and did some doodles and all this stuff. I really wanted to feel the same thing for the music video. I wanted it to feel like a bored student just doodling in their notebook in class.
We’re talking about high school and graduating, and it seems really prescient that we can’t celebrate that rite of passage. But former President Barack Obama wanted to make sure that event was acknowledged.
It’s interesting because I was not particularly sentimental about graduating. That’s coming from a place of privilege where I was just expecting to graduate high school. I didn’t really think twice about it. It was like, “OK, now what’s next?” I didn’t really like high school, and I ended up going to an arts college. And that was a really good fit for me, being surrounded by other people that just want to goof off and make projects and things. I wasn’t holding on, wishing I could have a fifth year of high school or something like that.
Do you think people in the graduating class have a different attitude about it? Or if the pandemic is taking over their lives? “Graduation, whatever. I just want to be able to see my friends.” Is it something they’re not going to miss, or do you think it is a really heavy psychic blow?
I think we’ll have a whole generation that’s going to have this weird, closure issue with all kinds of things. I think it’s weird, but I also think that you only know what you know. I feel like today people adapt. You know, you don’t get a graduation. And it’ll always be a cool, weird thing they get to talk about. I think there’s something sad about not being able to finish something. I’m personally a person that loves being able to finish things, and I’ve been a part of stuff before [it started] falling apart before you get to do what you came to do. That can be really painful. I think people will adapt, and we’ll all be stronger because of it.
Speaking of finishing: At the end of the last song, there’s some space followed by a short song about a vegan ex-girlfriend. Why end the LP like that?
My manager told me, “If you’re making a ’90s album, it’s got to have a hidden track.” And I was like, “That’s brilliant.” I had this song that I loved, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it longer. And I was like, “Oh wait, this is the hidden track. I also like a song that’s as short as possible but still a complete song as a bridge. It’s got a full story. It’s telling. And I somehow feel like my fans are going to like this one and be asking for it at shows all the time. [Laughs.] Which I’ll happily oblige.
Class Of 98 comes out June 12. Check out the video for “Good Things Come” below.