With ‘Drifter’ only a week old Heartsounds’ vocalists Ben Murray and Laura Nichol dissect the record for Rock Sound in this exclusive track by track.
Band Of The Week Heartsounds talk us through their latest (and practically flawless) album 'Drifter' one song at a time.
Read the commentary of guitarists/ vocalists Ben Murray and Laura Nichol below and find out more about the band in the latest issue of Rock Sound, out everywhere now!
01. Every Second Counts
Ben: "This song came together smoothly as the first finished song that was written for the record. We thought it captured the tone of the record both musically and lyrically really well, so we put it on there as the opening track! Lyrically, the song deals with feeling like you're constantly racing against the clock in life and not really accepting the the fact that life is short, but instead venting frustration with all the time that we waste on meaningless stress and hardship."
Ben: "This might be my favorite song on the record given all the directions that it goes in. Laura calls this a "punk-rock anthem", but I think that's mainly because I wrote the song about our friendship over the past ten years. The music is so melodic and upbeat that I couldn't really stick melancholy lyrics on top of it. So, I figured I'd write a best friend song since I hadn't really done that before I love the bridge and solo in the song and really think that it came together nicely!"
Ben: "As soon as I wrote the lyrics for this song, I knew it would be the title track of the record. The entire record deals with the feeling of drifting through each day in a haze, never really feeling fully alive and in the moment, mostly due to the rigours and bullshit of everyday life holding you down. The desire to just go back to sleep and lacking the energy to face the day is a common feeling amongst myself and a lot of good friends of mine, which is why I decided to make this song the album title as well. Musically, I think this one is absolutely killer. It's got a lot of metal-ish riffs in there, but we retain melody throughout, and I feel like the vocals in the choruses and bridge remind me of Fleetwood Mac, which is a GREAT thing in my opinion."
04. I Have Nobody to Betray
Laura: "This was the first song I wrote for the album, lyric-wise. The content has to do with codependence, the overarching idea being that you can’t rely on someone who relies on drugs or alcohol to get himself through the day. My thought process was that if you build someone up so much to the point where this person becomes almost like a Jesus figure, he or she will inevitably let you down. At the same time, I was able to explore one of my favorite themes, which is the religion-abandonment cycle. More often than not, people will forsake religion when they feel that their “God” has forsaken them. It’s a lonely feeling, but I believe that it is also one of the most strengthening realizations a human can have. I know that no matter what happens in my life, I’m going to be okay. And that isn’t based on any human being or deity; it is solely based on myself and my own strength.
The musical process of this song helped me to become such a better player. In the studio, Brett helped us to work out the perfect harmonies for the choruses, and I think they’re catchy as hell. Also, the last riff is one of my favorites to play; it’s just so driving. The title is a reference from a William Burroughs book I read. I took it to mean, somewhat cynically, that if you don’t get close enough to anyone to rely on them, then the bright side is that at least you don’t have anyone you can betray either."
Ben: "I wrote this song about feeling truly lonely and desiring the closeness that one receives from being in a loving, committed relationship. As lame as that sounds, I've spent a LOT of nights just listening to records by myself in my apartment, and sometimes those feelings add up to make you feel truly worthless. This song is about wanting to connect with another human being on an emotional and personal level, and the difficulties of achieving that desire. I really like the music in the song because the chords and riffs remind me of something that Bad Religion would write, which is always a good thing! Jason Cruz's guest vocals are also unreal, and a total dream come true. He totally captured the vibe of the song, and we couldn't be more stoked to have him on the record."
06. Race to the Bottom
Ben: "This might be my second favorite song on the record, at least musically. I wanted to write a real banger for the record, and as soon as I started compiling riffs for this song, I knew this would be the one. I really like all of the chord progressions throughout, and the solo in the beginning (courtesy of Ryan Hansen who used to be in Light This City with Laura and I) absolutely KILLS. I'm especially proud of the ending riff of the song because I wanted to capture that old Springsteen-sounding single note Telecaster kind of lead, which I think I managed to nail down! It also gives me a Thin Lizzy vibe which is always awesome. Lyrically, the song deals with the burdens of being a male in a sex-driven world. Definitely very personal, but important to me as well."
07. Don't Talk With Your Mouth Open
Laura: "Goddamn, this is such a fun song to play. A lot of “Drifter” deals with very serious subject matter, and we just wanted to let loose with this song and lighten it up a bit. I knew that I wanted to write a song called, “Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Open,” but I didn’t know quite how I wanted to write the lyrics for it. Then it came to me one day. Being on tour for most of my teenage years, I’ve met some of the most douchey, airheaded dudes that exist on the planet. Yeah, they might have pretty faces, but man, sometimes there is just NOTHING going on behind the beauty. I wish I could include some of my conversations with these people in this interview. Anyway, I just thought it would be fun to turn around the “ditzy band-whore,” “Just-stand-there-and-look-pretty” stereotype that a lot of girls in this scene suffer and apply it to the Him-bos who are in bands or at shows just for the superficial bullshit—money and groupies and whatnot. The bridge is such a fun fucking riff to play; it gets super fast and then just breaks everything down into party mode. My favorite line that I have ever written is at the end of this song: Don’t you know the kind of shit they can make out of shit?"
08. Everything's Going My Way
Laura: "The vocal patterns in this song are so bizarre; I love doing shit that people won’t expect. I hate when you can sing along to a song the FIRST time you hear it, which is what a lot of trendy metal and punk bands do these days; it just seems like they give the patterns no thought whatsoever and just lay down the first melody that comes to mind. I credit my and Ben’s experience in Light This City with being able to make the vocal patterns a little more interesting than usual. In death metal vocals, you don’t have melody or notes to capture people’s ear. You HAVE to rely on how the words fit into the music to make things catchy. I feel like we really applied that technique to this song.
This is one of the most brutally honest songs that I’ve written. With a good amount of my songs, I’ll use a persona, or at least a hyperbole here and there, but this one is raw me. It’s a gamble putting something like, “Each time I socialize, I feel like I do it just to get through it” out into the world. I just threw all of my petty insecurities into it. The element of time that Ben talks about recurring throughout the record is definitely all over this song. Ben and I each struggle with wanted to be perpetually productive, but how is one supposed to enjoy life living like that? This song is all about work-hard-play-hard. I love the acoustic part at the end. It seems a little uplifting to me—the whole song is so fast and hectic, like life, and then it slows down to this pretty, slower melody. In it, I imagine just taking a few moments to watch the sun come up, and then starting a new day. Sorry if that’s cheesy."
Laura: "Well, I just don’t know how people are going to react to this song. It’s different from anything we’ve ever done, that’s for damn sure. But I like that about it. This is the first song that I have EVER written the entire vocal melody to. Ben and I have always collaborated on how the lyrics fit into the music, or he’s written the entire melody, and I’ve just given input on one or two things. But this one was different; I felt it when I first heard the music. I asked him to give it to me and not to do anything with vocals for it, just give me a stab at it first. And it just flowed out of me. I also wrote the melody first and the lyrics after, which I’ve never done before. It’s always the other way around.
It’s a slow, pretty song, perfect for a love song, which one could totally interpret it as. But when I wrote it, I was thinking more about the renewed love for playing music that Heartsounds gave Ben and me. We stopped Light This City at its peak and decided to start all the way over again with Heartsounds because we loved this style of music way too fucking much to ignore it any longer. It’s a simple song, but I’m really proud of it."
10. You Are Not Your Body
Laura: "Wow, this song is an emotional one, for sure. “Uncomfortably Numb” is my favorite of Ben’s songs, and this is my favorite of mine. The title comes from something Ben’s dad said in an interview he did, talking about his cancer. He said, “You are not your body,” which resonated with me so much, that a person is not their health, their sickness, their injury, their physical ability. A person can be something so much more abstract, something intangible, yet invincible. A person can be the memories you have about them, the words you remember them saying. Even though I’m not religious, it is still comforting to think that we can hold onto things about a person that make them live on forever, and that no one can ever take away.
Ben said Unconditional was kind of his friendship song to me, well, this is my friendship song back to Ben. During the time that his dad was sick, I was just constantly, and probably irrationally, worried about Ben. I had my phone on my body at every second of the day; I prepared myself to drop everything I was doing so that I could drive to him if he needed it (I live about an hour away). I wanted to be the strong one that he could rely on if he couldn’t be strong. But of course, he was incredibly strong during that time and looking back, I had no reason to be so worried. He was so loving and tolerant and level-headed during that time, but I still wanted to let him know that I was there for him, no matter what.
In the studio, we reworked and reworked the choruses, and I love how they turned out. The endings of the choruses are especially my favorite parts of the song. This song probably took the longest of any song to record vocally, but I think it’s got a special, heartfelt quality to it because of the work we put into it. I really hope it makes it into our live rotation soon!"
11. Uncomfortably Numb
Ben: "This song as well as the the track after it are pretty difficult for me to listen to, since I wrote both of them about a night or two before my dad finally passed away from his two-year struggle with brain cancer. This track is about my insomnia throughout his final nights, while he was slowly withering away in a hospital bed in my family's house. I used nautical themes and metaphors to convey my sense of loss, but I feel like it's fairly obvious that I'm talking about losing someone extremely close to me. The music in the track seemed appropriately powerful and melodic, and somewhat melancholy. Therefore, I finished the lyrics, came up with the melodies, and pretty much left it alone. I really love the song, but it's tough for me to listen to given the state of mind I was in when I wrote it. The title of the track is a somewhat obvious spin on the Pink Floyd track, which is one of my favorite songs ever."
12. Nothing Happens for a Reason
Ben: "When I put the lyrics of this track to the music, I knew it would be the perfect album closer. Plain and simple, the lyrics are a tribute to my father who died two days after I wrote the song. He was my biggest inspiration in life, and this is just an ode to how great of a man he was. The title comes from my anti-religious feelings and sentiments, and my belief that there is no rhyme or reason to anything in life, especially tragedies such as cancer. I feel like despite the title, the lyrics are actually somewhat uplifting and positive, which is why I wanted it to be the last track. The music is also some of my favorite melodies that I've ever written. All around, this is probably the most powerful song I've ever written, which is a good thing, but definitely hard to listen to because of the emotional stigma of the whole thing. I think anyone who has ever lost a family member to cancer or something similar, will relate to this on a deeply personal level. At least I hope so."