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This Is How Volumes Crafted Their Clearest And Most Corrosive Vision Of The Band With ‘Happier?’

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 23 November 2021 at 15.14

"I feel like it’s the most exciting collection of music that Volumes has ever released, for sure"

have just released their new album 'Happier?' via Fearless Records.

Serving as the first full-length from the band since the return of vocalist Michael Barr, it finds them coursing with creative clarity like never before. Taking all of the lessons they have learned in life from the last few years and injecting them into their corrosive and cataclysmic sound, it's the most monolithic and meticulous offering they have ever produced and leaves the doors open to endless possibilities in the future.

We sat down with Micheal to talk about his return to the band, the way their relationship as a band has changed and what has made this the most fulfilling album process of their career so far...

It feels like a whole load of different elements have led to Volumes being the band they are right now with an album of songs like this at their disposal…
"This iteration and this vision and era of Volumes is, I think, what we have always envisioned to look like, sound like and feel like. For our fans, I feel like this is the perfect time to share this bubbling aspect of all of the things we have been trying to progress with. We are not getting further away from where we started, but getting closer and more confident as five guys back in the band together. This album is the culmination of all of that.

"First of all, I wasn’t even involved in all of it. My initiation into the band was more of a production, which led to the conversation of me coming back as a full member. The sky was the limit for us in the studio, and it all felt so new and exciting again, so it felt like the right time. It yielded the sound that you hear on this record more so than anything. Then there was the pandemic, which blindsided not just us but every band but gave us the time and space to do whatever we wanted. Most of the time, you have deadlines, which are months rather than years, but we ended up having two and half years to fully make the record. Because of all of that, I feel like it’s the most exciting collection of music that Volumes has ever released, for sure."

Before that moment you returned, though, what was it like for you watching the band exist whilst you weren’t involved?
"It was pretty interesting. When I left, I was very committed to the process of actually leaving, and that instilled some confidence in me. But then, it was pretty mind-boggling to not be a part of the bigger group. You start to miss the smells and the sounds that come with being within that. It gets real quiet. I ended up making some solo music and going on a couple of tours, and they were adequately sobering moments. Playing to virtually nobody and self-funding it all also attributed to feeling a way about things. But with all that considered, I don’t regret that time because it helped me prove that I wanted to stay in the music industry. Now that I’m here, I treat this with the utmost respect. Being able to come back in and pick up where I left off, it’s really rare, especially when you’re able to have so much fun. I make sure to remind myself every day and feel the humbleness and appreciation for it."

It also feels like a lot of life has been lived within that time, and you have gone out of the way to make sure that it is shown within the Volumes sound this time around. Different elements and experiences, and realisations have been able to be brought to the table…
"For sure. When I jumped in, there were songs already being written through Max Schad, a fantastic producer who has worked with Volumes since the very beginning and I have written with since I was 16 years old. He linked back with the band after I was out, and him being back in the fold was part of what helped me to come back as well. Then when I heard the music that was being made at that point, it was excellent, and I felt very nostalgic to what we had been doing at that first point, which is why we had to bring Daniel Braunstein back in as well. Lyrics are one thing in telling a story and explaining a lifespan, and that’s definitely on the album. There are songs about things that have happened in our lifetime and things that have happened to each member, but I think so sonically you have to put that across as well. And Daniel was part of how we were able to do that. Being somebody who started the band in the first place as an original member and producing our EP and first two albums, he helped to give us that homecooked sound that we were missing. That attributed to these songs feeling like they have been lived and worn and broken in, even if they are still brand new. It was all a part of making everything seem seamless."

Combining where you have been with where your heads are right now must help not make things feel too alien and out there. Like having the past and present work in tangent to create the future…
"I feel like what we were able to make because of that had been brewing in the band even before I left. It was still there when I wasn’t there. Crossing over into pop-orientated progressive metal wasn’t something we were never prepared to pull the trigger on overnight, but we were always alluding to it being a possibility. So in coming back, it became more of us saying, ‘Are we doing this or are we doing this?’. Now is the time to see just how big these songs and shows can get, which is now as much a part of the conversation and staying true to the sound and style that makes the band what it is."

Being older and seeing the world differently from how you saw it in your early 20’s, how do you feel your relationship as a brand is now compared to when you were putting the first pieces together?
"Part of the reason that I left in the first place was because of the dysfunction. We have full self-deprecation and humiliation in this department that we know we had a dicey and chequered past, and it’s part of why I wanted to step away. I’ve played my part in that, as has everyone, but you’re young and on the road, and it can lead you down one of two paths. We took the more travelled one. Fast-forward, and we’ve all grown up and changed so much. We’ve all known what everybody has been up to and seen each other’s cards throughout every stage of the band’s story, both the good and bad sides, and now we are in a place where we understand ourselves and who we were. Now it’s a conscious effort to move forward in the most proper and relaxing way we can.  I think it’s cathartic for us to identify those past times, own up to them and learn from them. The lows make the highs even better, and we’re focusing on making the highs continue now."

So how did you find the way to take all of these songs you had written and morph them into something that resembled a cohesive record?
"The main thing was going back to the studio that we were all comfortable with, which was in Venice, California. With me being back in the studio, it felt like things were really easy to get things started again and not put myself in the forefront of the situation either. I think the guys were very traumatised by how they made some previous records. Having a rallying aspect of making this one work right really helped. Having Daniel in there as well and having his warmth there really was the icing on the cake as well. Him being on this record gave it what it needed and reminded us that we still have it in us to do it. There were days when we thought that we should stop altogether, and then there were days where we felt like the most resilient band in the world. So having the family back together, as cheesy as that sounds, is a lot of what helped make it what it is."

So what would you say it is about ‘Happier?’ that made it the perfect title to umbrella these songs?
"What I concluded about it is that it can mean 20 million different things. There is no binding concept to this record. It’s just life experiences. I feel that’s where Volumes thrives and what it does best. So when we were thinking about it being ‘Happier?’, which I held out on for a long time, I went through a whole thought process. We’ve been through this entire pandemic and this period and considered whether people are happier or not now where we are standing. Everybody is asking themselves that question. The band has been through so much as well. People have moved on, passed away, joined, changed. When somebody sees that word, I think it triggers them to think about health and mental health specifically, as well. It just feels like the perfect conversation starter, and you can continue talking all of the different ways you can look at it."

And how does it feel to be in a position where you’re looking forwards, with the first hurdle of this new story done. How does it feel having those tingles of possibility that comes with the unknown back in your life?
"It’s a pretty surreal situation. I think I'm excited because of this amazing album and the connection between the guys back again and things being a lot more polished and professional. I’m so ready to unleash so much. Every night once again feels like total therapy because we’ve waited so long for this again. That goes back to feeling the humbleness and respect for the fact that we’re able to do it. I’m ready and excited to make the next album already too."

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