Having recently returned with a dazzling new album, the cinematic indie-rock band’s frontman discloses the inspirations behind their latest material
At the core of A Modern Life there is hope. I know for me, I had come out of our first album with the fear I’d let the most important people around me down and started questioning my overall path and purpose. I turned to the band, and it was clear that we all wanted to find the energy we created together live within the recordings. We dug in, explored and really found our voice while everything around us became more and more confusing and difficult.
This record is our way of navigating through it, remaining hopeful despite the challenges. These songs aren’t meant to be a commentary on our lives, but a reflection of it. Each breathing and searching deeper into the human spirit, the emotions we encounter and the feeling that remains at the centre of what we do.
We got together and finished writing the song the day before Covid lockdowns started happening in America. We were really interested in writing a song about connecting with the people in our lives on a deeper level, quite strange given what was around the corner. There’s so much surface level, or what feels like purely device-level connection, I wonder sometimes if we’ve forgotten how to make real-world connections. The demo always had a Verve or Richard Ashcroft spirit about it and we said why not lean into that and open the record with this new energy.
DREAM NEVER DIES
This is the defining song on this album. I was channelling the nostalgia of being younger, the way you define yourself when you fall in love for the first time, those long summer nights in the suburbs of Long Island, the search for those butterflies in your stomach, and injecting that vulnerability of youth into the song. As we get older, the bigger the questions we ask ourselves emerge. I know I am combatting and thinking about my parents getting older, the world around us constantly changing, trying to stay hopeful, hoping that the dream never dies, hoping we can survive and we will make it out ok. Coming-of-age.
This song was one of the first written for this album, directly after coming off of tour on the last campaign. I was feeling like I hadn’t met the expectations I had for myself and for the others around me. When I was 16 I had such big dreams, never doubting myself, but as I continued on my path I felt I had continued to be let down by the expectations I set for myself. I had to pick myself back up, pick the band up around me, and this song ignited that spirit.
DEFICIT OF WONDER
We wanted to try and bridge two sonic worlds here, like some of our favourite records had done in the past. I really wanted to have my nephew Lowell Moon Hum (the namesake of the band) read a passage I wrote, that was barely audible but felt like my younger self speaking to my older self. I think just a hint of a young boy’s voice in there gave us a feeling of coming-of-age and reflection.
I was driving on the 405 as the sun disappeared behind the mountains spewing the most gorgeous red LA light and I just lost it. I was feeling lonelier than I have felt in a long time, and felt abandoned by a couple of people very close to me, right when I felt I needed them the most. I was looking for answers, I was looking for meaning, something, anything to believe in. This is the first time on this record, but not the only time, that there’s a call to a higher spirit. I think that’s always been in there with my lyrics, a sense of spirit and a sense of wonder. This song feels the most direct to me, the way we deal with our relationships and the way we react to modern life.
I really wanted a song on the album that I felt was an actual step into a sonic dreamscape and to explore the themes of Kurt Anderson’s [2017 non-fiction book] Fantasyland. I was reading this, at the time, and was super moved by his commentary on the decisions made in the U.S that lead us to where we are in these modern times. I was reflecting on the decisions I’ve made that lead me to where I am. The lessons I’ve learned that have kept me listening to my heart, to check in with it, and how that related to the world around me. Staying hopeful in a dystopian landscape, asking questions.
DIGGING UP THE DEAD
I was a fly on the wall for a conversation and heard someone say they couldn’t move forward in their relationship because their partner kept digging up the dead in them. This hit me pretty hard. I really connected with that feeling, but more so in the way that I do that with myself. Of course, I’ve been in relationships where this was the case, but I think we all struggle to get out of our way at some time or another, digging up your past, your regrets, your failures etc. and you ask yourself, ‘Does that make me weak?’ How will I respond?
EYES ON THE PRIZE
This song came out of a bit of modern social anxiety. Spending time on my phone realising that the life that our so-called friends are building for themselves on social media are not the lives they are truly living. I found myself getting sucked into that, and opened my phone one day and muttered to myself, ‘Fuck all my friends they got no passion.’ I didn’t mean this literally but I remembered thinking that there are days where I was spending most of my time looking into other people’s lives and I thought, ‘That’s not time well spent.’ Worry about what you can do to be a better friend, worry about failing with a big heart and connecting with the ones around you that inspire you to keep going. Those relationships matter the most.
We started this song in early 2020 right before the pandemic and had a sneaking suspicion we needed to re-approach some of the record. We wanted to leave the record with some big questions that somehow closed the chapter and left it open at the same time. We collectively felt that we didn’t have the perfect closing song yet. The second record is always a vulnerable time in the history of a band, we were all asking ourselves and each other, after all our obsessing and creating, ‘Is it ever going to be enough?’ It feels like it is, at least for now.