words by tom johnson
Distinctly informed by that late-nineties alternative rock scene, Born Without Bones take a big leap in to their own territory today with the release of new track “Young” – a formidable, powerful new track that precedes the release of their new Young At The Bend LP, which is released in May, via Devil You Know Records.
Restless and relentless from the outset, the new track is taken from a record that was shaped by that weird transitional space that prefaces adulthood, and, perhaps more pertinently, the passing of frontman Scott Ayotte’s Grandmother around the same time, and the multitude of questions/fears/realisations that naturally align themselves with such times.
Expanded upon more via the interview below, the new record is a dark and weighty document too, but also one that offers hope and connection too. It’s also wildly dynamic, as the new track proves, the band ripping through the four-and-a-half minutes here in a whirlwind of dense guitars and fiery vocals, sounding not unlike Brand New in their most darkened moments. Scroll down for the full interview, and check out “Young” right here:
Where did the start of this album process find you as a band, if you can rewind to the time between your second record and ‘Young At The Bend’?
We really had to reevaluate how the band functions. “Baby” was the first time we had released a record on our own and we definitely missed the mark on a few fronts with the actual release. We’re all really proud of the record but we didn’t give it the push it deserved at the time, we really didn’t know what we were doing. I almost blame myself. At the time I was just starting to let go of “Born Without Bones” as my solo project and open myself up to collaborating with Jim and Jonathan. I pushed for us to record at a studio that the band honestly couldn’t afford. I realized I had to give up making decisions for the band on my own. That was when we started working together on everything musical or otherwise.
There’s a lot of talk about ageing and growth in the bio for the new record, how does that manifest itself on the new record?
Our sound got a lot more progressive on Young At The Bend. This is the first record where I’m not writing all the songs and having the rest of the band sort of produce them. For the most part each song was written with all four of us in a room just hashing it out. It might sound strange but that just wasn’t something we did much before. Usually I’d come to practice with a mostly complete song and we’d mold it from there.
From a lyrical perspective I’ve traditionally written about my relationships. When I got around to writing lyrics for YATB I felt it was time to open up to other things I’m salty about. I don’t usually feel inspired to write about something that brings me joy. At 17 and even 21, writing about my romantic life seemed like the most relatable I had to offer. I’m 26 now and my anxieties are so much different. I’m more worried about my mental stability, my finances, losing my friends and family members and my fear that my dreams and passions might be hurting more than they’re helping. I think those are things a lot of people my age are struggling with as well.
What does the phrase ‘Young At The Bend’ mean in regards to the new work?
It was something Jonathan had actually come up with. Initially we were like “we can’t use idiom for an album name” but after very little research we realized it’s not a thing people say. I think Jonathan maybe understood first out of everyone what I was writing about for YATB. I think all of us in the millennial generation feel like it’s early in life to be worried about our finances, politics and mortality. I’m not sure if it’s bratty but I think we’re clinging onto youth because we see this sort of storm ahead that we’re reluctant to go through. I think “The Bend” is that storm.
What was the initial plan for the record, in terms of the overall sound and scope of the record, and did that shift over time or do you feel like this is the record you were hoping to make?
There was really no set plan for this record. We did what we always do, write about 30 songs and then pick the strongest ones. I think we knew from touring “Baby” that we wanted to represent the heaviness and energy of our live sets. There are certain songs on “Baby” that in retrospect I wish we had recorded heavier. YATB changed a lot from the first batch of songs to the last. The first batch had songs like “Muscle” and “I Am A Ruin” which are shorter and have a sort of grunge feel. The very last batch of songs were “Blue Prince”, “What I Was Missing” and “Shy Away”. All three of those songs are a little out there for our usual sound. All three of our records are rather varied because we don’t try to make succinct records, we just follow the ideas that have some soul to them.
The record made more and more sense to me throughout the process. I had a rough idea for a character called “Blue Prince” that was supposed to be some combination of Robert Chambers’ “The King In Yellow” and Antoine de Saint-Exuperys’ “The Little Prince”. I wanted to create a sense optimism but also have this creeping sort of cosmic fear of inevitable collapse. That idea was abandoned pretty early but there still remains some sketches of that idea in the songs, particularly “Young”. Eventually I decided I wanted to write a record for my peers who are struggling with all the things that I am. I think the bands varied dynamic nature lent itself to the ups and downs of being a young adult and finding your place in the world.
What were the more specific influences on Young At The Bend, either musically or otherwise? What do you think shaped/informed it the most?
All three of us grew up in the 90’s so we naturally gravitate towards that sound. Nirvana and Third Eye Blind certainly come to mind. The older I get I’m way less into full albums and more into just single songs. “Into The Mystic” by Van Morrison definitely played a roll in writing “Romance”. “Obstacle 1” by Interpol sort of guided my guitar playing on “Takes Time”.
About half way through the making the record Jonathan had sent us his friend Lucia’s painting which eventually become the focus of our album art. I’ve never had a piece of art like a painting influence something I made musically. It was a very strange experience for me. Midway through the record I kind of felt I was throwing a lot of gutter balls but as soon as the painting came into play it was like the bumpers came up. I see a lot of things when I look at the painting. I see a healing bruise, I see the ocean (my worst fear as a child), I see light consuming dark or vice versa. That gave me a lot to work off of especially with all themes I was already indulging in.
I understand that the passing of your Grandmother had a big impact on the lyrics and the overall tone of the record. Is this a record about loss or is her presence more abstract that that?
Her death was the catalyst for what the overall message of the record became. When she was getting sick I was feeling sick in an emotional way, I felt like I was going through a life purge. While I was watching her physically die and I felt like I was emotionally dying and a lot of the things in my life that were important to me were starting to leave me. I had lived with my grandmother my whole life so when she passed and I was still around I felt really empty. After a few months I had an odd epiphany where I started to tell myself “I’m still here and I still have time to make a positive impact on the people I love”.
All of a sudden I need to reevaluate by role as a son, a brother, a partner and a friend. It was like that Steve Jobs speech where he talks about using the fact that you’ll one day die as motivation. Her death had me reflecting on my own mortality and how I’m spending the relatively short period of time I have to be alive. That was when I started questioning my gripes, grudges, fears and general dissatisfaction with my life. Her death posed the question “what are you going to do about it because the clock is ticking”.
How proud are you of this record? Are you ready for the rest of the world to hear it?
Extremely proud. Every time we make a record I have a new thing I can say “this is the hardest I’ve worked on something”. I can’t wait to do it again and make a better record than Young At The Bend. If we could we’d post it tomorrow, we’ve worked on this every day for two years now so in a way I’m glad that soon Young At The Bends lease in our brains will be up.
‘Young At The Bend’ is released on May 12th, via Devil You Know Records
Pre-order it here