One of the brightest sparks in UK hardcore Svalbard are releasing their killer debut album One Day All This Will End on Holy Roar Records on 25 September and to get your ears wet with anticipation we’re streaming it right now.
And as a guide to the album, guitarist Serena Cherry has given us the stories behind each song. It’s a deep, beautiful insight into a record that may surprise you.
**“What came first, the music or the misery?” asks Rob Gordon, the music-obsessed protagonist in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. It’s a question that has played on my mind ever since. Does listening to miserable music cause misery? Or does the misery brew inherently within, just waiting for an outlet in the form of blisteringly distorted guitars?
Sometimes I feel that my teen years may have been happier had I not discovered nu metal. When I look back now, I see how Slipknot actively promoted alienation, and gloried the notion of being a messed-up freak – and like every impressionable teen, I obliged. I made myself weird, just to fit in with the posters on my walls.
In direct comparison to their predecessors on my stereo (The Spice Girls), the lyrical content of nu metal seemed so much more real, just because it was negative. Thus, a strange association between integrity and misery was formed. A smile was a mask painted on by ‘fake people’; but a frown…well that couldn’t possibly be fashioned in a dishonest manner for attention, could it? After all, “making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel”, as Bart Simpson said.
Then there’s the superiority that comes with the consumption of any culture that is considered “gritty.” Congratulations on graduating from the happy world of Chart Music, you can now apply for an MA in Consumerist Elitism. Well done on having the brains to divert yourself from the mainstream and into a superior puddle of obscurity! Now, I’m not criticising alternative music and it’s penchant for sadness in the slightest. Just the idea that it’s somehow “better” or more honest than any other product for sale. I find it odd that a sulky face is a pre-requisite for the alt. musicians’ uniform of cool; whilst clinical depression is still such a stigmatised mental illness. If only we could embrace the reality of sadness as willingly as the image of it.
I often wonder how many people hold onto their pain just because they believe it goes hand in hand with their off-kilter musical taste? With the song Perspective, I am attempting to debunk the myth that you need to appear to be upset to appear to have conviction. The myth that only the darkness is real. It’s frighteningly easy to be miserable; Perspective is about violently forcing yourself out of the familiar bitter slump and tearing the crown of thorns from your weary head. It’s about the fight that you don’t see happening in so many people’s head. Don’t draw a broken heart upon your sleeve if you can’t stand the sight of a real one.
**“My life isn’t as glamorous as my webpage makes it look” admits Captain Leela in one of those poignant episodes of Futurama that has the stark ability to reduce its viewers to tears. I’m sure millions of people can relate to that quote – which is an alarming thought. All those perfectly controlled presentations of self online; and all the discontent that’s brewing within the self behind the selfie.
The ability to create a filtered self online is terrifyingly seductive and often ashamedly preferable. The grass is always greener in your profile picture. But you will never become that painting of a person. You will only ever be the painter, with your warts and blemishes betraying the portrait of perfection. Better hide behind the canvas so as to never shatter the illusion.
So what is the impact of fixating on oneself in the shimmering digital mirror of social media every day? Does the presence of an online self exacerbate the gap between who someone is, and who they present to others? Is your profile an outlet or a construct? We have always been obsessed with how we are perceived by others – but now we can alter their perceptions through the click of a button! How terribly irresistible. If only we had such self control in real life.
We are so absorbed within our personal social media accounts; that these glittering highlight reels must impact our expectations for ourselves and the world outside the web. It becomes difficult to see where your life ends and your online presentation begins. It becomes harder to embrace reality, because it inevitably seems more and more disappointing by comparison. Sometimes I wonder if social media has completely ruined our ability to tolerate imperfection in ourselves and each other. We want the good stuff and nothing else. Nothing human.
Disparity is about the ideas of a brilliant sociologist called Erving Goffman. He wrote about “impression management” – concerning the gap between the self within and the “preferred self” self that is presented to others. His work was published in the 1950s, yet I feel that it’s even more relevant to the internet age we live in now.
The Vanishing Point
“As long as there’s a record deal we’ll always be friends” chirp Tenacious D in their sarcastic ode Friendship. But with a platinum selling album, at least they can afford to joke. It always starts off so idealistically: a small group of pals who like the same ‘wacky’ music, starting their own ‘wacky’ band. Social misfits united together by noise. Us against the world.
But when a band become more ambitious, the friendships within it become more strained. Each member has their own meaning of the word ‘priority’; and their own limits of what they will sacrifice for the sake of the band. The band that knowingly play the kind of music that will never be a career. It’s a precarious balancing act: earning enough money to live, but sparing enough time to tour. Having a dream, and having the rent.
The analogy of a band being like a marriage is frequently used, and mostly apt. Those long romantic nights spent jamming together, get replaced by long emails about finance and tour practicalities. Years down the line, when you look into your drummer’s eyes you see nothing but weariness and obligation. The spark has given way to the oil of a functioning machine.
The Vanishing Point is the most lyrically subjective song on the album. It draws upon our experiences with ex band members, and the difficulty of finding musicians who are as committed as they claim to be. If a band is like a marriage, it can also be like a divorce. This song is about that feeling when you know someone is about to leave; you watch the enthusiasm ebb away, watch the disinterest creep in, and you feel stupid for believing they were in it for the long haul.
Expect Equal Respect
Since when did a musician’s gender become a note-worthy thing? When you highlight someone’s gender, you reduce them to it. All of their creative output and skill gets buried beneath a flashing neon sign that remarks “female fronted!” with eyebrows raised in apprehension.
The term ‘female fronted’ is steeped in cynicism. When applied on a gig poster, it reads: “Come look at us!” rather than “Come listen to us;” because it is describing a physical feature of the band that is completely unrelated to their sound. Trust me, their ovaries won’t affect their guitar tone. Yet ‘female fronted’ implies that gender should affect the audience’s expectations of the band somehow.
What’s even more alarming, is when women in bands actively using this phrase in self-description. Is it necessary to have gender-based segregation in music? This isn’t football. We don’t need a women’s league. We are all together and equal in music. My fingers can shred as fast as anyone’s. I don’t need a separate category on account of my vagina.
Or are these ‘females’ (as they wish to be known) deliberately making a novelty of themselves? Do they honestly believe that highlighting their gender will get them more attention? It’s such a weak selling point to rely on. Plus, it will only catch the attention of the basic crowd – the kind of people who like Slipknot “because they wear masks.” (Because, you know, those masks are what made their self titled album sound so visceral.)
I often hear the flimsy excuse that women are highlighted in music to encourage other women to play. Yeah, because we’re that fucking impressionable. It’s patronising to assume that women won’t pick up a guitar until they see another woman do it. “Hey girls, it’s okay for us to rock too!” – that’s just the validation I need!
The main point of Expect Equal Respect is that positive discrimination is still discrimination. I really didn’t want to write a song about this, because I like to live in the hope that people don’t need to be reminded to treat everyone as an equal. But mentioning someone’s gender when discussing their band is no more appropriate than highlighting someone’s race or sexual orientation. It’s irrelevant and diminishing to their art. If alternative music is a sanctuary for the alienated, why are we so quick to highlight people’s differences within it? If a person wants to play music, they should simply be referred to as a musician – nothing else.
Unrequited is the most personal song on the album, the lyrics are deliberately vague; like words reluctantly crawling out from a dusty hardback book. The kind of words where you never know if they would have been better left unsaid. The more uncomfortable a topic is, the more I tend to lean on the poetic side of writing, because it can be easier to speak about difficult topics through similes and metaphors.
The overarching feeling of the song is one of weakness and regret. The wailing two-note guitar lead of the verse is there to exemplify a sense of longing and aching. We have never used clean singing on a record before, but I felt it helped deliver the fragility of these lyrics more than screaming could.
In her book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described a type of emotional journey among people who are dealing with a death. According to Ross, the seven stages of grief are: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression and acceptance. I feel like Unrequited follows this pattern lyrically.
The lyrics undertake an bitter, abstract journey. They get more reflective as the song gets heavier, representing that a hardened sense of clarity has eventually been reached by the end of the song.
The Damage Done
The Environment Of Evolutionary Adaptation studied human genes, and concluded that they haven’t altered remotely in the last 35,000 years. But while our genes haven’t changed, our lifestyles completely have. ‘Genome lag’ is the term for this predicament. The theory being that our primitive minds are out of sync with our space-age, technological environment.
All our animal urges lay frustrated beneath civilised culture. Our beastly nature is not dormant, yet we fight to maintain the impossible image that is it.
The Damage Done is about the destruction that occurs when our basic instincts slip of of their facade of containment. It questions why we have alienated ourselves so far from our own natural behaviours. Why have we constructed a prohibiting world in which we feel so conflicted? Should be be more accepting of our primitive side?
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people,” denounced Karl Marx in 1844. His work describes the ways in which religion numbs people to make them more placid towards social injustice. Christianity encourages its followers to ‘turn the other cheek’ - just like Jesus would do. Do not fight against your oppressors – that is amoral. Do not ask questions, just have blind faith. Accept your place as a meek subordinate and you will eventually be ‘rewarded in heaven.’
In many ways, I feel that social media has become the new opium of the people. Its users become locked in a distracted, zombie-like state. Websites such as Facebook provide a platform for people to rant and rave about all the injustice in the world. We sit inside, typing furious statuses about the government; whilst they continue to bomb other countries outside.
We take no real action, because we feel we’ve already done something, in the form of an online post. Once your anger has been released into a digital microcosm, you feel satiated. The desire for rebellion dwindles. You stare at the screen, all spent and subservient.
There’s nothing more silencing than feeling as though you are being heard. Facebook creates the illusion of an audience; but you’re screaming at a brick wall. Unnatural Light is a reminder that while everyone feels better after a rant – nothing actually gets better after a rant.
One of the most powerful The Simpsons quotes of all time comes from little Lisa, in the episode Bart’s Dog Get’s An F. When things become difficult with their tearaway pooch, they contemplate getting rid of him. At this point, Lisa questions “is the way to solve a problem with something you love to throw it away?”
Unfortunately, people do adopt the throwaway approach when it comes to animals. Lily is named after a cat I rescued. Nobody wanted her anymore. She was covered in flea bites and stick thin when I found her. She was so disheveled that she was unpleasant to touch.
I got her treated at the vets and took her home, where she now sleeps curled up to me every night as a healthy, happy cat. When we wrote the music for this song, I found the melodies sounded so optimistic and hopeful that they reminded me of her. She is the happy ending.
One Day All This Will End is out on 25 September via Holy Roar.