Interview: Downhaul On Their New Album ‘Before You Fall Asleep’

Posted: by The Editor

Before You Fall Asleep is an album of contemplation and growth. After a series of three EPs, each stronger than the last, it just felt like the right time for Downhaul to check the LP off the list of milestones. Well, that and the fact that vocalist/guitarist Gordon Phillips was, “to lean on a cliché, goin’ through some stuff.”

The ten songs were written over a span of three or four months in early 2018 and deals with themes of self-reflection, self-help, mental health, and learning lean on those who love you when things get rough. And it is all presented in a clear-cut, heart-on-your-sleeve manner. This was somewhat nerve-racking. According to Phillips, “I was, as you can imagine, weary of making the first line anybody would hear from the album about therapy.” “Wires / Enough” starts out boldly in that way:  “I’m eating fast food frantically, outside of therapy / Six minutes late, really six years late now.” There was also the stress that singles are, by nature, presented outside of the context that they have as part of an album. The longer format can bring listeners on a journey and “is such a better chance to say something and to receive a message, too.” “But ultimately,” said Phillips, “there are going to be people that need to hear this—people who need to hear that it’s normal and it’s okay. And we all should have done it a long time ago.”

“Grace Days”, the opening track, sees Phillips speaking about the importance of family. “I couldn’t believe the fact that we’d already released 12 songs and I hadn’t explicitly said anything about them. They’re the most important people in my life.” He expresses a sincere gratitude for them and the memories he has of growing up and living together. “It’s kind of crazy to think about the fact that you can never really go back there. It just sticks with you as you get older and it’s something that weighs on you.” Family and friends were what got Phillips through the span of time in which this album was written and their continued support of both him as a person and Downhaul as a band is what keeps him going. Gratitude for these types of relationships is “something that I’m surprised more bands don’t want to write about.”

The night prior to Before You Fall Asleep was released, Phillips tweeted a message to this circle of supporters to make it clear that he now feels somewhat removed and in a better place than what is expressed on the record. “I had this moment of realization because I hadn’t listened to the record in a long time… But it was the night before the album was going to come out and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to listen to it, I want to see what it sounds like months down the road.’ And I put it on and I was like ‘oh my gosh, my mom, my sisters, my friends, my cousins are all going to hear these songs in like nine hours and they’re going to think I’m at like rock bottom or something like that.’ I don’t know if I’d forgotten what I’d written or maybe I hadn’t thought about their impact in context for a while, but I was like ‘okay, I need to put out the disclaimer so I don’t get all those ‘I’m worried about you’ texts on the day the album comes out.”

However, anyone listening to the full product is sure to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “Bedridden” is a turning point where Phillips sings that he’s “Learning to walk again, leaning on all my friends / Because I’m tired of living like a martyr / In the hope that someone notices.” The sentiment here is to both help yourself and to reach out to others when you need it, otherwise “you kind of just internalize all these burdens and all these things that are going on in your life.” This is then perfectly tied up in the closing track, “Ring Out”. Phillips makes it clear that his struggles are in no way unique and he wants to help normalize this openness about it, triumphantly crooning and encouraging “Let it ring out!”

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Scott Fugger | @Scoober1013

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