Interview: Downhaul

Posted: by The Editor

I remember the first time I listened to Downhaul. I had just transferred to a new school far from where I grew up, and as I ate alone one day my Spotify decided to play “Double Time.” I was immediately blown away by the band’s clean, self-assured emo sound and especially their lyrics, which felt like they captured exactly how I felt but in a far more articulate way.

Downhaul is not the same band they were when I first stumbled onto them in the dining hall. The band’s sophomore album, Proof, finds the band stepping into darker, more textured territory than their previous releases. From the foreboding opener “Bury” to the twisting and dynamic centerpiece “Circulation” to the alt-country jaunt of finale “About Leaving,” Proof takes Downhaul in totally new directions than they’ve ever gone before, while retaining the heart-on-sleeve lyricism that makes their music feel so lived-in. Promotional materials compare Proof to The Hotelier’s Goodness, and while the albums don’t necessarily sound alike, there is a kinship in the way both find their artists reaching beyond the confines of the emo genre and letting their songs breathe. I spoke to vocalist / guitarist Gordon Phillips and guitarist Robbie Ludvigsen about the writing of Proof, the band’s sonic evolution, and their favorite moments on the record. 

I’ll start off with like a softball, maybe: how are you guys doing? How’s it going? How’s the vibes?

Robbie Ludvigsen: can’t complain, I think we’re all just like really just stoked for the album cycle to sort of be winding down, so that everyone can actually hear it so we’re really excited and the weather is warming up. It’s just a good time, right now, so I think we’re all really in a good place. I can’t speak for anyone else. We’re vaccinated.

Did it mess you up bad?

Robbie Ludvigsen: We both got Johnson and Johnson so not really. We were both pretty chill. I think we both have a little bit of trouble sleeping a little bit and then fatigue, but it wasn’t like a day off work or anything like that.

Gordon Phillips: My arm hurt, like more than the flu shot ever does.

You’ve talked about how “Leverage” was kind of the blueprint for the record. Was it that you wrote “Leverage” and then you wrote the record? Like, you heard the way that song sounded and you want to go in that direction, or were you testing out this record with “Leverage”?

Robbie ludvigsen: You know, shortly after the album came out, Before You Fall Asleep, I think in terms of planning for the future, like we knew we wanted to sort of go in that direction sonically, but I think a lot of things that you hear on Proof weren’t totally fleshed out yet. It was sort of like the seed was planted but we didn’t really know how we wanted to go about it. That was sort of leaning into that a little bit, but then a lot of the songs on Proof came months later, so it wasn’t as deliberate as like, “We want to go this way, so let’s see how it works with “Leverage,”’ but it was just sort of like how “Leverage” sounds is it sort of how we want to start doing things, then just sort of turning it up a notch when we started working on the album songs.

Gordon Phillips: I think that’s right and a big thing about Tornado Season is that there was one song that was very country on it and one was more like post rock. I think there are some people who maybe wanted us to go one way and we kind of went the other way. Maybe that’s all in my head, but that’s like what occurs to me about those two songs.

And I guess the funny thing with that is that  you kind of book end of this record that way. “Bury” is this sort of really heavy atmospheric song and then “About Leaving,” of course, is pretty much a country song. And I want to ask you about “About Leaving.” What was behind the idea to really lean into the country elements, or the alt country elements, with that one?

Gordon Phillips: So originally Proof was going to end with “Eyesight.” We kind of had that as –– it kind of still occupies the space of a closer because it’s kind of like a big ending, kind of like a good conceptual ender. But I had this New Year’s resolutions list that I had like written up for myself and I had the idea to write a song using only two chords. I ended up using three, but the plan was to only use two and I sent a demo to Robbie and I was like, “What do you think of this?” and he was like, “Yeah I think that has to be on the album.” I was like, “Great, but I’m not going to play on it.” There’s no baritone guitar on “About Leaving” so it has everybody, but me, including Max. It’s just like a musical arrangement of my New Year’s resolution list for 2020, I guess, and then the chorus is interpolated from a song called “Rosalie” by the band Cassino, which is a new project by Nick from Northstar.

“Eyesight” is sort of bookended by “The Ladder” and “Interlude,” sort of set off from the rest of the record in that way, and I was curious what was behind that decision.

Robbie Ludvigsen: Well, the sequencing for the album as a whole came about really easily, like it didn’t seem like there was a lot of consternation internally about where things went. As a whole, like, I think it just felt like everything sort of fit right into place. As we were writing the songs and demoing and things became more fleshed out, you know, things sort of took their place naturally. Like, to Gordon’s point about sort of like adding “About Leaving” to the album, “The Ladder” was a song that Gordon and I had worked on just for fun, the two of us, and realized that it would probably fit as a sort of palate cleanser in the middle of the album. When we were working on it, it was very sparse, and it’s already sparse, but we sort of fleshed it out a little bit for the album to make it sort of sound like it’d make sense within the flow of the album. So to me, it sounds like it’s sort of like a bridge between “Circulation” and “Eyesight” and less like a way to sort of like surround “Eyesight.” I don’t know if that makes sense. And then “Interlude,” we just wanted to have 10 songs, I think, is part of that. I just think it was a good chance to flex a muscle that we don’t really do that often, that sort of like ambient, washy, noise texture type thing which I know me and Gordon both really enjoy from other folks, and so when we were able to do it for this one, I don’t know, that was a really rewarding experience. That song is one of those songs that we couldn’t have done without Chris Teti because we put all the pieces down in the studio and then he took it back to mix it and just made it sound way better. About the closer, I sort of think of that sort of like the credits rolling on a movie. So like “Eyesight” is sort of like the conclusion to the album and then it winds down with the interlude and then “About Leaving” just is like, as the credits are rolling, a way to take a breath after everything that just happened and sort of reflect on that.

Gordon Phillips: “Interlude,” like the lead line, that is the bridge melody of “Dried.”

A couple of the songs are like that where they have callbacks. “About Leaving” is obvious, and then it’s got that “you wanted proof” line from “Bury.” What’s the idea with those?

Gordon Phillips: Yeah. The thing about our band is, we have put out a lot of music. And I always am under the impression that people don’t know that. Whenever there’s a throughline like that or a call back or an Easter egg it’s kind of like a tip of the hat to the people that are paying attention, to people that like have been aware of our band for longer than two weeks or whatever and it’s supposed to be something it’s kind of like an inside joke, maybe creating some sort of in-group. Just kind of like –– our music sounds different than it used to and I’m happy with that, but I do want us to still be self-aware of the music we’ve put out, and not like one of those bands that totally neglect the fact that they have other music. It also helps like the record itself feel more cohesive and feel more like a world, an environment you can live in.

Robbie Ludvigsen: I think like Gordon’s point about that zoomed out version of it and, like taking it out of the music of it, I agree with that, but I also do think that there’s conceptual weight to it as well. Like, we do want there to be like a unifying theme. Like, when you hear  the same line like that, that is on purpose and that’s because we want there to be a common narrative, a magic string that you can sort of pull throughout the album. But yes, I do totally agree with that that, like, I think it is really cool when there’s like world building within an album and then like world building within a discography, and I hope that we were able to sort of start cultivating that with our music. I think that’s really awesome.

Gordon Phillips: Robbie’s a big Coheed fan.

As you two understand it, what would you say those unifying themes might be throughout Proof?

Gordon Phillips: I think that a lot of this album is like Robbie said before, like trying to flex a different muscle. A lot of it was inspired by places and like memories that are connected to places. And the reason I did that “Standing Water” thing is that I wanted that to be kind of the first really deliberate message about the album’s themes and focus is that, like, it’s more geographical than it is things happening, like in your own brain or in your own interactions with people or relationships or whatever. So the short answer is that it’s more about places and the memories and things that can be tied up in those places. Robbie had a good answer for this the last time we talked about it.

Robbie Ludvigsen: So the thing about Gordon’s lyrics and the band is that like very rarely, if ever, do we sit down and ask Gordon, “What’s this about?” I remember, as an aside, like, I remember reading about the new Touche Amore album, how they made Jeremy Bolm like sit down in the studio and explain every lyric. I remember for a Sigur Ros album –– I can’t remember, I think it was the parentheses one –– they gave you a lyric book and they just left it blank so it was just like a bunch of blank pages. And yet, like he meant things and it’s a made up language anyway so like it doesn’t matter, but the idea is that you sort of write your own lyrics, like you don’t –– you shouldn’t –– need the lyric writer of the band like tell you what the concepts are of the album. I think that that’s the beauty of music and lyricism, is that you can sort of assume whatever you want in so far as it can help you get through something or like connect to something or figure out your own life in a way. So, like, I hope that people can do that with the album but, so in that regard to me what I’ve taken from the lyrics is sort of like being older and sort of like growing to an age that leads you to some like self defeating thinking and sort of finding yourself, convincing yourself that you can’t do something anymore, or that you shouldn’t do something anymore, that you should give up on something. I think a lot of the songs, while they are rooted in personal relationships, I do think zoom out. Like, trying to find a way to sort of prove to yourself and to others that whatever you’re doing is okay, and that you’re not trying to prove anything to anyone else, but you’re trying to just get yourself to a certain place that is more self sufficient so that you can thrive and flourish and not worry about the haters and the losers.

You’ve both touched on this somewhat. So the first thing that’s really noticeable about the record is that the songs are a lot longer and they’re not necessarily as bright or poppy as before. Not to say that Before You Fall Asleep wasn’t a rock album, but this is a lot more like you know, like a rock album.

Robbie Ludvigsen: I agree.

And so I have an expectation of what the answer to this may be, but to what extent was that a conscious decision on your part?

Gordon Phillips: You know, when we first sent Josh the demos, he said, “Wow, Downhaul goes full rock band.” At the time I was not expecting that response. But I guess he just put on “Bury’ and that was the immediate reaction. I think its being more of a rock record, I think a lot of the tones in the instrumental recordings are just so big. Like, the drums on this album sound crazy and the bass on this album sounds crazy and the way Chris arranged everything ––  we previously always used to record live, so our albums were always my guitar right down the left, Robbie’s guitar down the right, drum set and bass sitting in the middle, and sing over it, maybe layer it or something like that. Whereas this, there is layers and layers of guitars and layers of guitar pedal noise and like vocals are doubled or harmonized or even octaves and there’s drum machines and there’s acoustic guitar layered and even tambourine. I think Proof is just so much more of a sonic production that the scale does feel a lot more like a big rock record, whereas previously our music sounded a lot like if you went to see our band live, like that’s what our record sounded like. It was just like we set up in front of some microphones and played our songs. And the way Chris works and the way he did the mix in this one definitely lends to more of that big rock kind of in-your-face feeling.

Robbie Ludvigsen: And I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, like we were like all sitting around writing riffs and we’re just like, “Yeah we want to make a rock out.” I mean we knew that we wanted to work with Chris in person. And just by nature of that the takes are going to be different because it’s someone else recording us, someone else engineering and mixing and everything. So I would say that, like, to the extent that it’s like a rock album, blame Chris for that.

Did you go into this with any expectation of what this’d sound like? Like, “We know how we’re going to follow up Before You Fall Asleep and it’s going to be like this,” or did you just sort of let the songs take you where they took you?

Robbie Ludvigsen: I think the short answer is both. It’s so weird and I think this speaks like –– I hate this word but –– like the chemistry of the band. Like, we didn’t really have to say, “We want the guitars to sound like this,” so like it wasn’t like an explicit, “We want this album to sound like what it sounds like.” We talked about it, like in the van and just sort of listening to records that we like and just grabbing things from there, and sort of cultivating like an overall vibe that we knew that we wanted to go for. And as we started talking about it more and more it just sort of became like an unspoken thing, ESP, like we all just sort of understood collectively what we wanted to sort of go for and then attempted to communicate that to Chris. To his credit, he, like, made sense of it. But in terms of like what you’re hearing on the album there wasn’t. The use of so much reverb or like delay or our pedals here, it wasn’t very specific or technically verbose, it was very flighty and heady and conceptual. And I think that was what was most exciting going into the record is that, like, I felt very confident that everyone involved had the same idea without having to really lwrite it down, you know, word for word.

Gordon Phillips: I’ll say this, that we had no idea what to expect. Before we got the first mixes back, we just didn’t know what it was going to sound like. It wasn’t a situation where we walked away from the studio like, “I got a pretty good idea what the album sounded like.” We just didn’t know. Then the mixes came in and we were like, “Oh that’s what it sounds like.”

Robbie Ludvigsen: It was wild.

Gordon Phillips: And we’ve said this before, but we didn’t listen back really at all as we were recording. We were kind of recording blind because we didn’t have very much time. We were only there for six days. So we worked these crazy long days and we didn’t really stop and listen to what we had, we just kept on rolling. So that even added to the fact that, like, it was a super different process that we were not closely monitoring along the way, and yeah, the answer to that question is yes.

So I wanted to talk to you about “Circulation.” That one’s probably my favorite on the record, and I think it bridges really well the sort of things you were doing before and what you’re doing on this record. And I know that you’ve talked about before how “Bury” was originally two different songs and it seems to me that “Circulation” is structured similarly. I was curious how that one came together.

Gordon Phillips: Robbie had done in the build up of “Leverage” these like finger picked two note like chord shapes. He had done these chord voicings in the build up of “Leverage” that I loved and that reminded me of the last two Pianos Become the Teeth records and so I was like, “Somewhere on the second album, we need to have those chord things more central.” If you listen to the build up chords of “Leverage” and the intro chords of “Circulation,” they are the same voicings and like tone and like kind of treatment. So I knew we wanted to start a song with that feel and that’s where the idea of the chords that start off “Circulation” came from. I knew I wanted to do that, and then I had the chorus. The chorus is like a really big chord progression, like one of the most used ones ever, like it’s like GDC, I think, or whatever, or whatever the relative would be when you’re playing baritone. Classic huge chord progression, but we wanted to kind of like deconstruct it and, like, apply it instead of coming out and playing it. The entire second verse was completely different. The entire second verse lyrics are about a visit to a hospital, but I really didn’t want to make a song that people were going to interpret as being about COVID. I went back and I changed the entire second verse and the melody to be about something else and scrapped all of those lyrics.

Robbie Ludvigsen: And it’s better.

Gordon Phillips: And it’s better. Scratched all those.I won’t do that a lot, do a lot of whole cloth rewrites, but we’d written this song and then COVID happened, and I was like, “People will hear COVID with this song, so I’m going to change it completely.” I scrapped that whole verse and then rewrote that and then we wanted Robbie to sing somewhere on the album, so we gave him the apex of the most ambitious song on the album to handle on his own. We have no idea how it’s gonna go down live, but there it is.

Okay, so that’s you on that one.

Gordon Phillips: Spoiler alert. And there’s one part on the album where Andy sings. Have you found it yet?


Gordon Phillips: Okay, good, we’re going to have a contest to find it. Another big thing about “Circulation” was that middle guitar riff rock out thing with the drum machine. I don’t really know what we’re doing there but it’s just there. It’s ambitious. Like, “Circulation” is, in a lot of ways, the centerpiece of the album and like we were really considering using it as a single, but we’re kind of afraid because it has a bunch of different things and ideas going on and we kind of shied away from that. But I’m glad to hear you like it, because that was the one that we worked on, like the most.

Robbie Ludvigsen: That was the one that, in demos, was always very daunting and I was the one like mixing it in Logic and like I don’t pretend to be a mix engineer or anything like that, but I knew that I wanted to do a good job making it sound good. I knew we were going to send them to people and I was trying to do “Circulation” and make it sound even close to what we wanted it to sound like and that was very intimidating. I’m glad that Chris was able to make it work. I know that he wanted to cut that guitar rock out section, or wanted to cut it in half, like, “It doesn’t really go anywhere,” so we knew that we were not gonna. We just like, “Better rock harder.” It’s one of the best parts of the song for me. We have no idea how we’re going to play alive.

Gordon Phillips: We were like, “We really want for Chris to produce us and engage with the demos, and really tell us those thoughts, so we can have this external influence” and then he gives us this really big piece of feedback and we were just like, “No we will not do that.”

Robbie Ludvigsen: He didn’t press that, he didn’t press for it. We just said, “We’re gonna keep it” and he was like “Okay.” It turned out good. I love that song and I remember my parents knew that I was gonna sing on the album. He was like, “Where’s the chorus?”

Gordon Phillips: We get that all the time.

The other song I wanted to talk about was “Scatterplot.” I feel like this is a weird comparison, but the new Julien Baker album opens with the biggest, heaviest song to establish the boundaries of that album, and I feel like “Bury” sets up Proof similarly. Then “Scatterplot” is the only I think that gets the next closest to that, especially in the bridge. 

Gordon Phillips: So “Scatterplot” was the last song –– no second second last probably, “Dried” or “Scatterplot” –– we wrote. It’s funny, it is definitely the fastest –– “Scatterplot” came to me in 20 minutes. But, specifically, we have this Downhaul rule, where, if we do something once on an album, it has to happen twice and “Bury” is this really minor key song, and I was like, “We don’t have any other minor key songs now, so we need a minor key song.” And we needed another full time song because we only had one full time, pure full time song, “Standing Water,” so we needed a minor key song and a full time song. So “Scatterplot” is the embodiment of like the Downhaul rule of twos because we needed another full time song, we needed another minor song. I really liked the chorus. I thought that was tight, and really wanted to use that and then just put another classic Downhaul big bridge in it. And we thought about using it as a single because it stands alone on its own pretty well. And one thing I really love about that song, the little details like the acoustic guitars that got added into the verses of that song really help the pace of that song kind of shuffle along. Robbie, what do you think about “Scatterplot”?

Robbie Ludvigsen: So “Scatterplot” is one that I’m personally really proud of in terms of –– selfishly –– my contributions to it because the demo of it didn’t have the opening riff and I was trying to like come up with just like a part like that. For Gordon’s parts on the album, he would play his parts, and then, like, I would make my part on top of that. And the good thing about this album is that his parts are very simple, so I have a lot of room to do whatever, but the bad part is that it’s very simple and I have a lot of room to do whatever. So it’s a little bit intimidating and I feel like I felt sort of partially responsible to sort of occupy a lot of space that I normally don’t occupy. And so for that one I was just trying to come up with like a riff, just some kind of riff to add some color to that song. Gordon really liked it, said to that the intro riff and sort of like a touch point along the way. And so the song originally was just chords and just doing the two note chord progression, very up and down, simple. And Pat had his bass part and then I decided to just like strum the chords which we definitely didn’t want to do for this album but that one song, I felt like it needed it. When Andrew opens up the drum part I think strumming sort of pushes the song towards the chorus and then the chorus dropped out entirely and Andrew’s drum part for the chorus, it’s one of the sickest things he did. Without him it’s just so simple but it just goes super hard and the feedback we’ve gotten on that song has been really, really awesome. People love that song. It sounds like Downhaul so people can recognize us in it, but then to your point about it sort of being the next closest to “Bury,” which I totally agree with,it’s sort of it’s rooted in the newness of Downhaul. It still has all of our familiar moves within it, but sprinkled in with all the new moves, so I think it’s just like a good encapsulation of where we are now.

Gordon Phillips: Possibly my favorite thing Andrew plays on the whole album is halfway through the bridge, where he does hi hat, toms, hi hat, toms, and then right crash, crash.

Robbie Ludvigsen: It’s so sick. It’s so simple.

Gordon Phillips: That drum fill is one of my favorite things he played on the whole album.

What are your favorite moments on the record? Favorite song is boring, but favorite moment.

Robbie Ludvigsen: My guitar solo. Pat’s bass part at the end of “Scatterplot” too.

Gordon Phillips: Oh, my gosh.

Robbie Ludvigsen: It’s another thing that’s really simple, yeah, it’s really simple. So backing up a little bit and not answering your question, we had six days to record this album and Pat is just like an incredible musician. Pat was like, “Nah I’m gonna knock this out, like it’ll take two seconds.” Chris was just like, “Yeah, okay, man, whatever. There’s no way. This is going to take all night.” He ripped through the entire album in 42 minutes.

Gordon Phillips: Once from start to finish, then that was it.

Robbie Ludvigsen: I have a video of that recording, of that part I’m talking about, the bass part. It’s just like a great bass part and he just absolutely nailed the take there. The tone was perfect. That’s one of my favorite parts of the album.

Gordon Phillips: In the second verse of “The Ladder” where in the high register, I did like fall down. That part is tight if I’m tooting my own horn.

Robbie Ludvigsen: The first half of “Bury” when the drums come in. That is a huge album intro moment.

Gordon Phillips: In the intro of “Dried” the grooves that Andy’s playing. We got that idea like teed up and then we were all, “Run that whole thing again.” That’s how you end up with those six minutes song because we had the whole intro and then we were just like, “Tight.” And when the electric drums come in on the second verse of “Standing Water,” with a vocal octave –– that part is sick.

Robbie Ludvigsen: And the double drum set on “Bury,” the first chorus..

Gordon Phillips: The double drum set and the first chorus of “Bury” is so tight.

If you were introducing Downhaul to someone who had never heard them before, what song would you play for them? 

Gordon Phillips: “Standing Water,” I think.

Robbie Ludvigsen: Yeah, same, yeah.

Gordon Phillips: It’s this big –– like, it feels like a statement. It has this kind of grandiose like, take-a-look, like we’re announcing something big and like this is what we have to give you. “Standing Water” is, ironically, the first song that we wrote for this album. But for me that one just feels like very sure footed, stable.

Robbie Ludvigsen: I’d probably go “Standing Water.” I just think that that song is very immediate and I think if that’s what you’re trying to, if you have one song to prove that this band is good, it’s not a slow burn. It just hits you in the face and just like it takes off from there. It starts off great. So I think that that would be my choice.

Why did you call the record Proof

Gordon Phillips: No one’s asked that yet and I thought we were exposing ourselves to getting that question all the time. Robbie was thinking of sick names for hardcore bands and the ones he came up with were proof and splitter. And I was like, “Holy shit, we have got to call something proof.” The head in the cloud reason is that I felt like we had something to prove and I didn’t like that. I felt like we had something to prove and at the same time, I knew that we had nothing to prove. So I felt like I wanted to show that we could do a second album because doing an album is really hard. And I wanted to show that we could do something better, be something better, and I wanted to show to people that I’m not just someone who writes breakup songs. At the same time, we are a tiny band so like no one’s paying attention to us. At the same time, like we are we don’t have to indicate to anyone anything and we don’t have to measure up to anything. We are under no obligation to do anything so Proof is this kind of interesting dichotomy between perceived pressures and attentions and expectations with the fact that everything we do is inconsequential in the grander scheme of music and life and the world. That is my answer. Robbie, what’s yours?

Robbie Ludvigsen: I would just sort of call back to what I was saying about the album and what it means to me in general, to sort of prove to yourself, to others that whatever you’re doing is worth doing and regardless of what anyone else is saying you know you’re probably doing it better than anyone else, and however you choose to do it is the right way to do it. In regards to just decisions that you made in the past, like where I am now is proof that I’m not a screw up or I didn’t make the wrong decision. I’m just sort of like being at peace with the fact that everything you’ve done in your life so far brought you to where you are now and that that’s a blessing more than anything.

I know you had said in interviews you don’t necessarily like the songs from Before You Fall Asleep as much anymore, and you don’t like the older material. Do you think that when you get to play Proof songs live you’re going to be feeling that same way? Does that make sense?

Robbie Ludvigsen: When we first put on the release show for Before You Fall Asleep we were stoked like those songs we felt so confident in them. It’s just natural that after two years of playing the same songs over again you’re just going to get sick of them. That’s why we tend to change them up a little, like if you heard us playing those album songs now, they wouldn’t sound super different. But they would have little tweaks here and there, like just sort of things to be changed for this because we worked them out live for two years. It’s like we made them fresher over time and like easier to start playing. And I think it’s an organic thing that happens when you play songs over and over again, that you’re going to work out new ways to make them better and so that helps keep their shelf life longer, I think.

Gordon Phillips: Pun intended.

Robbie Ludvigsen: But to your question, I don’t know. I hope not. I mean, the good thing is that we haven’t played these songs since we recorded them. We haven’t gotten together as a band once. When we finally get the chance to like practice again and start playing the songs again, I feel like I’m going to need to relearn them. We need to figure out how to play them because we had practiced them countless times before we recorded, but we added so much stuff in the studio to flesh them out and make them sound so much larger than life that I don’t know how to play them live.  I can’t speak for Gordon because I don’t have to sing the songs every night like he does, but I think by sort of changing up the lyrical content and sort of making it less personal, I think it probably makes it easier to stomach. I am assuming that. I don’t know if that’s true.

Gordon Phillips: I think that the thing about these songs is there’s more space in them, and there is more dynamics in them, such that they will be more fun to play live for a longer amount of time. To Robbie’s point I think everybody gets sick of their old songs.  There’s some on Before You Fall Asleep that I would love to never play “Wires” again. I would just love to never play that song again but “Grace Days” is fun to play. That song stands up to me because it’s dynamic and there are parts of it that are really fun to play, and hopefully these songs will last. I mean, we got to road test those songs extensively. I am having trouble visualizing playing any of these songs because we didn’t do it even one time. We didn’t play one of these songs. We didn’t play a single one of these songs a single time live so I have such a mental block about how it’s going to go.

Robbie Ludvigsen: Bear with us.

Gordon Phillips: My mind immediately goes to like, “Can we load the electronic drums at the beginning of ‘Eyesight’?”

Robbie Ludvigsen: I mean, it’s going to take a lot of practice. I think it would have been really cool if we could have been able to pull off. You know, there’s a chance that we might need someone beyond our band to come, help us out play the songs but that’s very possible. So that’s what I think would be the ultimate experience of the songs live would be like if we had Max Stern come in, like do the lap steel live and maybe help out with vocals and then someone help out with the electronics.

Gordon Phillips: We’re a six piece now, Zac.

Robbie Ludvigsen: Gordon mentioned this before, that you would give the baritone to someone else, and then you would just be a standalone singer with just the mic, which I think would be super sick.

Gordon Phillips: I would 100% do that.

I love the Proof cover, and I think it fits the vibe of the record super well. I wanted to ask, too, about the “Eyesight” cover. It is super different and it kind of sets it apart from the record. I heard that you guys wanted that song to stand alone outside of the record and then also be part of the record and I was curious about the cover of that single, how it relates to that song, if at all.

Gordon Phillips: That cover is a film picture of the hallway outside headroom studios, which is in an old warehouse building. It has an industrial elevator and everything. And my thought was that, since we were doing a studio music video for that song, we could use a picture of the studio for the single art. And also, we had used film pictures so much in the past, like the first three EP covers are all film photos. So I wanted to kind of just give a nod to the era where we used film photos for album covers knowing that we weren’t going to do a film cover for the album, so it kind of stood alone in that regard as well. We left the date stamp that the film camera put on there deliberately to remind ourselves and, like what other people know when to truly timestamp the experience and album making process.

I think a couple of the songs on the record have pedal steel. How did you decide that that belonged on this record that it works with the songs that worked with?

Robbie Ludvigsen: The first song we decided on, the idea was the closer. If you listen to that song like it begs for lap steel. When Max sent us a demo I remember him just doing it at home, like over the demo of the closer and we heard it and we were just sort of like, “I mean if he’s gonna come do this, why don’t we try and find other places?” Our rule of twos. The beginning of “Bury,” I just think it adds some spookiness. Then like “The Ladder” felt natural and then it’s on the interlude as well and it just sort of adds that sort of another layer to that song. Max was very generous with his time. I think he mentioned a few times that he’s not good at it and he doesn’t feel comfortable doing it and  I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! It sounds really good.” I don’t know how we’re going to do it live or if we’re gonna do it live. I don’t know. 

That was everything that I’ve got so if there’s anything that you guys feel like I didn’t ask you about that you think readers should know like feel free.

Robbie Ludvigsen: Well, I just want to give a quick shout out to like everyone involved. Chris Teti was super amazing and Connor from Cemetery Tapes does and did a lot of the videography that you see the tech album stuff. That was sick and then Alan Douches mastered it, Max Stern, then Jamie and Olivia from No Earbuds like shouts to them, everyone like that helped make this album come to life. 

Gordon Phillips: Evan King from Nonfiction, who sings on “The Ladder.” 

Speaking of Nonfiction, who rules, any bands that people should be listening to? 

Gordon Phillips: Great question –– let me look at my Spotify.

Robbie Ludvigsen: The ones that come to mind aren’t the ones that would like like need shout outs.

Gordon Phillips: The band that I always think more people need to listen to and they are on our label, but I think The Insides are a band that –– I don’t understand why they’re not in more discussions. They are insane. They put out a seven inch right as quarantine hit, of course, but like they are such a good band, and they just finished recording. If you listen to a song called “Nightmare,” that’s amazing. They have a new album coming sometime soon.

Robbie Ludvigsen: Like I said the stuff that I like, it’s newer. I’m really stoked about all the UK bands. Those kids like Black Country, New Road and Squid and stuff like that.