Interview: Retirement Party Discuss ‘Somewhat Literate’

Posted: by The Editor

“Maybe I should just be a little more kind.” That line from Somewhat Literate is the one Retirement Party’s singer and guitartist, Avery Springer, finds herself returning to most. Despite the fact that it lyrically closes out both “That’s How People Die” and “Are You My Mother?” Springer feels most people don’t quite pick up on it. The line’s repetition is meant to serve as a reminder to both Springer and the audience. It’s not simply about being a nice person, she told me, but to “always look to better yourself, in every aspect.” Of course you should be kind to and think about others, but apply that same mindset yourself. “Give yourself a break,” Springer said, “give other people a break.”

As a self-described “bullshit pop rock and roll” band, Retirement Party has a surprising amount of theses moments of mindfulness. This is a result of Springer’s stream of consciousness lyricism, which typically flows out on the first go with little editing required. Instrumentally, her words battle with the band’s other voices, sometimes overshadowed by a ripping guitar solo or particularly ear-catching rhythm. This is a purposeful, controlled chaos that allows each member to play to their own strengths while creating a big sound. “They are kind of stepping on each other’s feet a little bit sometimes,” Springer acknowledged, “but it’s okay because they fit together just enough in the end.” The album is far from minimalistic, and that was the point.

Another nugget I happened to notice is a similarity between the bridges towards the end of “Scene 48” and Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise”. While this was not premeditated, Green Day has always been an important foundational band for Springer. She told me she never sits down with an intention to mimic their sound, but rather “those tendencies are just embedded into my brain and songwriting.” A similar example Springer brought up is the way The Promise Ring worked itself into “Passion Fruit Tea”. At face value the instrumentals and big solos seem totally different, but the influence shines through in the lyrics. There was some fear in her mind when writing the song that this source of inspiration would be too obvious and listeners would think she was ripping The Promise Ring off. “But I haven’t gotten that yet,” she said, “so I’ll take it!”

Another subtle, happy accident is the connection between the album’s cover and the flow of the music itself. Both the shirts on the cover and the songs on the album exhibit seamless transitions between each other based less on something truly objective and more on a shade of color or a strong emotion. The flow of the tracklisting itself, though, is no coincidence. According to Singer, once the album was fully written “there was no questioning the order.” The songs were written stream of consciously, but purposefully arranged based on the feelings and lyrical content rather than simply sticking to chronological order. Viewing the album as a whole is something that Singer holds dearly. “When I’m thinking about my music and myself as an artist, the way it’s presented means more to me than almost anything. I wanted to make a piece of art there instead of just a collection of songs.”

Retirement Party hopes to translate these same feelings to their live show. “If I had it my way we would play the whole record front to back every night because it’s how these songs should be experienced,” Springer admitted. But she knows that isn’t realistic. Instead, the band tries to give audiences a different experience every night, switching things up and playing a variety songs. Some staples mirror the album, such as “That’s How People Die” being played early in the set, or “Jericho” and “Seams” always being played as a pair. The order in which they’re played doesn’t change the emotions Springer feels when performing. She is happy to report that her mental health has improved since the writing of the songs, but they’ll always bring her back to the moments they came from. “The place I wrote from is so internal that, no matter what, it’s a part of me.”

You can purchase Somewhat Literate from Counter Intuitive Records (US)

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Scott Fugger | @Scoober1013

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