Track Premiere: Cold Wrecks – “Crossing Sign”

Posted: by The Editor

Photo by Rob Menzer

Finding direction in the wake of heavy emotion and the passing of train cars is Cold Wrecks, who have produced their new single, “Crossing Sign.” It wasn’t long after the arrival of their debut record Breaking that the Brooklyn based band picked up instruments and added to their catalogue, including a split with Trash Boyz and songs that would be added to their next release, due out in early 2019.

“Crossing Sign” is as much an emotional crossroads as it is an omen for loss of direction.  Cold Wrecks confronts these complex, haunted feelings with upbeat, irresistible energy that makes feeling lost like something that can be not only confronted but conquered.

The Alternative spoke with Cold Wrecks members Craig Shay, Mike Vizzi, and CJ Dunaieff about writing “Crossing Sign,” revisiting recording with Jesse Cannon, and what’s ahead in 2019.

The Alternative: This single “Crossing Sign” is building up to LP2 – when did you begin songwriting for LP2?

Mike Vizzi: I remember writing the first songs for LP2 before Breaking came out. I remember Craig was like “No more new songs until we have the new album out, until we’re sick of the new.” and I’m like “Craig I have a new song.”

Craig Shay: Yeah I put it up on the refrigerator since we were still living together at the time.

M: Yeah, that song is older than like “Therapy.” Most of the songs, though, were written over the last two years.

C: We always write songs and it’s a constant process.

That’s great though because then you always have something new and can narrow it down for a record.

C: We do try to do a lot of pre-production to see what songs fit together best. Add the lyrics that are more thematic.

M: We did like 15 songs, the record will have 10 or 11, something like that.

It’ll be exciting to keep our ears open for all of that. What’s the recording process been like with all of these new songs?

M: We recorded with Jesse [Cannon] again, and that’s always a good experience. He actually moved to a different space, from New Jersey to Brooklyn, so we were both the last band to record in their old space and the first band to record in their new space.

C: This is definitely the most amount of time we’ve taken on a Cold Wrecks release. With Breaking we did it in six days. With this record we have more control of how things sound since we’ve worked with Jesse Cannon before and we can tell him what we want.

M: And we’re working with Brian [DiMeglio ] who’s co-producing the record. We hadn’t worked with him yet, but he’s been great.

What’s been your favorite part of playing and out recording this new record in the studio?

CJ Dunaieff: I have a least favorite part!

C: What’s that?

CJ: Being out until 2 in the morning on weeknights and going back to work the next day. That’s been bad. *laughs*

C: I like the songs a lot. This is definitely our most ambitious record. Me and Vizzi have been writing records with CJ for almost 10 years.

M: This is our third record that the three of us have written together.

C: Our goal has always been to make the perfect record, which is a very ambitious goal. I don’t think we’ve gotten there, but every record has been better, which is nice.

M: We should call it Perfection is the Right Direction.

CJ: We haven’t released the album yet, there’s still time! …I’m really excited about how much back and forth we’ve had with Jesse, where we’ve said “We don’t like this, how can we make it sound better.”

M: There’s a lot more conversation. It’s someone that we’ve worked with before and we’re very comfortable with each other. I feel like generally when you record, it’s the band talking to each other about what they want and it can feel separate, whereas with Jesse, he’s involved with the creative process more.

That’s great for expanding the creative process and your producer can bring in more ideas than what you had initially.

CJ: Music production is kind of like black magic, where we sometimes don’t understand it as well as we like. So it’s awesome to work with someone like Jesse where we can say “This is kind of something that I’m thinking but I don’t know if any of this is real,” and he’ll know exactly what you’re saying, press a few buttons, and it’ll sound exactly right for us.

Switching over to “Crossing Sign,” what were some things that influenced the songwriting?

C: I was on the Long Island Railroad and was kind of feeling emotional. I saw a pile of broken railroad crossing signs. On our album, Breaking, there’s a song called “Drawbridge” about where driving at it and going “fuck it” and just doing it. “Crossing Sign” is the same kind of thing where I see this broken crossing sign and I don’t look back and just go.

M: When I first started writing for it, it reminded me of “Suburbs” because a sign is instructive and tells you what to do, and the idea of breaking symbolizes letting go of people’s expectations and stuff won’t hold you back. In that way it’s authentic. More than that, the song is about what happens when you break past that sign, once you wash the suburbs from your blood, what do you do next? What person are you next? How do you reconcile the expectations and desires and making someone else happy without sacrificing yourself.

C: That’s my answer, that one.

M: This song is actually about model trains.

This song is actually about Thomas the Tank Engine.

C: You know, I really did like Thomas the Tank Engine as a child, so maybe that informed my songwriting.

M: The primary takeaway you should get is Thomas the Tank Engine is weird.

That was definitely among my takeaways from the song. With “Crossing Sign” there’s that whole sense of loss of direction with the broken imagery.

M: I think a lot of this record is a lot less visceral emotion and more about finding direction, like “Where am I going? Where will I go now?”, those kind of questions.

Your music always feels so quotable – “We don’t find love / we learn to get tough.” Where did this heavier, searing line come from?

C: My friend asked if I wanted to play a farm in Bedstuy, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that I’m certain has no farmland. It’s really an urban farm with containers that is a hydroponic farm, they do experiments with lighting and things… it was a lot fun, and this one dude wrote a lyric that was similar to “We don’t find love / we learn to get tough,” and I thought it was awesome. I asked if I could write that in a song and he said “yeah, go ahead” and from that point it really summed up how I was feeling. I had wrote most of “Crossing Sign” already but that line really summed it up.

You’ve really mastered the ability to capture heavy emotion with some irresistible, music to back it. How do you approach shaping this in your music?

M: I don’t think I know what else I could write about.

C: Jesse Cannon wrote a book about a year ago called “Processing Creativity”-

M: For the record I totally think he should’ve named it “Harry Potter and the Creative Process”

C: Yeah. It’s really what makes anything into a good song, and really the only thing that matters is emotional resonance. The way that I do that best is through lyrics and writing lyrics that really move me can be scary to write sometimes. Like what will knock me out like “We don’t find love / we learn to get tough” is that “Whoaaaa.” I try put it all together cohesively.

Musically, you can tell if I wrote it or if somebody else in the band wrote it. Our lead guitar player Matan, if he writes the song, it’s really cool and catchy. When I write a song like “Crossing Sign” it’s four chords the whole time.

M: When I write a lyric, I don’t necessarily write lyrics to music. I come up with a line and a melody in my head, it’s extremely rare that I know how short or long a sentence or word should be.

C: Yeah, if I have a line in mind, I’ll just sing it into my phone and later when I hear it, I’ll know and remember exactly how I felt when I wrote this, what I was thinking.

M: Sometimes I like it write it down though to hold out a word like put a bunch of extra vowels in it.

What can we expect from the B-sides and LP2?

M: I’ll tell you first about the B-Side – I’m not sure if you’d remember last year, but after Fest I posted this video of this really cheesy song that I wrote on our car ride back from Gainesville. We recorded that full band, so I’m excited for that to come out. I wanted to put this out before the record because I’m not sure it’ll mean quite as much to people outside of the little community that go to Fest – I really wanted to get that out there before this Fest. I’m really excited that we were able to make that happen.

C: You can definitely expect some more new music, some more singles. You can expect at least one music video and some kind of physical release. Probably a tour or two.

M: Crying, too.

C: Yeah, crying. A lot of sleep deprivation. Lots of jams. A more cohesive record too.

What are some things you’re excited about doing as a band?

CJ: We’re excited for Fest and to tour next year. We took this year off of touring to focus on the album.

M: We’ll definitely be doing it in the spring for sure. Once the record is out.

C: I’m excited since we’ve been so album-focused. Like usually when we practice we cover whatever songs and we spend way too much time doing that. We made a rule of no covers until the record was done which was really hard for us.

M: Did we really follow that rule?

C: Better than we would’ve if we hadn’t. I’m excited for band practices to be a little less focused and fun.

Cold Wrecks “Crossing Sign” and B-Sides will be available on all streaming platforms on October 15.

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Amanda Starling | @starlingaj

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