Remo Drive’s self-released debut album, Greatest Hits, is out now.
In the short two months since the release of their first single for their debut album, Greatest Hits, Remo Drive have experienced a meteoric rise. From a staple of Minnesota’s local scene to a band pushing hundreds of thousands of views in the blink of an eye, its undeniable that Remo Drive is looking like one of 2017’s first breakout indie bands. And while highly entertaining music videos and cosigns by big names in music journalism certainly didn’t hurt that rise, the charm of Remo Drive’s amorphous indie/punk/emo music is undeniable, and speaks for itself on Greatest Hits.
Erik Paulson (lead vocals, guitar) was nice enough to talk us through each song on their new album, discussing their lyrics, composition, and his life while working on the music.
1. Art School
“Colored hair / Too cool / For me but that’s fair”
Overblown: You guys say “Art School” wasn’t inspired by any actual art school experience, instead it seems like the song is more about that general feeling of being somewhere where you don’t belong, or with people you think you aren’t good enough for. The kind of place where you have to put up a sort of facade to not stand out. Would you agree with that?
Erik: I would agree with that, I wrote the lyrics after being at [a] large get together of artistic people. I remember feeling particularly out of place that evening. It also stems from a feeling of confusion of why certain friends wouldn’t come to Remo Drive shows.
2. Hunting For Sport
“Now I’m unsure if I want my master’s love/ After groaning oh the pest I have become”
“Hunting For Sport” has these huge dynamic change ups where you go from these very sparse bridges into huge chugging riffs. It certainly captures the sort of masochistic portrait of a relationship you get into lyrically. Was that an intentional compositional decision you guys made from the beginning, to create a song built on abrupt changes like that?
It wasn’t clear what the song was going to be about when we were writing the instrumental. I had the melody in mind from the very start, but lyrics came after the entire instrumental was complete. However, I think the dark nature of the instrumental prompted me to pick the lyrical topic I ended up picking.
3. Crash Test Rating
“Only Like me cause I’m safe/ With my four-star crash test rating”
“Crash Test Rating” has a kind of indie anthem feeling which reminded me of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, an album they described as capturing the energy and spirit of their live performance, and of course the music video for “Crash Test Rating” also focuses on that live performance element. Did you write the song with performance in mind, or is that something you guys always/never think about while writing?
This was the first songs Sam and I wrote together for the record! I think of live performance the whole time we write a song. I figure if it sounds good in a bare bones rock band live, it has a lot better of a chance sounding cool recorded with more layers.
“In this evening I could lose/ All the will I had to stay the hell away from you”
You said there was no encompassing theme for the whole album in your AMA, but throughout the album you often touch on this certain feeling of living in the shadow of a relationship. On “Hunting For Sport” you’re their dog, and here on “Strawberita” you’re a slave to the memories you have of this person you are trying to “stay the hell away from”. Are these feelings coming from a specific relationship or specific place you are in currently?
When I wrote this song I actually wasn’t even thinking of another person. This song is a chronicle of the different feelings I felt in my first experience with a noticeable quantity [of] alcohol. The first verse is about stepping out of my comfort zone. The second verse describes how pleasant I felt while it was kicking in. The bridge is that time of the night where all you wanna do is dance. The end is guilt/the feeling of a loss of innocence.
“Summertime/ Living’s easy/ Everything’s fine for now/ How long can it last?”
I’m assuming this song is a lyrical reference to the song “Summertime” (of which there are many versions, my favorite being The Zombies’), and you tell a very similar story of someone who is actually in a dark place despite the “easy living” of summer. It reminded me a lot of Dan Bejar who is known to take classic lyrics and kind of re-contextualize/change them, was that what you were intending to do here?
That was definitely the intention, I love that version by The Zombies too! Our take on it is pretty much about this sort of perpetual loneliness regardless of friendships/relationships/anything. I’m pretty cynical/pessimistic and am often able to find the bruise on whatever metaphorical fruit life gives me.
6. Eat Shit
“Getting stitches is embarrassing when you’re aging/ All my friends are growing up/ I eat shit daily”
“Eat Shit” has a very definite shoegazey texture to it, but underneath that the song still works like an emo/pop-punk song. You guys play around with genres and sonic textures all over “Greatest Hits” but always manage to keep it indie/punk/emo at heart. Is that something you guys intentionally try to do, or do you think you guys just have a natural sound that you tend to pull towards even while experimenting?
We tried to incorporate as wide of a variety of influences as we could throughout the album. Our paramount goal was being true to what we sound like without any genre restrictions in mind. We definitely fit somewhere under the punk/indie/emo umbrella, but our goal was to try and do as much as we could outside of that.
7. Trying 2 Fool U
“I’ve been waking up early and staying out late/ I’ve been losing control, I’ve been slipping away”
Speaking of playing around with genres and sonic textures, “Trying 2 Fool U” seems like the most explicitly post-hardcore thing you guys have ever done. I remember in our interview with you guys you said you didn’t think too much about “genre”, so where did these type of sounds come from? Was it something that just came out of jamming or a certain band/sound you were influenced by in particular?
I hadn’t thought about this in quite a while but I think I wrote the intro riff and the verse during a winter tour of ours. I was on a big Cloakroom binge. I love how they transition between gargantuan riffs and pristine cleans. By the time we got to working on this song it was the early summer and I was into a lot of surfy punk stuff. That’s where a lot of the instrumental parts of the song come from. Being that the songs is composed of two very different stylistic ideas, we were pleasantly surprised by the extent to which it worked.
8. Yer Killin’ Me
“You make me want to start smoking/ Cigarettes so I die slowly/ Anything that’s bad for me/ You’re killing me”
“Yer Killin Me” was the debut single for the album, and I imagine will be a lot of people’s first impression of your ‘style’, but in the album, it’s very different to the vast majority of songs. Often you talk about relationships in a melancholic, or even dismal, way, but here you have a much more light-hearted approach. In the context of the album it almost feels like an emotional release, did you consider the sequencing of the album like that, or think of it as that kind of song when you wrote it?
We did! I wanted the album to feel like it had some character development to it. A lot of the lyrical content on the album is about confusion in the peak of my adolescence. While this song is far from mature, the lyrics have a sense certainty that is unusual for me. In that respect, this song feels like a moment of clarity.
9. I’m My Own Doctor
“I’ve been self-diagnosing all of my problems/ Carrying all my stress in the drawer/ I’ve got all sorts of health products”
“I’m My Own Doctor”, along with “Eat Shit”, talks about medicine and treatment like it’s kind of second nature, almost like a normal extension of your life. Is that a reality for you? Or more a metaphor for repair and being pulled up by yourself/others in general?
I’m My Own Doctor is about the seemingly endless state of sickness I was in my freshman year of college. At some point I recognized a cycle: I would stay up too late, drink coffee throughout the day, get a headache from all the caffeine, take tylenol, take melatonin to sleep, eventually get sick after a few times through the cycle and slowly pile on antibiotics and other medications. I wrote this as a reminder to take care of myself/poke fun at myself for treating my body so poorly.
10. Name Brand
“I am a child who needs pleasing/ Pacifier lost my mouth I’m screaming”
On “Name Brand”, you paint youth as a search for perfection through materialism, it has a certain Dead Kennedys/Minor Threat-esque observational edge to it that you guys don’t necessarily dabble into that often. Often your lyrics are very internally focused (even here you do make the song very personal), but do you see yourself as band that has a “message” or way of living that you want to promote?
A lot of this album is about this overwhelming confusion/ loneliness that comes with growing up in this early era of new technologies. Feeling very connected and isolated at the same time. In 8th grade I had to write a letter to myself that I’d receive at my high school graduation. I found this letter right before writing the lyrics for this and I think these lyrics are almost a response to my younger self in some ways.
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