Debut album Full Flower is out now via Topshelf Records.
It has been a slow and considered gestation for Baltimore, MD outfit Us And Us Only. Over the course of four EPs since forming in 2009, the group has explored sounds ranging from tender acoustics to more traditional indie rock and on to distorted soundscapes.
For debut album Full Flower the quintet has focused on a tender and reflective sound, not a million miles away from the melancholic indie rock of Death Cab For Cutie. It is an unadorned and emotional sound that is replete with direct creations and unabashed but restrained earnestness.
We had a chat recently with the band about themes of longing on the album, the more restrained approach of their debut, and what the goal for their music is.
Overblown: On your bio on Facebook you list your genre as ‘not folk’. What’s your beef with folk!??
Us And Us Only: In our earlier days, we were somewhere within the folk spectrum of things, but I kind of resented it because I feel like everything that’s wrong with modern music can be traced back to “Wagon Wheel”. I came from spending my teen years playing punk rock music and when you have a deep worship of D.C. hardcore, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re a folk band, even if it’s a relatively accurate description of what you do. Young and dumb, so on and so forth.
Anyway, once we started veering from that path and writing music that was a bit heavier in dynamics, we were still being billed as “folk rock” which was pretty far from the truth. So I made the small gesture of listing our genre as “not folk”. It’s entirely in jest as I have no actual beef with folk – I will forever love artists like Billy Bragg, Woody Guthrie, and Connie Converse. I just didn’t want to get type-cast into playing shows with bands that were covering “Wagon Wheel” and singing about being children of the earth. No shade to one-ness though.
Overblown: You seem to have taken a more restrained direction on your debut album ‘Full Flower’ compared to your ‘Bored Crusader’ EP released two years ago. Is that a fair assessment?
Us And Us Only: I have a tendency to always want to do the most. I want to play the loudest and as fast as possible. Thankfully, I’m in a band with four people who let me know when it’s time to dial it back. I haven’t always had that luxury.
I think that we still show no regard for restraint with songs like ‘Dresses’ and ‘Full Flower’. There’s a time to totally go in, but in the last few years, I’ve also had the opportunity to learn when it’s time to chill a bit. If we approached every song like it was the next “Rapture”, we’d end up with an album of songs that the world simply does not need from us in 2017.
All in all, I would say your assessment is absolutely fair. But not to worry, there are three Black Sabbath covers on the next album and each of them is a different take on “Hand of Doom”.
Overblown: The lead single from the album is ‘Bored of Black’. The song title suggests to me that the speaker in the song is bored of depression or negativity. What do you make of that interpretation?
Us And Us Only: That’s an accurate representation. ‘Bored of Black’ was written immediately after making some pretty significant changes in my life. I let my well-being go to hell and shut myself off from the people I cared about. I was invited out to a friend’s house in the middle of nowhere, had car troubles, got lost in the dark of the woods (hence ‘total night’) and came back the next day having realized how wonderful it was to take care of myself and how important it was to finally feel like I had something to offer because I’ve allowed myself the agency of making my own decisions for the first time in years.
Overblown: You’ve been a band since 2009, but are only just releasing your debut album now. Why such a long gestation period? What impact do you think this has had on the final result?
Us And Us Only: We had started writing and recording this album with our guitarist Dan Windsor, who had left to go to school out of the country a few months in. He helped shape a lot of these songs, so between him leaving and John joining, Sean stepped in to take care of some of the additional guitar work.
Beyond that, we came to the album with quite a few songs, so we took our time in working through those and deciding which of those worked to make the album stronger and which existed just because we liked them. The album was initially going to be called “A Place of True Horror” based around what would’ve been our creepiest and most heavy song, ‘True Horror’. It’s on some Melvins shit. But it just didn’t work in the realm of what would end up being ‘Full Flower’.
I think that the impact on the final result was that we came out with an album that could tell a story of forward motion. It can be easy to fall into the trap of making an album that is just all of the songs that you want to hear. I think it’s more important to make an album of songs that all work as a whole.
Overblown: If I were to describe the main theme of this album, I would say it is ‘longing’. What do you think?
Us And Us Only: There is a longing throughout the album. Almost every song can be traced back to either needing to find yourself or the next few steps after having made some progress. A song like ‘kno’ deals specifically with enabling someone to having dominance over your life. Knowing that there is a way to take care of yourself, and in turn, be of worth to anyone around you, but you can’t quite get there.
A song like ‘Dresses’ is referencing having grown tired of longing. It’s about accepting “death” in its most romanticized and least real form. Childish and naive, but honest.
Overblown: New song ‘Veiled / Forming’ which is led by piano and has a beautiful string section is really delicate and affecting. Could you tell us a bit about the writing of that song?
Us And Us Only: I wrote ‘Veiled / Forming’ in my dining room on an organ. I had gotten stoned, went to the car wash with my friends, had a wonderfully revelatory panic attack about selling my soul and coming out a better person because the Devil is dope. Then I went home and wrote this song. I demoed this song on my iPhone, threw that shit in Garage Band, and sent it to Sean while he was out on the road playing drums with Teen Suicide.
When he came back and started doing work on the album, he brought up that we should work something out in the studio. I came in, re-learned it on piano and we sorted it from there.
I left the studio early because I’m a giant sleepy baby and when I came back a few days later, Sean, Suica and Nick had worked out this absolutely beautiful violin arrangement. I was honestly floored. It was some cinematic Fantasia-type shit.
There was a struggle to shoot for the moon with this song, but I think that, throughout this album, we got a better idea of when to just call it and let the song live.
Overblown: Obviously, Chris Cornell sadly passed away recently. How did that news impact you? Was his music an influence?
Us And Us Only: I think that the passing of Chris Cornell was a reminder in that, as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, none of us are above needing help. No matter your level of success or lack thereof, struggle will always exist. Doing your best to take care of yourself is key and sometimes, even that won’t cut it, so making an effort to surround yourself with caring, loving individuals and learning to trust them is immensely important.
Shit isn’t getting easier anytime soon, just take care of the people around you as well as you can.
Overblown: Do you have a goal with your music?
Us And Us Only: I want to make a million dollars, buy a Lambo, and crash it into a lake. End the shit right there.
Find Us And Us Only on Facebook.