The 10 best EPs of 2021
From KennyHoopla to Knocked Loose, we chart the best EPs (and one mixtape) of 2021…
If you’ve been lucky enough to see Knocked Loose live recently, you might have noticed something strange about the way they’ve been arriving onstage. Not physically – but in their rather unusual choice of intro music.
“On the tour we just did, the song that we played on the speakers before we walked out is a song by LeAnn Rimes called Blue,” grins frontman Bryan Garris. “A lot of people have been tweeting, ‘Why are Knocked Loose coming out to a country song?!’”
There’s a good reason for this, though. The Oldham County hardcore crew have been teasing all things ‘blue’ for quite some time now – from recent music videos The Rain and Mistakes Like Fractures, to photos and merch. Now, they’re announcing details of their highly-anticipated second album, titled – you guessed it – A Different Shade Of Blue (due out on August 23 via Pure Noise).
“Going into this record, I knew that I wanted the vibe to be very consistent,” Bryan explains. “I had to say to the band, ‘Hey guys, I want to do this weird thing, and this weird thing, and it may seem stupid to you…’ They don’t think it’s stupid, but I had to explain that they might not understand it, but we’d be coming out to a country song and, ‘This is why.’ It was very important going into this record that things that we do are all within the realm of the vibe that we’re going for.”
Indeed, the follow-up to 2016’s excellent debut Laugh Tracks not only brings out the most cohesive Knocked Loose unit ever, it’ll undoubtedly continue their upwards trajectory as one of heavy music’s best and most exciting young bands. Bryan tells us more…
Going into the making of A Different Shade Of Blue, what were your initial intentions?
“We never really talked about it – we just get together and jam and write, and then whatever comes out comes out. We wrote a lot that we ended up scratching and not using, just because over the course of three years since Laugh Tracks came out we’ve had a lot of different ideas. So we would write and then come back to it a couple of months later. I think we were all on the same page, but there was never really a conversation like, ‘This is what it’s going to be like.’”
When you first went into the studio to record the album, you had writer’s block. What was that like, and how did you overcome it?
“I think I was just in one of those slumps that people get in. I lucked out and had my own room in the studio, so every night when everybody went to bed I would just sit up at the desk and listen to those songs over and over again, and I just told myself, ‘I’m not giving up until I have something worth using.’ It ended up being very productive, and it put me in the mindset to write. Every day my brain was fresh, and the lyrics would then pop up because I was doing it so much.”
What was the pressure like in those moments, and how are you coping now?
“Well, we kind of all discussed this a long time ago, and we decided that we have to remove ourselves from that mindset – we were like, ‘We have to take a step back – we can’t think [about pressure]. We’ve got to just write a record that we like, and hope that people like it.’ People might talk about a sophomore slump, or they might only like our early stuff or whatever. I’m a big part of the visual aspect of the band, so now I’ve been working really hard on album art, music videos, merchandise, and everything like that. It’s a very busy time for me, and I’ve been very productive, so I haven’t really gotten a chance to think about anything like that, because I’m just so busy working on the record.”
Have you been on quite a big artistic journey over the past few years, then?
“Yeah. I’ve always tried to be really involved in the visual aspects of the band, and I’m always behind all the merch. I knew that there were definitely different directions that I wanted to go with the new stuff, so we’ve been working really hard to keep things consistent moving forward.”
The album was recorded slowly and more deliberately, rather than your previous “live in studio” approach. How did that work?
“We actually wrote it at the place that we recorded it in the studio about a year before we then went in to record. So we would go and write – we wrote every day. But then we would leave and come back a couple of months later and do the same thing – just another session of consistent writing. At that point we had 19 songs, so we kept the songs and worked on them individually for six months, and then we came back to the studio to record them. And when we started pre-production it was like, ‘Okay, we’ve been sitting on these songs for a while now, so we know things that we want to change, and things that we want to do to make them better.’ So we started pre-production that way, which I think was very beneficial for us as individual members. We’re so busy touring, and this gave us an opportunity to lock ourselves away and write a record, and then it gave us time to sit on that record, in case we would be like, ‘Yeah… I don’t like this now.’ Instead of just rushing straight in to record it, and then a year after it’s out you’re like, ‘Yeah, I hate these songs.’”
You worked with producer Will Putney on Laugh Tracks – was it a no-brainer to go with him again?
“Yeah, I think we all knew we’d go with Will again. One, because of the friendship that we made with him, and two, the most important thing was that, when we recorded Laugh Tracks, we were told that we were going to go in for a month, and being naive, we were like, ‘It doesn’t take a month – we only need a week.’ And so we recorded Laugh Tracks in, like, 10 days, and the process wasn’t rushed, but it wasn’t as comfortable, and I don’t think we got to use his studio to its full potential. Right after that recording process we were like, ‘Yeah, we should have done a month – next time, let’s do that!’”
A Different Shade Of Blue is your most personal album to date. Are you finding it easier to open up the more you write music? Laugh Tracks had some very personal moments, too…
“I think I’m always going to use lyrics as personal expression and to get things off my chest – it’s very therapeutic. Throughout the Laugh Tracks cycle, when I started doing interviews, it was something that I had to get used to – having people that I don’t know asking me very personal questions. I don’t really like talking about super-personal things in interviews, so I try to keep that within my lyrics. That made it even more personal, I guess, because it’s even more private.”
Is that a nerve-wracking thing to be opening up even more, knowing that you’ve also got more listeners than ever?
“Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have somebody find me at a show and tell me that my lyrics have helped them in some way, and that means the world to me. It’s amazing, and I always hope that I can provide that service for somebody. But for me personally, it’s been a weird thing to accept, knowing that a lot of people that I don’t know are going to know all these things about me.”
How do you feel like you’ve changed as a lyric writer since first starting out?
“Just with the writing process in general, I used to just go for it, and whatever came out happened – that’s what it was. But with this record, I really worked on the lyrics to make them the best they could be at that point in time. Instead of being like, ‘Okay, this is what came out naturally so this is what it is,’ I really tried to focus on the best way to say things. If I was talking about a topic, I was really trying to consistently get my point across.”
What do you hope that people take away from this album? Is there any sort of underlying message in it?
“Not really – I just hope that people like it most importantly (laughs). I hope that people just see the honesty and genuine expression in it. I think the best form of art is when people are being honest with you and not trying to sell you anything, and I hope that people don’t think I’m trying to do that.”
Where did the title of the album come from? On your last album you had a title-track, but you don’t this time…
“The title of the record is actually a lyric from the song Guided By The Moon, and a bunch of different things play into it. I think the main thing is that people use the word ‘blue’ as a metaphor for being sad, like ‘feeling blue’. And Laugh Tracks was a very big record for us, and people heard a lot of things about us for the first time, and that was my first time really expressing all these personal things about myself. So this is just a different approach to that – it’s a different shade of blue. And, visually, the cover for Laugh Tracks is blue, the cover for this record is blue, things that we’ve been doing visually – like our music video for The Rain ended with a little hint with blue paint, and then the next music video for Mistakes Like Fractures was all about blue paint – we’ve just been hiding all these blue Easter eggs for a while now. It’s just fun stuff where people hopefully make the connection and they’re like, ‘Holy shit!’”
With such a thought-out vision, then, does it feel like your debut was almost like a test run – and now this is who Knocked Loose are?
“I know a lot of the time when people get to their second record they’re like, ‘Oh, we hate the first record and we can’t wait for this new record to come out.’ And that’s very much not the case here – we still really, really like Laugh Tracks. But I would say that we definitely didn’t have the band figured out yet. We were young and excited – and I mean young as a band, not in age – and everything was new and going extremely well, and we just wanted to write a bunch of songs and put them out so we could keep going. Then it caught on so much better than we thought. So it was like, ‘We’ve really got to step it up for this next one and now we have to figure out what the band is.’ I don’t want to say that we fully did that, because who knows? Things are always subject to change, and I don’t ever want to pigeonhole us to one thing and then throw a curveball down the road, but I think that we’re definitely more figured out on this record than we were on Laugh Tracks.”
Tell us about the album's two collaborations – Emma Boster and Keith Buckley…
“Emma sings for this band called Dying Wish, and I really, really like that band. They put out an EP last year, and we all really enjoyed that EP, which is pretty rare – we don’t often all agree on a band! They’re a newer, younger band that are doing really cool stuff, and they played a show that we did in Portland, Oregon, and I enjoyed their set and just hit her up and asked if she’d like to be on a song, and she said that she’d love to. The part ended up working really, really well. Everything worked out, and it’s also an opportunity for us to show our fans what we like – hopefully, when a song says ‘featuring Emma from Dying Wish’, they will be like, ‘Oh, this part is sick – I’m now gonna look up Dying Wish.’
“And with Keith, we toured with Every Time I Die a lot in 2017 – we played 67 shows with them. We toured America, Canada, Europe, the UK and did their Christmas shows, so we got really close with them. I’ve looked up to Every Time I Die for a very long time – and specifically Keith, being a vocalist and the lyricist that he is. I’m lucky enough now to call him my friend, so I just hit him up and was like, ‘Hey, do you wanna do a part on the new record?’ And he was like, ‘Absolutely!’ I gave him the song recorded all the way up until his part – I told him what the song was about and then let him write his own lyrics, which I think is a really cool way to collab with someone that I’ve looked up to for so long. And he killed it!”
You’re off on tour in the U.S. soon with A Day To Remember. Do you think it’s important to keep this mentality where you want to tour with all different bands – not just of a similar genre?
“Yeah, that was the goal before anybody cared about us – when we were playing house shows to, like, 15 people. We were like, ‘We’re going to play with whoever we can.’ We’ve just kept that mentality moving forward, and I don’t think that we’d be where we are if we weren’t willing to do those different kind of tours. I think it’s very important, and it keeps things exciting. We were just on tour with The Acacia Strain, then Kublai Khan, and then we’re going out with A Day To Remember, so all three things are very different.”
What are your plans for the rest of the year after that – will you be doing a full UK tour at some point?
“We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up – I don’t want to give too much away. But we’re definitely coming back at some point, just because I love the UK!”
Knocked Loose's new album A Different Shade Of Blue is out on August 23 via Pure Noise Records.
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