Sometimes, it feels like the world of alt-rock has lost its unique luster. Gone are the days when each offering in the genre had its own distinctive sound, replaced now by dozens of bands that can easily be confused with the next.
If Lighten Up, the latest EP from Wild Americans, is any indication, the band has set their sights on the field’s blasé state.
From the pounding piano chords of “Afternoon” to the laid-back ethereal sounds of “Loser Freaks,” the four-song EP is packed full of surprises that will keep the listener engaged and entertained throughout. Set for release Friday, drummer and vocalist Mike Neglia took some time to walk TNWU through the EP’s tracks.
I feel like the ‘Lighten Up’ EP tells a story. It isn’t a concept record, or anything like that, but the order of songs definitely provides a narrative structure: love, loss, the depression that follows, the search for catharsis, the choice to wallow in misery, and eventually letting go.
Track 1 “Afternoon”
Imagine looking for love and finding it. That’s how the story begins, but in verse two, happiness seems to be slipping through the protagonist’s fingers. The bridge section is all about the introspection that takes place in the main character’s mind. Eventually, he sees his relationship fading away. He decides to drop the facade and let his true emotions rise to the surface, and there is an unsettling sense of mania that follows.
The song jumps around stylistically, and that’s intentional. It is meant to emulate the constantly changing nature of an undeveloped relationship. We slightly change the riff in the final verse while it is being played in unison. The new representation is meant to sound darker, as it reflects the subject state of mind.
Track 2 “Ocean”
“Ocean” is all about looking for happiness and approval in the wrong places. It’s like breaking your leg, and trying to “walk it off”. Things like religion or substance abuse can help in the moment, but they can only take you so far when you’re unwilling to face your own demons. The hardest work is the work we have to do inside of our minds and hearts.
The reversed cymbal crashes during the fade out mimic the sound of waves, endlessly crashing down on the shore line, and the tide pulling the water back out to sea. The whole album was recorded live, but this song has the least amount of overdubs and layering. It is a pretty true representation of what things sounded like in the live room while we laid it down.
Track 3 “I Wanna Take You Home”
Though nobody’s life is perfect, so many of us fall into the trap of trying to make it seem that way. The modern era of social media gives us the perfect platform to manipulate reality, and make our lives seem like one big, awesome, neverending vacation. This song explores the differences between how we present ourselves, and how we perceive ourselves. It’s the dichotomy between who we are in the surface, and how we feel inside.
When you hear the echo of “know it” and “show it” in the choruses, that’s actually our friend Matt singing. It’s the only voice, other than mine or Andrew’s, on the record. He happened to stop by the studio while we were finishing up, and he had the idea to dub those in. I think they really complete the hook.
Track 4 “Loser Freaks”
This is the only song actually based on something other than our own personal experiences. The verse lyrics that Andrew wrote were inspired by “Streetwise”, a film about destitute teenagers on the streets of Seattle in the 80s. We tackled the idea of metaphorically “letting go” of something.
While that general concept usually has a positive connotation, that isn’t always the case in life. One might let go of the willingness to live, the ability to love, or the desire to be the truest version of themselves.
This was the first song Andrew and I ever collaborated on. I remember turning to him as soon as the original demo was finished and saying “Well, if that’s the worst thing we ever write, it isn’t so bad”. It turned out to be one of our favorite songs.