Exclusive Interview with Alt-Rock Band Subtleties

New York alternative rock breakouts Subtleties recently released their sophomore EP, Barely You. Honing influence from across alternative rock and post-hardcore, the record balances driving guitars, urgent and resonating lyricism with a heart-on-sleeve delivery, underpinned by soaring melodies. 

I got the chance to talk to the band about how they came together, the recording process of Barely You, filming the music video for their song “Streetlights” and so much more. Keep reading to see what they had to say!

For those who might not have ever heard of y’all, can you give us a brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now?

Subtleties came to be in early 2017 after Harrison, Jake, and our original bassist Sean parted ways with a former band. Jake went to college with Nick and brought him into the mix after Harrison wrote and recorded the first song for the project, “Nobody”. We spent the first half of 2017 practicing and writing our first EP, before we played our first show with Capsize in June of 2017. Since then, we’ve had Dan (guitar) and Hawke (bass) join the band. We met Dan through playing shows in western Massachusetts, and Hawke is Jake’s longtime best friend.

Where did the name Subtleties come from?

Subtleties was just a name Jake suggested when we were beginning the process of starting the band. At the time, we couldn’t think of anything better, but hindsight has taught us we definitely should’ve picked a name people have an easier time pronouncing and reading.

I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. Your sound would generally be described as alt-rock, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?

That is one of the harder questions we’ve ever heard. We just like people to feel something when they’re listening to us live or listening to our music by themselves. We like to think we make honest, tense, hard-hitting music and if you feel anything at all when you listen to us, that’s a win in our heads.  

Kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences as a group?

Pretty much any sort or alt-rock/emo from 2000-2010. It’s evident listening to us that we certainly have a lot of different influences. The big ones are names like Taking Back Sunday, Senses Fail, My Chemical Romance, and anything from the Drive Through Records heyday.

Let’s talk about your new EP, Barely You. What was the recording process like for this project? How long did it take for this to come together from start to finish?

Barely You was a long process. We started writing it almost 2 years before it came out. We pre pro-ed a five song EP in January of 2018, and we only ended up keeping two of those songs. The other three we started writing in a full band environment and they just evolved into the finished product. We recorded the EP at Silver Bullet Studios in Burlington, CT. We all spent a week there, and Harry and Jake went back a couple times after to finish up the final touches. Making the record in that environment was really amazing. Having all of us together was definitely integral to how the EP and all the content around it came to be the way it is, and Greg and Chris were great with helping us get the product we wanted.

I love the song “Streetlights”. What inspired this song?

“Streetlights” was a song Jake wrote about his grandmother who died of Alzheimer’s. The whole song is mostly about coping with the loss of someone/something, specifically something you never really had. While it’s about something specific, we tried to make sure the song had tangible meaning to anyone in a situation like that, not just Jake’s specifically.

What was the songwriting process like for this song specifically?

Jake wrote the base of what became “Streetlights” while he was back home for his Grandmother’s funeral. Musically, he had a couple verses and a chorus that he sent to Harrison, and he filled in the blanks. Lyrically, it was written mostly in the days prior to the funeral, with Nick adding a few lyrics in the bridge.

Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you guys know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed “Streelights” or did it just come about organically once you were in the session?

“Streetlights” was a song Jake definitely had a topic for going into the writing process, but it isn’t always like that. Songs like “Without You in October” and “Mulligan” off the EP were songs that we all just started playing or singing to. Sometimes song writing for us is writing about something we’ve been thinking about for a while, and other times it’s just whatever we’re feeling at that time. We’re also not a band that really has songwriting sessions; if we write a song as a full band, it’s just because someone started goofing off and we liked it, so we built on it.

Was there any major changes made to “Streetlights” once you guys got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?

Lyrically, the entire second verse changed from the pre-pro to the finished product. Sonically, we added a lot; when it was first written, it was only Jake playing guitar. Adding Dan down the road allowed us to write more guitar parts much easier.

You guys also got to film a music video for this song. What was your experience shooting that video like? Was that your first time shooting a music video?

Filming that music video was a wild day. We had a show in Glens Falls, NY the night before that went until 2 am, and we had to leave to shoot the music video in New Jersey by 6 am. We stopped at Dan’s house in-between to meet up with King Wolf Creative and get ready. We were shooting that music video as well as one for another song on the EP all in one day, so it was almost 12 hours non stop of shooting and setting up, and we were all exhausted. It was an insane day, but we’re really happy with how it all ended up. Hawke also got pink eye from where we shot the second video, which is definitely hilarious. We did a music video for our song “Gold Standard” before also with King Wolf, but these two are definitely our favorites.

Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?

That new Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order game. It’s all I’ve been thinking about this week. It’s such a fantastic game.

Barely You is out now and streaming in full, via Spotify. Make sure you follow the band on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

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