British pop-rock/emo-pop quintet Wallflower dropped their debut full-length album ‘Teach Yourself To Swim’ not too long a go – a record that sees them really coming into their own.
With the songs and their messages being digested over the last few days since its release, frontman Vini Moreira-Yeoell has kindly offered us the chance to share a track-by-track breakdown of the album, perhaps clearing some questions you have with what it’s all about.
01.) A PARODY OF…
From the moment we started writing this song, it was always clear it would be the opener to the record. I wouldn’t be as bold to call this album a concept album, as each song definitely stands on its own and tells its own story, however, there is definitely an overarching theme and feeling from start-to-finish. It was important to make the first song almost feel like an overture of a musical where everything you’re about to hear us say and do in the next 45-50 minutes gets condensed in to a 5 minute introduction, so it touches on a lot of ideas during the track that are later elaborated on more as the record progresses.
It’s an incredibly ambitious song; playing in a time signature we’ve never really explored before, layering tons of vocals on top of each other and fading out like an old school 70s soul song… it’s a real challenge for all of us to perform, but it turned out exactly how we wanted it.
02.) EAT AWAY AT MY HEART
This is a song we have been trying to write for years. We originally trialled it out on a short run of shows with the intention of it being a stand alone single to follow up from our last EP, but very quickly dropped it from the set as none of us were really loving it in its form at that time… we eventually wrote our song ‘Magnifier’ in its place. Fast forward a year or two and the idea got picked up again, getting worked into something a lot more exciting and fleshed out after learning a lot about what this album was – becoming a track we all love dearly.
It’s a song about giving away all the best parts of yourself to someone in the hope that the person in question will like you a little more, which never works by the way. Also, we recorded a keg for this song, so that’s something?
Honestly, I have no idea how we wrote this song without a single person telling us to stop. It’s completely batshit crazy and like nothing else we’ve ever done before, and we all love this song for that reason. We had a lot of fun with the writing process for this record as we really opened ourselves up to any ideas we had, and this song was definitely the “fuck it, let’s just do it” turning point of it all. A lot of albums we grew up listening to always had a huge variation of sounds and feeling whereas a lot of modern rock records go down one path for their entire run time. Neither way is fundamentally better or worse, but we realised we really could have a lot more fun making a record of songs that all have different vibes whilst still speaking to each other whilst writing ‘Dread’, and that was huge for us. This song has some extremely cool guitar sounds and ideas, and I’m glad we gave ourselves an opportunity to write something like this.
04.) BLOOD & STONE
When we write songs of a ‘softer’ nature, it’s generally pretty difficult to not get carried away with them and write a grandiose epic outro where we all go crazy for the last third of the song. Sam came up with this amazing three guitar part that has this eerie, melancholy feel to it, and we set ourselves a rule that this song had to stay pleasant and soft for its entirety as it really didn’t need to go to that aggressive place on this occasion. We really threw ourselves into the feel of this song and decided that there was no better place for Jake to put together a tasteful guitar solo, and it worked so well we couldn’t not keep it. This ended up being the inspiration for the many guitar solos on the album yet to come.
The song explores the idea of feeling like a stranger in a culture and faith that isn’t your own, giving up the life you know for reasons out of your own control. We all make sacrifices in our life, a lot of the time through allegiances we make to people we care about, and sometimes you may feel yourself asking the question of whether it was all worth it in the end.
Of all the songs on the record, this song is probably a bit more of a familiar sound to people that have listened to our band before. That being said, we took a lot of what we have learned and set out to do with this LP and used that to refine what this song did. Sometimes we get carried away with where song ideas go, so for ‘Anacrusis’ we wanted to make sure that we had something that stood comfortably on the record as a really catchy rock song that still packed a punch in a sweaty venue.
In the past I’ve written a lot of songs about living with anxiety, and for the most part there has been an underlying apologetic nature to those lyrics where the anxiety feels like a burden to other people in my life. For this track, the intention was to cover some of the other emotions you feel; sometimes you feel irrational, angry at the world, and downright abandoned, and it was important to try and capture that without being a sorry case for at least five minutes. Hopefully people that have felt that way before can relate to what we’ve tried to put across on this song.
06.) DOOM IN YOUR HEAD
It’s fair to say that all of our songs have always been pretty personal. This song makes no exception to that rule, and talks about a pretty difficult situation that I’m sure many people have had to go through. We all experience trauma, loss, and pain both emotionally and physically; the end goal in life’s simplest form is to survive and stay alive. This is a song about someone very important to me getting through the most physically demanding period of their life and coming out of the other end having to deal with the fact that, put simply, they survived. It’s not always black and white, that can be difficult for a lot of people and you don’t always come out the other end of those events having healed physically, but maybe not so much emotionally. I wanted that person to know that I cared.
This is the first song of ours that only has two guitar parts as I’m playing the piano, so it was important to make sure that everything that we played was focused and could stand on its own. The way the instruments and melodies speak to each other on this track is something we are all very proud of, and it was a step in to the unknown we are all really glad we made.
07.) HUNGRY EYES
Being the seventh song of twelve, it feels like this song is the introduction into the second half of the record. Where ‘A Parody Of..’ eases you into what this record is going to be, this song literally punches you in the face from the offset of what it’s all about. It’s probably one of the heaviest songs that we have ever written.
Where most of our songs are written around personal emotions we all experience as human beings, ‘Hungry Eyes’ is much more politically driven and touches on subjects that we believe affects all of us. In the last 10-15 years, it very much feels like there has been a shift in the way we as a human population respond to current events, with some pretty horrific things happening all across the world – it seems as though the general reaction is simply indifference and numbness. In a way it almost ends up being an extremely personal song to every individual as these are problems which in the end affect all of us.
This song was easily one of the most challenging songs to perfect in the studio, being very intense in all aspects of the word. Will has got some extremely cool bass lines, and I think it’s some of the highest notes I have ever sung. We have been very lucky to work with our good friend and producer Lewis Johns at The Ranch in Southampton on every release we have done so far, who we are so grateful to have been involved in the creation of this record. It really took a lot of work to get this song to where we envisioned it to be, and so much of that was down to Lewis’ persistence in getting the very best out of us, even in the face of adversity.
‘Passer-by’ started life as something very different and slowly morphed into what it has now become. It was actually one of the first songs we wrote when we decided that we were writing an album, so there was a whole list of things we wanted to achieve and write at that particular point in the process. One of our goals was to write something more electronic, industrial and experimental, and the general progressions we had fit in to that umbrella, so we dived right in. There’s a Rhodes piano on there, 808s, a Bass VI having replaced one of the guitars, and some spoken word parts in there for good measure.
Being pretty much the first song we finished for the record, we pretty much had no idea what everything else was going to sound like, so you can really hear an element of madness in there. With all the strangeness going on it had to match lyrically, so it’s a little bit surreal at times. The song is all about being left behind and looking back at a period of your life, realising how little impact you really had on somebody’s life, and vice versa.
09.) ON & ON
Everything we write is usually doom and gloom, so it only made sense to us to finally write something a little more cheery, fun, and upbeat, only to then go the complete other way again with some less cheerful subject matter. We all put people on pedestals, we all have role models and let ourselves be influenced by people we look up to. Sometimes those people turn out to be bad people, and that can leave you feeling lost, somewhat guilty, and responsible for the people they’ve hurt and the damage that they’ve caused. It’s always worth remembering that the best person to look up to is yourself, and to always follow your own morals and principles whilst always being good to people – first and foremost it’s about putting your own morals above allegiances. That’s what this song is about.
Musically, ‘On & On’ takes a lot of influence from 80-90s American indie-rock, with bands like Weezer, The Pixies, and Sonic Youth, so we wanted to make sure there was a perfect blend of melody, fuzz, and chaos whilst still doing the Wallflower thing somewhere amongst it all. I think we nailed it.
10.) THE DISTANCE
A lot of our lyrics are a very direct, first-person view on my own mental health and state of mind, so with this song I felt it would be important to explore it all from a different perspective. There’s a certain sense of uselessness and failure when someone you care about is suffering, but it’s so important to focus your energy on supporting and helping that person get through whatever they’re going through. There’s a sense of that on ‘The Distance’, acknowledging that whilst we all go through it together, as the person offering support you can only be just that: support. There is no instant cure you can offer to someone who is going through any number of mental health issues, it’s not glamorous and it’s never easy. It’s heartbreaking to see someone you love and care about have to live with an illness like that, but ultimately you have to take a step back and remember it’s not all about you.
There’s something about the instrumentation of this song that really compliments what it’s all about. It twists and it turns, it’s just one of those songs that does everything you want it to. When Charlie demoed his drum parts during the writing process, he recorded a load of textural sounds in the middle 8 that you can hear on the final product – we all loved how weird it all sounded so much that we had to keep it in there. He also got a stadium rock drum fill in there just before the last chorus, which I’m pretty sure is all he ever wanted in this band.
11.) FURTHER DOWN
Being a band with three guitarists, we usually have a fairly vast pool of ideas and riffs to pull from. Every so often, all of us will write an idea for a song and put it forward to the group, sometimes they all end up being in the same tempo and key and work perfectly together, and this was probably the best case of that happening. Once you realise all of those ideas work together, there’s a lightning in a bottle moment where a song happens so quickly and perfectly that it ends up being one of your favourites. Everything that happens on this track is a perfect combination of everything this record is about, everything we’ve written up until this point is about, and ultimately what this band is about.
The lyrics to this song contain the name of the album, ‘Teach Yourself To Swim’. In the context of the track it could mean one thing, but when you take those words and say them out loud it starts to take its own form and we all felt it represented the album perfectly. One of the biggest things we hope people take away from this album is that none of us claim to have any answers to the questions being asked by the songs on the record. It’s about conversation and discourse and figuring out a little bit more about our own positive, and negative, traits – always changing. Sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming, and that’s what this song is about.
12.) TAKE, TAKE, TAKE.
At this point, if we are honest with ourselves, it’s a pretty bleak record, so what better way to close it than with a gritty, loud, and heavy track about how rubbish everything really is? Focusing on the themes of the record, sometimes everything can feel like a constant cycle. We wanted the last track to be the other side of the coin to the opener.
There’s a similar theme on this one to ‘Hungry Eyes’ where it just feels like we are all numb and devoid of empathy. It felt necessary to explore that idea one more time and go even further down that rabbit hole. People are living on the street, kids are being kept in cages, the world feels as though it’s in disrepair and the scales feel imbalanced… why shouldn’t we be angry? The guitars are super harsh and nasty, the drums are minimalistic and punchy, and the mix is as in your face as it can get. I think this track really drives the point that it’s trying to make home, and it leaves you exactly where the record started.
The band’s debut album, ‘Teach Yourself To Swim’, is out now.