Interview with Alistair Hennessey vocalist Jesse Lynch | By Nicholas Senior
When you build something from the ground up, it’s bound to take on a life of its own, to have a compelling and unique identity. Minneapolis’ Alistair Hennessey have spent years crafting a particular identity. With their excellent debut, The House We Grew Up In—out Nov. 18 via No Sleep Records—the band showcase their impressive, if vulnerable, foundation to the world. Despite the frequent bouts of spine-tingling brilliance, Alistair Hennessey aren’t aiming for a modern, pristine impression. Their sound comes straight from a decade ago, influenced by groups like Thrice, As Cities Burn, and Manchester Orchestra. It’s reflective, volatile, and wondrously captivating.
With The House We Grew Up In, the band wanted to delve deeper into their self-reflective streak. Vocalist Jesse Lynch explains, “We tried really hard to be human, raw. The ethos of the band has always been a means of discovery. Lyrically, it’s always been like a church: you go there to talk about the thing that you don’t really know about. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll go to a new area that I’m discovering. It helps me figure myself out as I’m writing. It’s like I’m pulling back the covers to myself in a self-actualization kind of way. I don’t know that it’s purposeful. We enjoy the pursuit of information and knowledge, whether that be of ourselves or not. It ends up organically coming out in the music we make.”
“It started out like a new frontier,” he continues, “and part of it was [that] we used to be a heavier band, so we could be a little more angry. With this record, we weren’t really allowed to be as angry, and as I age, I get less angry. I start to appreciate life and become more reflective on myself rather than looking outward. I think that’s pretty common in youth: you think you know everything, and you’re looking at everyone else thinking, ‘These people don’t know anything.’ As I age, I can start to realize that I didn’t know anything about myself, and now, I can look inward and pick myself apart, but not in a self-hating way, more in a reflective way.”
So, what did Lynch discover about himself and the band when writing The House We Grew Up In? “That title has become so all-encompassing to so many facets of our lives,” he says. “We started writing it almost three years ago and recorded it two years ago. In the past two years, it’s taken on a life of its own, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Probably three-quarters in, we decided on the title. It was some words I wrote down, and we thought it could sum up the whole thing in a really complete way. Once we had that, it started to burn itself. Once we gave it a name, it was alive.”
He expands, “A big part of what I have learned since before we started writing the record: life is just going to keep happening. It’s leaving with or without you. Nine months after we recorded the record, my dad passed away. It was pretty unreal. He’s in the video for ‘The Garden.’ He’s on the track ‘Two Harbors’—he’s the dude leaving the voicemail. The next song is the title track, and the first line is: ‘I walk heavy-hearted, haunted by a hopeless calm / Beg, you just overslept, and your heart’s beating motionless.’ That was all written before he passed away, and once I listened to it afterwards, I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ It became this new level of heart-heavy. That seems like it’s been a theme: life is just gonna keep going. The house that we grew up in, we’re still in it. For us, the band is a good metaphor for that.”
The House We Grew Up In is the type of record that is multilayered: come for the hair-raising post-hardcore, but stay to watch the band lay their souls bear. It’s a haunting listen that grabs the listener and doesn’t let go easily, even after it’s over.