Interview with Brutal Youth vocalist Patty O’Lantern | By Nicholas Senior | Photo by Jeff Crespi
There are a good number of bands with an early Green Day-meets-Gorilla Biscuits sound—and for good reason, it rocks—but few do it with the sincerity and passion that Toronto-by-way-of-Newfoundland punks, Brutal Youth, have. Their latest record, Sanguine—out now via Stomp Records—is a fantastic collection of shout-along bangers perfectly curated to cause insanity at the band’s renowned live shows.
However, Sanguine feels more cohesive and melodic than their previous releases, and that’s not an accident. Vocalist Patty O’Lantern states, “This album was a step in a different direction. We broke some of our own rules, but those were just when we were starting the band. If you break the rules, it’s OK as long as there’s an intention and reason. The third song on the record, ‘The King,’ is a three-minute song; we wanted to challenge ourselves to write a more traditional song, and we slowed it down too. Before, I was the main songwriter, but we wanted to come together more with this album. This feels like the most like a Brutal Youth record, because we wrote it as a band.”
The album’s title means staying positive, especially in an apparently bad situation, and that’s exactly what Sanguine is about. O’Lantern wanted to branch out a bit from the past thematically as well. “When this thing started, it was just me in the basement, just writing cathartically,” he says. “With having three other guys step in, I wanted it to be less about me and more about us, more relatable to everybody. It’s still a lot of personal things. Whereas before, it was more of a diary entry, this one I tried to make less precise to my life and tried to make the [songs] more open to interpretation. The album is dealing with loss or the potential for loss in life or shedding people that you don’t particularly care for.”
“If you look at the song titles, the five stages of grief are there, and the songs hinge on those ideas,” he continues. “It’s sort of moving through those stages. We had lost close friends. I lost a close musician friend who I really looked up to. The band went through a lot of transitioning; we went through three different drummers. I was trying to see the positive in the negative. Overall, this album was maybe a coping mechanism for all that was going on. I tried to end on a brighter note, because that’s how I was feeling come the end of it.”
In particular, “Whiteway”—with its heart-wrenching refrain of, ‘So glad you’re still alive!’—is about a powerful, personal story. O’Lantern states that the song gives him chills when he sings it live, because he thinks of the person it’s about every time. “It’s about someone who’s particularly close to me,” he explains. “I had a conversation with that person who said they were ready to [commit suicide], and the only reason they didn’t is because they couldn’t find the bullets to load the gun. Then, someone came over and wrecked their plan. That whole idea that this person that I care about a lot had a moment where they may not be in my life anymore.”
“I can’t imagine being in that place,” he continues, soberly. “You don’t know the demons that people are being plagued by, and that’s really scary. I should be telling people that I love them and cherishing my time with them. There’s almost a machismo around not sharing your feelings, but you feel worse when someone is taken from you and you didn’t say those things.”
When it’s from the heart, you can tell. Of all the great things one could say about the passion that Brutal Youth brutally pour forth on their latest record—and on every stage they play—the most important is that everything the band does comes straight from the soul. Sanguine is full of excellent, energetic hardcore punk, but the band’s earnest nature makes everything even better. Canadians can catch Brutal Youth live, as they’ll be touring the great, chilly North throughout the end of 2016.