Interview with vocalist Bryan Garris | By Nicholas Senior | Photo by Gabe Becerra
For those ready to commit their life—err, ears—to Knocked Loose, A Different Shade of Blue, out Aug. 23 from Pure Noise Records, contains every good luck charm needed for a perfect metalcore union: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. The Kentucky debutantes dazzled with their first vow of excellence, 2016’s Laugh Tracks, but A Different Shade of Blue dons a much snazzier outfit.
Most importantly, there is still a whole lot to love if Laugh Tracks tickled your fancy. The band’s furious, violent brand of metalcore—which somehow manages to sound like a sweaty hardcore show, even on record—is back this time around, but it’s sharper, crisper, and more adventurous. While much of the scene is embracing melody or industrial influences, A Different Shade of Blue is doubling down on the death metal and early metallic hardcore influences. That is to say, this record has everything old in a very new, pristinely giftwrapped package.
According to vocalist Bryan Garris, the creative challenge of surpassing their debut wasn’t too difficult once Knocked Loose got out of their heads.
“The stress got to us at first, but we just had to separate ourselves from that thought process, realizing it was more damaging to think that way,” he says. “So, we took a step back and realized that, most importantly, we had to write a record for us, that we liked. Once we took that approach, it came organically. There was never any conversation about what it was going to be or putting it on some kind of pedestal. We just did what we think we’re best at: sat in a room and jammed until we had ideas.”
To be fair, Garris and company did not expect so many attendees at this musical wedding.
“We wanted the same feeling we had going into Laugh Tracks,” he explains. “When you start a band, you don’t start it thinking you’re going to have the number of people listen to your stuff as we had with Laugh Tracks, so you just write out of the excitement of creating music. I didn’t want to write this record with the thought of what people are going to think in the back of my head.”
Garris initially struggled to find inspiration when writing his lyrical vows, but the result is a very poetic, profound, and bold album. There’s definitely a “blue” feeling that permeates A Different Shade of Blue, but there’s more here than just stock standard despair. Garris depicts a really clear vision of existential anguish.
“I appreciate that,” he states. “The lyrics are definitely something that I pride myself on. Going into this record, I did have kind of a hard time. I always tell myself that I can’t write under a deadline. There are other singers who wait to write the lyrics when they get into the studio. I always thought that was crazy, that I can’t stress myself out like that, to start writing lyrics knowing when they have to be done. Because I was having a hard time, I ended up putting myself in that situation, where we were in the studio and I didn’t have the entire record done.”
“So, now, I really had to do this,” he laughs, “but I think it forced me to be an actual writer. Before, when we would jam the songs, I would have something come to me and I’d just go with it. This time around, I had my own room in the studio, coincidentally, and I would just stay up until 6 a.m. and tell myself that I wasn’t getting up until I had something that I was happy with. It gave me the opportunity to really pay attention to every single thing I was trying to say and overanalyze it, but not in a negative way. I think it ended up being very beneficial.”
Many people experience a wellspring of inspiration only when the deadline is imminent, but while the tight schedule played a role in the lyrics’ honesty, there was more to the story for Garris.
“I think it was more a feeling of relief that I was finding inspiration,” he admits. “I don’t think I couldn’t find inspiration beforehand, but I just wasn’t devoting the time I needed to before [the studio]. Things just started flowing organically, and I started saying things I wanted to say. Things started coming out of me that I didn’t know I needed to get off my chest. It was a very productive time period, because I was getting very excited about the product I was letting out and also relieved that I was exploring emotions and things that I hadn’t previously talked about. When it comes to writing, it is very therapeutic, because it’s the opportunity to talk about things that I don’t feel comfortable talking about in conversation. I don’t like going into detail about anxiety and depression.”
“An underlying, repeating theme on the entire record would be loss,” he continues. “I definitely needed to mentally touch base on that first and foremost because of how much my life has changed since Laugh Tracks came out. That’s a topic that I’ve never been good at talking about, because how do you do somebody’s life justice in a song? That was something that I really buckled down. I wanted to take a poetic approach to those situations, and it’s a weight off my chest. I’m very happy with the things I got to say.”
Musically, the album harnesses this collective focus and drive. If Laugh Tracks is a thousand fists of fury, A Different Shade of Blue is somehow more violent yet also more careful in how it deploys that musical force. There’s the sense that Knocked Loose know—and relish the freedom that comes with knowing—exactly who they are and that their listeners are along for the ride.
“When we started the band, we didn’t know what we wanted to do. When we found what we liked doing, we started exploring what we can get away with in that realm,” Garris shares. “I would consider Laugh Tracks our first attempt at actual songwriting, and this record is more figured out but not completely figured out, because everything is subject to change. I have always wanted to get that point across, because Knocked Loose will always be what we want it to be. I’m very grateful that people enjoy what we like it being.”
What’s particularly interesting is the choice of guest spots, as the band brought in one of metalcore’s best long-running vocalists, Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley, and someone newer to the scene. A Different Shade of Blue takes a multi-generational approach, integrating the old and the new.
“Emma Boster is in a band called Dying Wish, and we’re all big fans of them,” Garris says. “They’re a newer band out of Portland, Oregon. I like the approach of having somebody new and somebody old. She definitely crushed it.”
A Different Shade of Blue has plenty of old, plenty of new, and plenty of blue, but that begs the question: What’s borrowed?
“You could definitely argue about all the early 2000s metalcore bands we ripped off,” Garris laughs. “We’re definitely not reinventing anything; we’re just drawing inspiration from the stuff we love. It ends up being this crazy mix, because we all prefer different styles of heavy music. There are some parts we’d chuckle about when we were writing the record because of how much it sounded like a specific era of metalcore. When we were writing the record, one of our working titles was Myspace.”
Allusions to promises of forever are one thing, but A Different Shade of Blue cements Knocked Loose as a band both in this thing for the long haul and talented and dedicated enough to keep things interesting. They’ve never sounded better and sit at the peak of the metalcore crop in 2019.
They say to marry out of your league, and Knocked Loose fit the bill.