It’s hard enough trying to find your place in the world, even when the world around you isn’t literally burning to the ground. Given the decidedly dystopian trajectory of our current moment, questions around having kids, saving for retirement, or moving to a coastal city that might be underwater in two decades take on an even heavier weight than usual. When things don’t go how you were told they would growing up, and you realize that conforming to societal norms won’t allow you to be your best self, trying to find your own way forward is often tough.
For what it’s worth, though, at least you don’t have to go it alone. That’s the message primary songwriter Lauren Denitzio wants you to hear on Worriers’ new record, You or Someone You Know, out now on 6131 Records. New Noise caught up with Lauren over the phone to discuss moving from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, whether Chicago-style pizza is actually pizza at all, and why it’s worth staying positive even when it feels like things are at their worst.
Can you briefly explain the inspiration behind the title You or Someone You Know?
Lauren Denitzio (vocals, guitar): It was in a massive laundry list of titles that I tried to come up with, or things that I thought could be cool for the title. It was the phrase that I feel like most gave this sort of all-encompassing, relatable vibe to the record in the way that I think about the subject matter for the songs. The way I think about these songs and the way I think about music in general is, “How can you put yourself into those scenarios, and how do you see yourself reflected in your favorite songs?”
It just seemed to reflect the record on a whole the best. It’s not necessarily a reference to something or inspired by another artist or anything, but it’s a pretty common thing that I felt related to these ones the most.
Continuing on that train of thought and the idea of wanting this record to be relatable to people, I understand that a lot of the lyrics revolve around the theme of struggling to survive, trying to plan a future, and just existing in a time that almost feels kind of pre-apocalyptic in some senses.
Would it be more accurate to say that this record is just talking about how that feels, dealing with life under those circumstances, or are there any instances where you feel like the lyrics are trying to offer some solutions or a way out as well?
Denitzio: Well, I think you’re definitely right about a lot of the songs being about just trying to live under those circumstances and trying to find a way to exist in that. But, I also think that I’m not entirely sure about offering solutions so much as thinking of ways to spin it to keep yourself afloat maybe, or to find some sort of footing there.
In “Chicago Style Pizza is Terrible,” thinking about, quote-unquote, “Just let me have the fun that I want.” Like, feeling comfortable in your own skin, or in the choices that you’re making for your life, and finding people that will accept you for that, is maybe the closest thing I can think of to a solution.
Or, in “Big Feelings,” I talk about navigating certain types of relationships in a way that I feel good about, but might not make sense to other people. Or might not be what you’d expect. So, there’s definitely some more positive messages on the record, but it’s all under that umbrella of, “What the fuck is going on right now, and how do we deal with this?”
Yeah, for sure. You’re able to find some silver linings or ways to find some positivity within that.
Denitzio: Sure, yeah. No, totally.
I understand you moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles while writing this record. Are there any specific ways that you feel your new surroundings in L.A. might have impacted some of those lyrics, too?
Denitzio: I mean, definitely. I wasn’t living in L.A. for too long before we recorded the record, but I definitely settled down there throughout that process. There’s definitely some California positive vibes in there. I definitely talked about things that happened in my life or are inspired by things that were during that period.
I don’t know if you could necessarily hear, quote-unquote, “California” kind of stuff in it. But actually, the one thing that I love, that is kind of like my big California tell, is that one of the songs is inspired by living very close to many of the major Scientology buildings. I live within literally two or three blocks of a bunch of very official buildings for Scientology, and there are so many billboards that are about Scientology all in the neighborhood, and one of the songs is inspired by what it might be like to be convinced that a similar cult-like thinking is the solution to all your problems. That definitely showed up on the record.
That’s a little bit different than the stereotypical, like, Mötley Crüe writing about the Sunset Strip or anything like that. So, when you went into the studio, how would you describe your experience working with John Agnello producing the album?
Denitzio: It was just a really wonderful experience working with him. We didn’t know each other before, but we all not only got along really well, but he really was just so super supportive and a really great collaborator. [He] really meshed with us well in our own process and my tendency to overthink everything, never think anything’s good enough, and [he] just really let us capture the live sound a lot better in a way that we wouldn’t have necessarily thought to do before. He gave us the exact sort of collaborative feedback that that I wanted when thinking about working with a producer for this record.
For Survival Pop, we didn’t have a formal producer. Our engineer Marc [Jacob Hudson] had a lot of feedback, but he doesn’t really think of himself as a formal producer. That wasn’t really his role. So, in wanting to work with someone in a more intentional way, John ended up being a really great fit, and I still can’t believe that we were able to work with him. It was definitely a dream to get to work with him.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, he’s worked on a lot of pretty big records recently, so that’s awesome.
You touched a little bit there on recording this album live in the studio. Was that an idea that John had proposed to the band, or was that something that you went to him with specifically, asking him to help you capture more of a live sound?
Denitzio: No, that was definitely something that he suggested. I think that’s a part of his process for a lot of bands, unless you have a specific way you want to do it. [W]e didn’t have forever to be in the studio with him, so it made the most sense for capturing our sound with the amount of time that we had. And he is just really good at making that happen. So yeah, that definitely his thing.
Sure. So, for someone who’s listening to the record, are there any things specifically about that live sound that might make this album stand out a bit differently compared to your previous records?Denitzio: Yeah, I mean, when I say “live,” it’s not like someone made a live record.
Denitzio: But if someone’s listening to this, I think it’s more that the energy is … I don’t want to say that it’s a looser sound or something, because I don’t think it is, but I do think it helped us give it an even bigger sound. And maybe the difference between listening to a record you like at home and when you go to see them [live], it’s like, “Oh, this band is actually really loud.” [laughs] Like, we’re a really loud band.
I don’t want to say that that our previous records didn’t capture that, but I think this one definitely does. And I think we were able to really capture our standard guitar, bass, drum thing, and then layer over it too, and we have a lot of keys on this record that you’re gonna start seeing at our live sets, and other things in the record that I don’t think we necessarily would have thought of before.
I don’t know if that entirely answers your question. I don’t think it’s wildly different, but it’s definitely a bigger sounding record.
No, I think that answers that well. I imagine that adding another member to the band, guitarist Frank Piegaro, to the mix is going to change some things, and they’re going to bring a different dimension to your sound. What was your experience working with Frank like, and was there anything specific that you feel he brought to the table that maybe wasn’t there before?
Denitzio: On the lead guitar side of things, we’ve always been a pretty noodly band, you know? When working with a new guitarist, we already wanted someone who we knew could play melodic leads really well and who could, I mean, I want to say “shred,” but not in an overly metal, gratuitous way. But someone who can really do that easily and have those sensibilities.
Mikey [Erg, drums] and I have known Frank for at least 15 years at this point, and he’s been in bands that are super shreddy and just so heavy on the lead guitar, but he just owns that role. It was definitely a different sensibility he has. Everybody has their own musical influences, so everyone’s a little bit different. We’re not going to sit down and be exactly on the same page day one, but we’re all totally speaking the same language, and he really has helped hold down the lead rock guitar in a way that I was really excited about because it was what I wanted for the record.
As much as I definitely think that people are going to hear the difference between our previous records in terms of lead guitar and what Frank helped write for the record, I think he definitely helped bring to life the things that I that I wanted for the songs, and I was just really excited to be able to collaborate with him finally because this was the first time that we ever actually played music together, which is pretty funny.
This question is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s something that I see a lot of debate around on the internet, and people have really strong feelings about it. I’m curious to know, do you actually hate Chicago-style pizza, and if so, why?
Denitzio: OK, I don’t think Chicago-style pizza is pizza [laughs]. I grew up in New Jersey. I lived in Brooklyn for like, ten years. Pizza is not deep dish. Like, deep dish is its own thing.
Okay, fair enough.
Denitzio: I don’t necessarily think it’s terrible in and of itself, but I’m totally just letting people know that I’m just going to plant my flag in the fact that I don’t think that it’s pizza [laughs].
Okay, I can respect that.
Denitzio: Yeah, and I mean, the song isn’t about how I hate pizza. It’s about a larger thought than that. But, yeah, I don’t really like Chicago-style pizza [laughs]. I don’t know; I don’t think anyone will stop listening to us because they love Chicago-style pizza. It’s not really that big of a deal. I just think it’s funny, though [laughs].
Yeah, I mean, I hope that nobody’s like, “Well, I’m going to throw this record away,” or anything like that over a title, but I’m glad we could get the truth out in the open there.
Denitzio: No, cool, cool, cool. Yeah, I’m not joking; that’s actually my opinion [laughs].
So, before I let you go, are there any parting thoughts or words you’d like to pass along to anybody reading this who might be going through some of the difficulties or the challenges that you discuss on the record?
Denitzio: That’s a really good question.
In writing the songs_any of the songs, to be honest, even the ones that I think I’d say are the more positive side of things—I think like I try to get the point across that the way we were told things were going to turn out might not be what actually happens, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. And that there are ways to exist in the world that aren’t reliant on winning capitalism and super heteronormative, monogamous relationships, or having kids, or even living in one place for a long time.
There’s all sorts of things that we’re taught are the markers of success, and that’s not a new thought for me, that that’s not true, but I think that a lot of the songs are really dealing with not only giving space to the hurt and sadness of that, but then knowing that it’s going to be okay, and that you can make your own choices to create the life that you actually want to have. So, maybe that. You know, I love a good, sad song, but I would like to think that there’s still hope there in individuality.
I think that’s a great sentiment, and that wraps it up pretty well. Before I before I let you go here, is there anything else about the record that you’d like to discuss, or anything that you think is particularly important that you maybe weren’t asked about?
Denitzio: Sure. I’m trying to think because I know ten minutes from now I’ll be like, “Fuck.” One thing that I kind of think about with what you were asking about, like moving to L.A. and how that that influences things at all, I was kind of asked about that maybe in a different context or something, and I just remember thinking that it’s kind of funny that I moved across the country to a place that’s constantly on fire, and I’ve been here for two earthquakes already, and any sort of apocalyptic feeling that you might have in the U.S., you can totally find it here [laughs].
But, like, it’s sunny all the time. It’s gorgeous, and my kind of songwriting strategy, or the way that I end up writing songs a lot of time, is it sounds kind of happier and more upbeat, but they’re actually about pretty difficult or dark topics, and I feel like there’s this weird connection between that vibe and what L.A. is actually like. I feel like those two things match together really well.
After I got here and we recorded the record, I was like, “Oh, that makes so much sense,” you know, living in a place that’s really beautiful, but that is really pretty fraught. It’s dealing with a massive homelessness crisis and it really is a difficult place to be for a lot of people, but it’s gorgeous. So yeah, maybe that. And yeah, that’s it. I’m just really proud of my bandmates for helping me pull this off. They’re all wonderful, not just friends.
You or Someone You Know is out now via 6131 Records; buy it here.