North Carolina post punk group Tongues of Fire are gearing up to release their new EP, Burn My Body Clean, on August 27. The songs represent the five stages of the grieving process, each written at a different time and contributing to the catharsis borne out in the arrangements.
New Noise caught up with Tongue of Fire’s Lowell Hobbs to get a track-by-track review of the personal EP that actings as a tool of healing as he navigated the profound grief in his life:
This is an album used as part of the grieving process for me after my mom died of cancer. The huge holes losing someone who was a huge part of my life left were hard to address. Societal norms about men asking for help and showing emotion along with my social anxieties and shortcomings made it a very hard thing to work out and move on from. Music is the only thing I really feel comfortable with in this world and it’s been an amazing tool in the healing process.
I wrote this song pre-pandemic and didn’t know how relatable a song about a catatonic, depressive state that had me never going anywhere or doing anything would end up, but it’s kind of beautiful in a way that this song might be able to resonate with more people and that my singular experience became more of a collective one.
People who listen to and pull from just one genre usually make very boring, derivative music, so we’ve done all we can to find a very big collection of influences. I used to try to write catchy vocal melodies, but genres like hip-hop taught me that rhythm can be as interesting and important to a vocal as melody, so I explored that more and found out it was something I was better at.
Bands like Deafhaven also helped us learn more about what can be done with song structure and dynamics. It can be very fun to gradually go from quiet to loud and slow to fast. Music doesn’t have to follow genre expectations or tropes. I think it’s very important to add something new to whatever you do. Try to move music forwards and not stagnate things.
“Clean” started off as a riff I wrote years ago but went through many different changes. There are many different, scrapped middle passages, many different, forgotten drum beats, and the vocal approach felt very wrong to me, and I kept adjusting every practice. It wasn’t until about the 10th take in the studio that we finally really got it, but I’m really glad we put so much hassle into it. I consider it one of the strongest tracks we’ve ever made.
This is probably the most straightforward song on the album. This almost just feels like an elaboration of what we were doing in 2016 when I started the band. I love the formula we have of writing and playing songs that are just driving punk rock for the first minute-and-a-half and break down into some new slower section. People love that shit live.
I made this more atmospheric, closing song into an homage of sorts to my mom. It’s her voice on the beginning of the track, and her ashes are part of the album art. I met Tashi Dorji at a show once, and he got me into Godspeed You Black Emperor. I’ll never write 20-minute long songs like them but absolutely loved their use of spoken word and atmosphere in tracks like “Dead Flag Blues,” and hoped I could draw from a tiny bit of that in my own, concise way on this.