Tonight Alive released their fourth full length, Underworld, on January 12, 2018. The record saw the band’s debut on Hopeless Records in North America, with 13 tracks representing the current sound of the band. The Australian act are known for their ability to wrap songs with a pop aesthetic but keep a punk undertone within the progression. This exact thought process was brought to life on their single “Disappear,” which features PVRIS’ Lynn Gunn. The song echos an infectious motif that pulses throughout, allowing the seed of Tonight Alive to be ingrained in the listener’s head. The guitar melodies present a memorable minor key with the song discussing the idea of searching for an entirely different life out of the spotlight. An orchestra of melodies encompass the introspective viewpoint, encapsulating the soundscape of Tonight Alive in a tremendous outpour of emotion, with the help of another talented vocalist in the industry in Lynn Gunn.
Underworld is a record scoped through an inward journey of vocalist Jenna McDougall. The lyrics reflect on the personal growth the vocalist has experienced since Limitless, coming to terms with a lot of her own personality throughout the years of life on the road. That comes with a bit of escapism however, with songs like “Disappear” and ‘Temple” on the front half of the record exhausting the constant grind of the road. The latter explains the constant struggle for health, rhythmically experiencing a shock of guitars with walls of distortion and snapping drum patterns. McDougall looks within herself to allow an opening, with part of Underwold leaning towards accepting her situation and learning from it, as showcased by the infectious ‘Burning On.” The song looks past the conventional ways of life, being hungry for more rather than staying safe to avoid pain. Underworld also has songs of personal triumph within the framework of allowing oneself to be open to the right people, defining a beauty of love that’s so rare to find, but easily the most accessible and gifted feeling. It’s this desire for striving beyond the easy path that reels in the experience of McDougall, dealing with personal loss (“Last Light”) in ways that breathe inspiration rather than constant sadness.
This unveiling of McDgouall’s personal struggles brings tearjerking moments to a sonic livelihood. Between the concepts of loss, alienation and finding a person to share raw experiences with, Underworld goes above and beyond the human condition, finding themes that are present within otherworldly thoughts and personifying them within the embrace of music. A spiritual connection between Tonight Alive and the currents of the earth is definitely present, and shakes the foundation of the core within the song’s syncopated anthems. The intimate experience further brings to life the prowess and awareness of the lyrics, magnifying the mist rigid concepts of life and giving them a purpose and soul.
Tonight Alive’s new record Underworld is an amalgamation of their sound to date, full of everything that has made the band stay relevant but this new record pushes the intimacy of familiarity — in terms of being relatable — within their stories. From the touching piano ballad “Looking For Heaven” to the socially aware “The Other,” the Australian band pushed themselves to encompass more of the world around them with this record, even if that meant searching within to find the darkest places and the most horrific images. This comes together on the final track, “My Underworld,” which features none other than Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour). This thematic presence of facing fears is one that has gone above and beyond the belief system but captures the identity of Tonight Alive; finding a silver lining through the most difficult of times.
New Noise Magazine is beyond excited to bring forth the intimate and raw track to track of Underworld by Tonight Alive, from the words of Jenna McDougall. This record is a special one early in the year, and definitely one that needs to be heard by any ear possible. This is an empowering release, and thank you Jenna McDougall for detailing the intricacies of your heart.
Book Of Love
“Book Of Love” is actually from Limitless, it was the oldest song on the record, we must have written it in 2014. THat’s the only song we pulled out from any of our previous catalogue. It was the only song we pulled out from any of our previous catalogue and that’s because we loved it so much and we fought so hard for it to be on the Limitless but it didn’t match the family of songs that ended up being that track list.
The lyrics are about this undeniable chemistry about two people that are meant to be together and how there’s nothing that you can compare it to. It’s sort of talking about not being found in the book of love; it doesn’t have a reference. You can’t research it and you can’t reference point from anyone or anything that you know previously. That’s the kind of romance that I’m trying to tell.
We wrote “Temple” is Nashville in May [of 2017] just before we went out to do Slam Dunk in England. Following Slam Dunk we went to Thailand to make the record. It’s a much rawer song on the record because I was burnt out emotional because of my health. I was really unwell and at the time I was trying to call several doctors a day trying to get testing and get advice and get treatment. Anyone that has been following Tonight Alive would know that my health is something I have talked about fairly openly over the years. I was at a point where I felt I had changed my diet so much; I was doing supplements, I did acupuncture, I did yoga, meditation and all kind of things to keep my mind and body solid. At that point I felt nothing was helping. I was in a really desperate state and I had never written a song for Tonight Alive that didn’t have a silver lining before, so that was extremely liberating but scary at the time because I like to make that positive outcome available to our fans. But “Temple” is the first song that didn’t have that theme, and it was actually a healthy thing for me to do.
Disappear (ft. Lynn Gunn)
PVRIS & Tonight Alive toured together in 2014 with Mayday Parade. It was a girl’s summer camp for a bunch of kids even though it was winter, it was freezing actually. We would sit on each other’s van and would watch American Horror Story. We would watch that routinely on that tour and go to second hand book stores. We [Lynn Gunn and Tonight Alive] talked about collaborating and it was the first opportunity we had to do it, which was actually really cool. We wrote “Disappear” in half a day and it was cool that the first think we collaborated on took off.
The song is about rejecting your life essentially. It’s about seeking separation from a situation you didn’t necessarily seek out. It’s that feeling of wanting to be anonymous and to disappear to somewhere that the same expectations and standards your life holds are not as important. I know that Lynn & I like to be in nature and to hike and camp. It was one of those things we could relate on, living a life that is really opposite to the high pressure, high expectation and high intensity tour lifestyle.
“The Other” was also written in Nashville in May. It was a song about having a personal struggle with sense of belonging. I wanted to write on behalf of people that identify the other, whether that is in terms of gender or sexuality or any category that you are forced to belong to or file under. I personally feel that there are things in my life that are definitely more masculine or feel more comfortable with. It was always something that put me on the outside with a lot people, and was questioned on and had to explain all the time. That’s just what I would consider a shallow example of being ‘the other’ but conversations like this is what draws fans to Tonight Alive. It was nice to condense this outcast theme into a song.
In My Dreams
This is a pretty far out theme. I remember sitting with Whack [Whakaio “Whak” Taahi, who has departed from the group] and David Hodges, who we wrote the song with in his studio in Nashville. I was throwing ideas around about a theme and I want to talk about star kids, and star kids are kind of like galactic beings — these humans that come from other planets essentially. If you believe in reincarnation, the idea that the song didn’t come from Earth previously, it came from another planet. Essentially a star kids purpose is to heighten the consciousness on Earth and bring messages from the future. I wanted to write about two star kid lovers that love each other on Earth and are struggling to relate to human life. But then you find someone you love and it is kind of like being home.
It’s how love can bring people together whether they are human or not.
This is a song about unconditional love. It’s talking about how anything can be possible when you love someone. It’s makes you have that feeling invincible and having super powers. It’s one of the most beautiful love songs we have ever written, we don’t get to write love songs often. Hearing that moments tender, it something also in “Crack My Heart” in a way. They were not written at any point in time near each other but I think once you start to soften yourself and open yourself to another person, it’s a really amazing thing to have that sense of safety with a person you can be vulnerable with. I really love this song.
Crack My Heart
“Crack My Heart” is the intensity of having to come out of being a hardened, conditioned human being. Having to protect yourself and not really knowing how much of yourself is safe to give or to expose. I felt like that a lot of my life because being in the band and being on the road and meeting a hundred people every day; you’re not really sure what should be private and what should public. I always chose to do the path that was safe and you don’t really know what people’s motives all the time. This is a song about being in a relationship with me and sort of making a request of the masculine in the relationship, sort of asking him to hold space because it’s quite a beautiful thing can be like ‘I know that you’ve suffered and I know that you’re in pain and you deserve to blossom, I’m here for you.’ It’s a beautiful thing. The ultimate expression of love is to hold space for another human being and realize themselves. I was learning not to shy away from affection and embrace them fully, instead of feeling like I am too intense of a person and I would scare people if I showed too much of myself.
Just For Now
This is also an intense song. I was on a different wavelength when we were writing the song originally, and we kind of spun it into a love song. I talk about, “If the pain is endless, how can I live?” It’s that moment of entrapment within yourself and within your feelings and feeling a little bit too intense. It seems there is only one solution and that is to be with someone you love and that knows you and again can hold space for you. It’s definitely a song that is craving something that isn’t necessarily helping you out. You can kind of hear how I’m talking about patterns in the relationship and not trying to go back in time but love just for now, just for the moment. It’s about turning to someone in the moment of need.
I think this is my favorite song on the record because of the lyrical content. I met someone after Warped in 2016 when I was camping in Oregon. I was telling him where I was at in my life and he said to me “you have to stand in the fire” and that’s about empowering yourself to stop running from your fears and being safe and to just acknowledge your pain. It’s also in “World Away,” so these are running themes. It’s about accepting the moment that you are in and not trying to put the fire out, just kind of be there and experience it. It gets you closer to being more fulfilled in your life.
I was inspired also by one of my best friends who would always do things halfway, just out of safety just in case it is too much. Just in case it falls apart and it falls apart and the pain is too much. It’s inspired by my experience but also someone in my life who I felt like ‘you deserve more, you deserve a more beautiful experience of life but you are suffocating it and it’s going to hurt you later.’
Waiting For The End
This is a song about abandoning your fear and moving with purpose. It’s been a constant theme in my life after with expectations. I constantly feel like I have had to explain myself about my choices, my life, my career, the way I dress. Things like that are always something that people don’t always understand or accept. That’s just a bit of the surface level, but I think moving with purpose is really important, and just acknowledging that you have a purpose to begin with. It’s not to be born to become a consumer and to make money, to spend money, to die. I want to make sure we leave people with at least a taste in their mouth or a seed in their mind that inspires them to think and stay hungry, to educate themselves beyond what was given to them in school. That doesn’t just mean go to University challenge the system. Anyone that listens to punk or rock music will relate to that inherently and stop and learn. If you turn to this type of music to begin with you always know there is something great. I know that is generalizing and not everybody has the same experience, but I think I’ve been mostly exposed to quite conventional and convenient ideas in my life. I’ve been hungry for something great and this is a song about that.
“Last Light” is about one of my friends who passed away and actually taught me so much about what I talk about on this record. It’s a tribute to him and it’s someone I would consider a soul mate and a teacher and the song is about feeling a spiritual connection to him beyond the physical reality. I think that anyone that has loved someone and watched them pass can relate that you continue to feel them and think of them and them in other people the things you experience along the way. It’s almost like they are apart of that.
I wrote this song directly after in the months that he passed away so I could experience him in moments like the sunset and looking at the ocean or thinking back to when we were camping in Oregon which helped inspire “Burning On.” I remember looking at the fire we were all sitting around until three thirty in the morning and imaging the spark and this is a staying that compares humans to god, as a spark of a flame. So you’re apart of the same whole, it’s like when you take a cup of water out of the ocean, it’s still the ocean. I could feel him [my friend] in all expressions of the universe.
It’s taken me a long time and I continue to feel him and think about him all the time. For me, learning about reincarnation and the spirit soul has helped me understand death more and I accept it more and find more peace with it. That hole will never be filled, and I wrote this song write after he died and I was looking for something positive to experience it. In the bridge I do fid a bit of hope by saying, “this life is a limitless cosmic dance, And we cry and we see for the life you lived,” and that’s all I could do in that moment. I do follow that with, “‘Til you make your return, I am forever changed. I’ll wait to see you again.” That’s who I am.
Looking For Heaven
“Looking For Heaven” is about an internal quest. It’s about looking for heaven within yourself and that moment of you peace you are looking for that moment of peace you are looking for on the outside, scratching at every single avenue to look for peace. It’s more an internal thing. I think the verses are channels and I don’t think I wrote those verses. I think they were advice from my guardians or angels, they came through me and said, Wait, don’t rush. all is beautiful, Mistakes are love in practice,” and then, “Life gives you one journey to now so I just make it up as I go.”
I remember writing that song in my house with Whack. We wrote it on piano and then built is a full band song. That’s the reason we didn’t consider it for the track listing in Thailand. I really had to fight for that because I know the full band demo actually took the beauty and tenderness of the song, so when I suggested doing it as a piano track that was when the band was sold on the song. You really get to hear the lyrics and I’m really proud of that song.
Underworld (ft. Corey Taylor)
Corey is an unreal man. He was so generous of heart and time and energy and kindness through this whole process. It was seamless. I reached out to him and he wrote back saying he’d love to be on the record. It was a cool experience and everything you hear is totally his own doing. The song was written and the lyrics and the melodies in place and he rewrote his part and put his spin on the melodies. He came up with call and response in the bridge. I think his voice sounds unreal and wonderful.
It’s about making peace with your dark side and I talk about the underworld as a physical realm, kind of like a spiritual realm but I wanted to make it a physical place you journey to in your mind and you have to cross uncharted territory to look at your dark side. Underworld is being talked about a place you reject yourself to, all the feelings you don’t want to address are shunned to your underworld. It’s kind of where your shadow resides. I’m exploring the idea of venturing there as a physical journey and I imagine in the chorus when I say, “Down in these depths I’m adding up the numbers. Of all I’ve suffered in past lives, tied down in the darkness,” I kind of imagine as these dark balloons, like bombs in the way chained to the bottom of the ocean. I imagine as all these memories that you don’t want to have anymore that are tied to you and you need to go there and address them and forgive people and forgive yourself. I think the deepest feeling happens in the most painful period in your life. It’s kind of finding a way through the darkness in you and your experience.
And that’s the record.
Upcoming Tonight Alive Tour Dates:
1/13 – South Gippsland – Unify 2018
1/19 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues *
1/20 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s *
1/21- Indianapolis, IN @ Deluxe *
1/23 – St. Louis, MO @ Ready Room *
1/24 – Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theatre *
1/26 – Denver, CO @ Summit *
1/27 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot *
1/28 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory *
1/30 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades *
1/31 – San Francisco, CA @ Slims *
2/1 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues *
2/2 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent *
2/3 – Las Vegas, NV @ Vinyl *
2/5 – Phoenix, AZ @ Marquee *
2/6 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre *
2/8 – San Antonio, TX @ Alamo City Music Hall *
2/9 – Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey *
2/10 – Houston, TX @ White Oak *
2/12 – Orlando, FL @ The Beacham *
2/13 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room *
2/15 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade *
2/16 – Charlotte, NC @ The Underground *
2/17 – Richmond, VA @ Canal Club *
2/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer *
2/19 – Asbury Park, NJ @ House of Independents *
2/20 – Baltimore, MD @ Soundstage *
2/23 – Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot *
2/24 – Chicago, IL @ Concord *
2/26 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom *
2/27 – Boston, MA @ Paradise *
2/28 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza *
3/1 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls *
3/6 – Manchester, UK @ The Ritz ++
3/8 – London, UK @ Koko ++
3/10 – Glasgow, UK @ QMU Glasgow ++
3/11 – Nottingham, UK @ Rock City ++
3/12 – Leeds, UK @ Stylus @ Leeds University ++
3/13 – Bristol, UK @ Motion ++
3/15 – Cologne, Germany @ Luxor ++
3/16 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Melkweg ++
3/17 – Copenhagen, Denmark @ Pumpehuset Club ++
3/18 – Berlin, Germany @ Cassiopela ++
* – Co-Headlining Tour with Silverstein
++ – UK Headline Tour with Support from ROAM and The Gospel Youth