At the core of every song, there are people. Although the message is simple, it cuts to the core of what keeps listeners and artists coming back to music over and over again. Musicians and fans can find themselves in the songs.
Stylistically, that’s how music keeps growing and growing as the decades roll on into something ever new. Every individual has something unique to contribute. No individual is anyone other than themselves.
Gouge Away Lets Loose on Burnt Sugar
Florida’s Gouge Away keeps both the individual and the collective stylistic aspects to the music community going via their new album, Burnt Sugar. They sound uninhibited in their sonic approach, freely letting their music follow mood swings and abrupt shifts in circumstance. Their music is at times sped up, and at other points, it’s just thick and complex. Boiling down an entire swath of human experience to a monotone song wouldn’t really work, anyway. That’s just not the way life functions.
The band’s bassist Tyler Forsythe explains: “With this record we just wanted our sound to evolve. The 7” [Swallow b/w Sweat] was us kind of dipping our toes into new territory, but with this new record we really pushed each other to try things that were outside of our comfort zones. Our motto throughout the whole writing process was something like, “Does it sound good? Do we all like it? Okay then lets use it.” That was basically our only criteria because we wanted this record to be a true representation of who we are right now as a band without thinking too hard or trying to please a certain audience.”
Sharpening The Lyrics
The band’s presentation of themselves includes, of course, the lyrics. Vocalist Christina Michelle zeroed in on the personal aspect of the sentiments she drew from while writing, endeavoring to let herself expose the metaphorical behind the scenes workings she felt compelled to examine.
She explains: “The lyrical content was an internal struggle the entire time. I felt this pressure to write an entirely political album based on expectations that people placed on us after writing , Dies. If people are expecting that sort of record again, I totally understand that. However, I experienced a lot since the last album was written and those themes started to naturally show up a lot more in my writing. I feel like if I wrote anything else, it would have been forced.”
“The way I started to see it is that we’re the ones that have to be happy with what we’re playing for as long as we’re a band,” she continues. “I can try to write what I know people want to hear, or I can write about what is honest for me at this time. And I think people would rather have honesty. Writing these songs became a good way to cope with what was going on in my life at the time, and I think that maybe people can find something that they can relate to in their own ways.”
Going “there” takes some internal mental pushing sometimes — but for Michelle and Gouge Away, it worked, helping spark an album that is strikingly personal and musically ambitious. Both the lyrical content and the musical content on Burnt Sugar contribute to the same purpose, in the end, since some sentiments can be difficult to pin down in just words, anyway.
Keeping The Energy Up
Michelle explains that — keeping the band close to their raw, energetic heart — their ambition drove them to record the drums, bass, and guitar for Burnt Sugar all at the same time in the same room without headphones. In addition, the band recorded to tape, which made the number of possible takes “super limiting,” she says.
The limitations were worth it, though. While making their personalized way through the punk and broadly heavy music landscape, Gouge Away captured the energy and drive that keep their corner of the music community alive. There’s not a single note of lackluster, easily dismissed music here.
“Our main focus was for the album to sound as close to playing live as possible,” Michelle explains. “There are imperfections that are permanent, but that’s where the personality comes from. It sounds like how we really play. The additional textures and added instruments were fun additions. I think what makes some records extra exciting is when you can listen to it 100 times and still hear something new that you never noticed before. We’re hoping to accomplish that too.”
Burnt Sugar is out via Deathwish on September 28, 2018, around two and a half years after , Dies, the fierce debut full length that gave the band a place on the music circuit. They first met Deathwish’s Tre McCarthy in person at the Philadelphia stop of their tour with Touché Amoré, which led to a recording process that Michelle describes as incredibly conducive to their aims of capturing the punk spirit as filtered through their personal experiences and tastes.
“Deathwish was always the #1 label we had in mind and we felt like they would be the perfect fit,” she explains. “We dig their catalog of bands and think we fit in pretty well. When it came time to actually talking about recording, we were especially excited about their hands-off approach. Tre even emailed us at one point elaborating on how much he trusted us. There’s always a fear that once you sign to a label they’re going to want some sort of control over your sound. Deathwish isn’t that way at all. They support what we do and provide us with the resources they have in hopes that we make the most of it. This was particularly important to us because of the new things we wanted to try. We knew that any other label would’ve been a lot more skeptical.”
The band overcame obstacles beyond internal ones and the practical ones already mentioned, too. Original aims to demo their ideas in Florida, the band’s home state, were dashed thanks to a hurricane.
That roadblock feels deeply ironic considering the swirls of energy that Gouge Away captured on Burnt Sugar. They’ve taken incredibly enveloping real situations — and turned them into an album that draws you in too.
Check out the first single off Burnt Sugar via Spotify below.