If Super Unison sound personable and emotional — well, it’s because they are. The band, whose newest LP Stella released via Deathwish this October, plays a flowing, dynamic style of heavy music that really gives each member and element the chance to shine. They’re intense and harried, but accessible too. Their music presents one of those grand experiences that the listener can immerse themselves in, whether they’re at home or a show.
Once they get there, they’ll find that the band’s already immersed. Vocalist Meghan O’Neil explains of their craft: “I think it’s just a good place for catharsis. We try and not have a lot of rules on ourselves with what we can and can’t create, and so I like the freedom of that. There can be variety on the record. Sometimes I want to do different styles of music, but I guess that punk and hardcore are like my comfort zone and what I’ve learned. I think there is kind of a freedom in it too. It’s nice to go to Super Unison – and they are different — and have people understand and support that and not be like oh this is totally different and we don’t like it. I feel like I’ve had room to grow a bit, and that’s been nice.”
Building Up To Stella
Indeed — O’Neil has been involved with music for years beyond Super Unison. She sang for the hardcore band Punch, which put out an array of records over more than half a dozen years ending in 2014 with the They Don’t Have to Believe full length. She first forged connections with Tre McCarthy at Deathwish while with Punch, but that’s hardly to say that her and her band mates haven’t forged their own new, fresh path now.
“I feel like, over ten years ago, when I started writing lyrics I was a little more guarded and trying to keep it only political,” O’Neil explains. “Then through the years, I’ve allowed myself to open up and wear my heart on my sleeve a bit with the lyrics, and I think that people respond to it more, and it’s been rewarding to allow myself to do that.”
Practically, she helps that process along by opening herself up to what other people have created, saying: “I think that when I’m in the writing process and trying to write stuff, I’ll make sure that I’m listening to music a lot, in all different genres, and reading a lot. I’m sure we all go through phases where we’re just watching too much Netflix and kind of needing to turn our brain off because of work or other stressors. In times of creativity, I just try to turn those things off and read more, and just like kind of walk around and look at the world and give my brain time and space to think instead of just trying to turn it off.”
“I guess just having an outlet to express myself is a really good drive,” she adds, explaining: “Any kind of feedback from people drives me too, whether it helps them to get through something as well or inspires them to also find their outlet.”
“I think that everyone can find their outlet — and mine is music — whether it’s music or listening to music, visual art, or writing or other things that can really help them express themselves and find their place in the world,” she continues. “So I think I would probably still want to write and create if people weren’t paying attention just because it helps me navigate the world and sometimes I figure out how I feel about things through writing. I process stuff.”
The Sound of Emotion
The band’s personal nature doesn’t only shine via her lyrics, O’Neil feels, adding of what guitarist Kevin DeFranco brings to the drawing board: “I think that the music that Kevin writes has a lot of emotion and drama and dynamic to it, so I try and do that justice with the lyrical content as much as I can.” DeFranco works a lot on the core parts of their songs, she shares, while O’Neil and drummer Justin Renninger help flesh ideas out.
During the recording process for Stella, Super Unison got to work with famed producer Steve Albini — which the singer says DeFranco in particular was thrilled about.
“We’re super proud of Stella. Working with Steve was something that we all, and especially Kevin wanted for a long time, and so that’s awesome getting to do it and then having him be so nice and supportive. Just being really happy with the product is just kind of a dream come true all around. We’re ready for people to hear it. It’s the accumulation of two years of work.”
If you’re in the United States during November, you’ll possibly be able to hear the songs live. They’re touring from Brooklyn down south and back up to Philadelphia — and if you’re not in the path, don’t worry. More tours (hopefully around the world, they say) are coming.
“I think we’re really excited to tour,” O’Neil says. “I think that for awhile we were only focusing on writing and recording. That’s a fun part too, but now it’s like we get to go share it with people.”
What they’ll share continues to collect. The singer says they were pleasantly surprised when a track — “Falcon” — they didn’t think would be set for concerts ended up awesomely translating to the stage. “I kind of prefer just to be continually surprised by all the awesome things I get to do,” the singer quips.
Letting themselves loose for all these developments, the band members didn’t place themselves in a box during their writing, O’Neil explains, letting their music flourish any direction it pleases.
“Kevin will say, oh, I have this riff, but I’m not sure if it’s a Super Unison riff. And Justin and I are always like, well, we don’t know, we don’t want to put limitations on what that is,” she says.
It’s what we hope for in our own lives, you might say — freedom and growth, to put it broadly. The music latches onto these concepts to connect with the listener.
“The writing of Stella was definitely an emotional time, but I think a lot of people can relate that that’s a time that you’ll be creating more art to deal with your emotions and what you’re going through and try to make sense of everything,” O’Neil explains further. “I think it just comes out in the record. It’s a way of feeling and making sense of everything.”
Listen to Stella below via Spotify. Photo via Reid Haithcock