better living. - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Gavin of better living.. We discussed the recording and mixing process for upcoming album ‘crush’, songwriting and lyrical themes, the album’s artwork, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview. 

Thank you so much! Really excited to do one of these.

You plan to release your debut album ‘crush’ on February 17th. You recorded it and mixed it. Can you tell us more about the recording process? What came easiest in the process and what took more time? 

We recorded the album starting in the summer of 2021 and finished all tracking in the fall of 2022. It started with tracking drums, then my guitar, followed by sporadic sessions for Sam’s guitar & Jorge’s bass. Most sessions were just me meeting up with Sam or Jorge one on one and knocking out some of their tracks after work. I did a couple sessions on my own as well for vocals and guitar but usually Sam or Greg (drums) were with me to hype me up for my vocal takes. Drums were definitely the easiest because we went to Weihls Studio in NJ, set up some mics, and knocked out all 9 tracks in one day. Huge shoutout to Greg for absolutely beasting through those tracks. Guitars were more difficult because we played around a lot with mic placements, pedal & amp settings, and Sam is big on improvisation so he rarely did two of the same take. Recording Sam was a lot like capturing lightning in a bottle. 

The hardest part of the whole process was definitely the mixing. I’m not an experienced “producer” but I was hellbent on mixing ‘crush’ myself. I learned a lot in the process and did tons and tons of trial and error to get it where it is now. Is it perfect? No, nowhere close. Does it sound like a cohesive piece of work? I think so and I’m proud of my effort.

You’ve said that 2022 was the year that the band was brought back to life. You put out new songs and started playing shows again. You also mentioned scrapping an album that you had before writing the upcoming album. What was it that inspired the comeback and the new album? 

We added Jorge to the band in late 2020 and moved Sam from bass over to lead guitar which resulted in us writing a lot of new songs that went in a different direction. 2020 was spent adjusting to adding a new member, 2021 was all about writing and recording ‘crush’, and finally in 2022 we were ready to get back into action and start playing some shows. I rushed out the single version of “stupid song” so we had a new song out before our first show with the new lineup which I regret because I made some real rookie mistakes on that mix. 

Before Jorge joined we had this idea for an album that alternated between really short punk songs like Joyce Manor and longer more standard tracks. Once Jorge joined we taught him our favorites of all the tracks we had written and out of a few jams we came up with new, more interesting tracks. The previous stuff was good, but the newer tracks were more dense and dark and it became clear to all of us that we should pursue that sound instead. Only like 3 tracks from that first “album” survived into this one.

How do you think you’ve progressed as songwriters on this new music? Did you try anything new with your songwriting process?

Before better living. operated more like a solo project of mine where I would write entire songs and then bring them in for Greg and Sam to learn. Once we started writing the material that became ‘crush’ everyone got to bring their own flavor to the songs and it became a much more collaborative process. We became an actual band. There were still tracks where I would flesh out most of a song and then bring it to the guys, but we would usually add a new part or change the structure once we worked on it as a full band. We played around with odd time for the first time too which was challenging, but ended up being really cool. The closing track ‘god is in the details’ alternates between 5/4 and 4/4 and quickly became a band favorite. We plan on doing a bit more of that in the future too. I can tell we grew a lot as song writers while making ‘crush’ because we’ve been constantly coming up with new tracks and ideas for our follow up record.

Can you tell us more about the lyrical themes you explored on the album?

I think lyrically a lot of the themes came from me reflecting on my relationships with other people, myself, music, and the world at large over 2020-2021. There’s a lot of rage, anxiety, & despair. My fear of climate change and frustration with the indifference people, especially those in power, show towards our planet dying is a reoccurring theme. There’s a little meta commentary present on my relationship with songwriting and being a musician on the tracks, “unstoppable force vs. immovable object”, “danny devito”, and “ennui” where emotions range from uncertainty to disgust to hopelessness. This record also has some of the most personal songs I’ve ever written, “cold comfort” & “god is in the details”. Overall, ‘crush’ is a small glimpse into where my head has been at the last couple of years.

What’s your favorite part of writing songs? What can be the most challenging aspect of writing?

Discovering the initial spark of a song and chasing down the rest of the it is the most exhilarating part of songwriting. Whether it’s by yourself or sharing that moment with bandmates, that moment when you realize you have a good riff or a good melody is such a gratifying feeling. Then you chase it down the rabbit hole and end up at the other side with a song. We get sidetracked all the time during rehearsals because someone ends up playing something ear catching while noodling around and then everyone turns their focus to building around it.

I think the hardest part of writing is after the initial endorphin rush ends and you have this skeleton of a song, you have to flesh it out. Often times you feel something’s missing like a new part is needed, or something’s too simple or sounds too close to another song. Those are the hardest hurdles to overcome. Sometimes you’ll come up with something amazing you would’ve never thought of if you didn’t take the time and really focus in on creating another part, but you can easily ruin something that’s already good by overcomplicating it. It’s all about finding what serves the song best, as long as you don’t lose sight of that you’ll come up with a good song.

The album artwork is eye-catching. What can you tell us about the design? 

My partner Ash Doukas does all of our art whether that’s show posters or album covers. They always do such great work for us and I can only hope the music sounds as good as the cover looks. The layout is inspired by 90's emo album covers from bands like Texas is the Reason, The Promise Ring, & Mineral. We chose a pink background because it's been a motif for better living. since the band’s inception. Naturally we had to have a pink cover for our debut album. 

The picture of trains colliding is an old historical photograph from an event called the Crash at Crush where tickets were sold to view these two trains colliding. One of the train boilers ended up exploding and a large number of people were injured and a couple even died as a result. That event served as a bit of inspiration for the themes of the record. I view the Crash at Crush as an allegory for our current climate crisis. There’s imminent destruction & danger and it’s like people are selling tickets to it and watching it all burn. There’s this attitude people in power have where it doesn’t matter that people are gonna get hurt as long as there’s money to be made. A lot of the record is about that, so we called it ‘crush’.

You released cassettes for your demo. Do you plan to release cassettes or vinyl for the album? 

I’m in love with music as a physical medium. Being able to have something tangible to represent music is really important to building and furthering a relationship with a release. We don’t have any plans for tapes or vinyl in the works currently, but if there’s enough interest we can definitely get some tapes going. I dubbed all those demo tapes myself which was a cool experience, but immensely time consuming so I don’t think I’ll do it that way again.

I’m an avid record collector myself and would love to have my own record, but at the moment vinyl seems infeasible for us due to the incredibly high costs and long turnaround times. Definitely a goal for the future though. We made a Tik Tok recently where we built this DIY record cutter that cuts these little 5” lo-fi mono records and I’m hoping to get enough blanks to be able sell some hand cut singles at our shows for the vinyl heads.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Thanks so much for asking these insightful questions. Really was a pleasure to answer. We can be found on Twitter (Betterlivingdot), Instagram & Tik Tok (Betterlivingsucks) and have a music video up on Youtube for the album version of “stupid song” that features a spoken word piece from our friend Dwayne Bishop. 

Follow better living.:



Follow Sound In The Signals:



No comments: