He Seems Upset, but you certainly won’t be as you listen to this EP on repeat.
( Photographed by Kat DeBarros)
The highs and lows of growing up are weaved together both melodically and lyrically in The Hails’ debut EP, He Seems Upset — out today.
It’s a combination of new life experiences for the musicians and a continued development of the music-making process, according to bassist Dylan McCue
“We’ve all matured as people,” McCue said. “The transition from college life to adult life and all the feelings that go with that, and all the anxieties that go with that, impact a lot of the lyrics.”
So what once started as about 30 demos became eight tracks that flow into each other nearly seamlessly. The EP incorporates groovy, synthetic vibes in a way that feels new from the Florida-born five-piece’s previously released singles. The experimentation in sound emphasizes the indie-pop/rock band’s “why not” mentality which also saturates the EP lyrically.
Individually, the band members cite different musical inspirations - Radiohead, Aminé, The Strokes, Frank Ocean - which influence how they make music themselves, creating a unique fusion of genres that’s difficult to put into one box.
“Our identity as a band comes from the five of us figuring out how to make things work,” McCue said.
But they’ve done it, and they’ve done it well.
The EP opens up with bright and smooth Sippin on the Daylight, which features the EP’s title line: “I don’t know what’s in his hand / But oh my god, he seems upset / And if we’d start the fire now / I’d hope you all could get right out.”
You can easily imagine blaring the song out of rolled-down car windows while cruising along Miami Beach. The lyrics exemplify a dichotomy between sunny and dark tones that shine through the whole project.
In the press conference, lead singer Robbie Kingsley mentioned how these tones are influenced by Florida and its notoriously everchanging weather. In fact, he noted that Sippin was partly inspired by the threat of global warming which many young Floridians feel the weight of.
Similar feelings of highs and lows are conveyed in Denial, ripe with the notion that you’ve slipped into a new chapter, perhaps without even intending to, while still longing for parts of the past. It’s moody and wonders if you’re on the right path anyway.
Situations continues building on the theme of finding your place in the world; it’s a fuck-you to social pressures that insist on exchanging pleasantries with people you don’t really care about. It’s a funky, poppy example of discovering the things that are important to you — a lesson that comes with growing up and the suffocation of being stuck somewhere which doesn’t resonate.
Then, just as the coronavirus halted our lives this year, Empty Castles pauses the first half of the EP’s upbeat rhythms.
Though COVID-19 has thrown off the band’s plans to tour anytime soon, the members reminisced on playing this song live and how everyone would wave their phone flashlights to the rhythm. Listening to the stripped-down, lonesome guitar melody, however, you can picture a venue speckled with pinpoints of light as guitarist and backup vocalist Franco Solari fully demonstrates his deeply introspective vocals for one of the first times on a Hails’ track.
From then on, the second half of the EP flows almost like one continuous melody.
Let yourself sink into the loneliness of solitude with Heartbeat, and then brush yourself off and get weird with the electronic remix Heartbeat Pt. 2, which Kingsley called “wild as a concept.” Afterward, melt dreamily into Flatlines (Interlude), a lyricless, more whimsical kind of breather than Empty Castles.
When asked what the band pictures when hearing Flatlines with eyes closed, McCue said simply, “LSD.” The hazy, colorful melodies give listeners time to reflect on life’s ups and downs which are expertly weaved into the EP and offer a space to dream about what is to come, which, in the context of the EP, is Younger.
“[Flatlines] is like a breath of fresh air, like just understanding everything that you just heard,” bassist Andre Escobar said. But when the drums hit in Younger, you’re able to truly reconcile the themes from the previous songs.
While Younger was initially released in early 2018, the band said rereleasing it as part of the EP was a nod to the significance of the song, which currently has over 4 million plays on Spotify.
“It felt like a nice bow on the first era of The Hails,” Kingsley said. “This is the song that has given us any kind of fighting chance as a band, so let’s include it on our first true project.”
“It feels like kind of a return to home,” McCue added.
As the first era closes for the band, the lessons of adolescence culminating into one thoughtful and dance-in-your-bedroom-worthy EP, it’s evident The Hails is honing in not only on who they are as people but who