Los Angeles post-punk trio have shared the details of their forthcoming second album Uneasy Laughter, out on March 20 via Sub Pop. It follows their 2018 self-titled debut LP. After sharing a pair of singles from Uneasy Laughter—“Ego” and “Fall in Love”—they’re now unveiling another new cut “Make It Stop,” which you can hear exclusively via Paste below.
While much of the album sees them rely less on guitars and more on synths, “Make It Stop” is a return to the partly raucous, partly precise guitars of their first album. Lyrically, however, it’s a dramatic turn from their dejected self-titled—it almost comes off as an inner monologue between lead singer Sean Solomon’s past self and newly improved self. There’s a slightly diabolical mood to the verse guitars as lead singer Sean Solomon explains how he allowed himself to fall down a dark emotional hole, but the chorus acts as a reassuring escape route. “Desperation or ill intentions / Forget where you came from / You don’t need it,” Solomon sings with both detachment and sincerity before launching into the warm, encouraging chorus: “You got lost in the dark / What is true in your heart? / I got lost in my mind / Make it stop.”
Uneasy Laughter explores themes of anxiety, depression, sobriety and self-reflection, and it was inspired by authors like bell hooks and Mark Fisher. “I [got] to learn from them and it [helped] me be more compassionate and understanding hopefully,” Solomon says. “When it came time to do a second record, I was very aware that people were listening, and I wanted to actually have something a little bit more important to say than just that I was depressed.”
Listen to “Make It Stop,” and read Paste’s chat with Solomon about their forthcoming album Uneasy Laughter below. Scroll down for their upcoming tour dates, and you can preorder Uneasy Laughter here.
Paste: Both Moaning records play with perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the “I” and “you” are. Your writing also blurs the line between directness and vagueness. How do you approach your lyrics?
Solomon: I sort of write them in a therapeutic way, but obviously I hope other people get something out of it. I do change the pronouns sometimes because I think it’s better to leave things open for interpretation. That’s interesting you mentioned that on this song because I do go between “you” and “I” on the chorus, but I think it’s because a lot of the songs are personal.
Your self-titled debut discusses how anxieties get tangled up with relationships and your sense of self. There’s almost a defeated quality to it. How do you think the new album differs?
I think the new one is a little bit more hopeful. The first record actually took four years to come out, so it feels really old. I think at that point in my life, I thought the whole world was out to get me. Now I think that the new record is more self-reflective and self-critical. It’s opening up the idea that maybe the problems I had during the first record were my own fault instead of other people’s. I feel like a lot of the themes are about mental health and searching for help when it’s hard. That was actually something I noticed when I pieced all the lyrics together that I kept using the word “help.” I had to change the lyrics a couple of times because it was just so obvious. I think the last year or two, for me at least, like starting therapy for the first time or not drinking and smoking weed anymore and starting to ask people for help. “Make It Stop” is actually a good example of this—when you’re stuck in your own head and you’re really upset about something, sometimes just calling someone else and getting another perspective can snap you out of it. There’s so many times that I’ve been upset about something and I call someone and they just laugh at me. They’re like, “That’s such a stupid thing to be upset about.” I think that was the realization I made thematically. I guess being easier on myself and learning how to cope with problems.
How has being sober affected your experience in the band and your life more broadly?
Honestly, it’s made everything easier with the band. We get along a lot better. A lot of drinking and smoking weed and doing drugs—all of that stuff is really selfish and when you’re trying to get high or drunk, you’re only really thinking about yourself. So being sober, I’m able to be really present for the people around me and a lot of why I chose to be sober is for the people around me. If it was up to me, I would just be high and in a ditch. [laughs] Just kidding, but you know what I mean? I do think touring has become easier. I don’t drink at the show, so the next morning I’m not hungover and I’m more productive in the van. I’ve been reading a lot more. I just think overall, it’s been beneficial. I’m less anxious. I think it’s funny because people smoke weed to feel less anxious, but in actuality, it’s just making you completely paranoid and freaked out all the time. Not drinking and smoking weed, you don’t really realize how much it will change until you stop. I think a lot of people don’t think they have a problem. I didn’t think I had any issue whatsoever. So if you don’t have an issue, you might as well stop for a year and see what it’s like. And if it’s hard for you to stop for a year, then you might have an issue. That was really good for me to figure out.
You posted about your experience of getting sober online. What was that like?
I did an Instagram post on Moaning about being sober because I just thought that it was something I wanted to hear when I was a kid. Growing up, being a fan of music, all of my role models were drug addicts and it was totally normalized in my eyes. I just thought maybe if I said something, some kid would think maybe they don’t have to do that. So I posted online and I didn’t really expect any reaction. I always expect everyone to hate me and not care what I have to say. I had people message me and ask me for help. I had people message me and tell me that they didn’t drink for the first time in a year. It was really exciting and powerful to be able to talk to people about those things. It felt more important to me than music or art. People are struggling and sometimes it’s really hard to know where to turn to and I just wanted to create an opportunity for people to feel less alone and maybe hear their story.
This album seems musically less tense than your debut. Was that a deliberate shift to mirror what you were doing lyrically?
I think it came pretty naturally for us. We just sort of evolved our tastes and with that, the sound changed. I think we were just more open-minded to experimenting and changing genres and because of that, we came to different sounds and tones. I don’t know that there was ever a real discussion about it, but I think both the first record and the new record, we’re essentially writing pop music. It’s just the arrangements have been changed a little bit. The style of songwriting is pretty similar. I personally started experimenting more with writing music on the computer. One of the conscious decisions was to not rely on the guitar for every song. So “Make It Stop” is actually one of the few songs that is kind of guitar heavy, but we just wanted to allow different sounds to have the best arrangement for whatever suited the song.
What was the inspiration behind the “Ego” music video? You pull off a pretty convincing Robert Smith.
I told Ambar, my friend who directed it, that I wanted there to be some commentary on identity. I sort of feel like I’m Eddie Murphy in the music video. I’m all these different characters. One of the lyrics in that song is about how we have more in common than we don’t. That was visually what we were trying to show. I play all these characters, but they’re all singing the same song. I love that video. It’s actually kind of funny if you look at how I’m acting as myself in the video, it’s really awkward. But as soon as I get into one of these costumes, it was so much easier for me to be silly and have fun. It was just easier not sitting in my own skin. I think maybe from now on, I’m going to dress up like Robert Smith or the devil when I play shows.
Moaning Tour Dates:
16-21 – Austin, Texas @ SXSW
07 – San Francisco, Calif. @ Slim’s*
09 – Seattle, Wash. @ Chop Suey*
10 – Vancouver, B.C. @ Biltmore Cabaret*
11 – Portland, Ore. @ Wonder Ballroom*
13 – Salt Lake City, Utah @ Urban Lounge*
14 – Denver, Colo. @ Bluebird Theater*
16 – Austin, Texas @ Barracuda*
17 – Houston, Texas @ The Satellite*
18 – Dallas, Texas @ Deep Ellum Art Company*
20 – Albuquerque, N.M. @ Sister*
21 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ Rebel Lounge*
22-23 – San Diego, Calif. @ The Casbah*
07 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Regent*
(^ Free show presented by Doc Martens)
(* w/ Black Marble)