In their artist’s statement for new album Echoes In Blue, City Calm Down describe the music as an attempt to question the modern condition rather than solve any of its dread riddles about love, money and work. They say that maybe we “forget to be bored” – but the lyrics to opening track Distraction/Losing Sleep say “I’m bored to death at 29.” Are there, then, different kinds of boredom – some noxious and some not?
“That’s very much what I was trying to get at,” says vocalist Jack Bourke. “I’ve found this to be the case: you can sit just scrolling through Facebook, you’re bored, you’re being stimulated in a certain way, but not in a way that actually encourages you to think more deeply.” Bourke recalls a podcast he listened to which discussed the importance of true boredom, and its happy consequence: higher thinking. “The boredom I was describing in Destruction is more of this terrible kind… you’re trying to constantly plug this little hole, if you’re standing on the street for five minutes.”
There’s a similar psychological investigation in the soaring synths and Joy Division-galloping drums of stand-out Decision Fatigue; the title refers to an observed phenomenon wherein the quality of our decisions will worsen over a long period of decision-making. “It’s sort of on the opposite side of Joan, I’m Disappearing,” Bourke says, referring to the album’s beautifully melancholic, ride-cymbal syncopated lead single. “There’s sort of an apology and regret on the other side of it. When I was writing the lyrics to [Decision Fatigue], I was feeling quite exhausted. There are so many decisions you need to make… so many drafts and so many rewrites… weekends and nights after work.” It was, Bourke says, a super trying time for each bandmember’s partner. “The arrangement was inspired by the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt, and Johnny Cash’s cover,” he says. “[I wanted to] capture that intensity in the vocal. I guess you’re sort of singing from the other side of the relationship – it was like a flip on that.”
There are several connections like this between songs across the album – Bourke describes Blame, April 13 and Decision Fatigue as “one continuous piece of music,” and points out the arpeggio motif which binds them – but when it came to magnificent six-and-a-half-minute closer Echoes In Blue, the band collected threads from everywhere and nearly went mad stitching them into this one stunning creation.
“It was the chicken or the egg,” Bourke laughs. “Like, if we set the drums and the bass to do this, then we weren’t happy with how the bass would be, so our other bass needs to be like this, so Lee [Armstrong, drummer] would need to fiddle around.” Adds bandmate Sam Mullaly: “Out of all the tracks that we went into the studio with, it was probably the least mapped-out. I’m having flashbacks!”
Echoes In Blue is out April 6 via IOHYOU/Mushroom.