New Design released their first full-length album Far From Home three years ago on their CD release show at Sneaky Dee’s on June 26th, 2015. It was followed by the digital release on June 30th. The ten-track album was recorded with Kenny Bridges from Moneen, a Canadian indie-rock band from Brampton, Ontario. Far From Home is a concept album, telling a story from front to back. On this week’s episode, Jeff, Mel, Joe, and Zack talk about a few tracks off the album.
We would like to thank Stuart Attard for the track featured in the beginning and end of the video.
Jeff: So “When We Drown” and “I’ve Never Seen the Ocean”, I wrote them to be the introduction of the album, and I feel like “When we Drown” sets the tone. It’s very ethereal. It’s very effects driven. Thematically, it sort of ties the whole album together through the whole theme of being far away from home and trying to find your way back, or trying to find your way forward. That sort of decision most people have to make. And that song, and “I’ve Never Seen the Ocean”, I’m pretty sure I wrote them by myself on acoustic guitar, and I sent them to the band as these demos that I recorded on Audacity. They had all these weird little harmonies, but they were cool. And in a weird way, when we were writing the album, I kept trying to write in such a way that it would be something new and exciting, but I feel like “When We Drown” was so simple that it grounded me more, and it sort of brought us back to where we wanted our sound to be, and it led into “I’ve Never Seen the Ocean”. So “I’ve Never Seen the Ocean” was more inspired by the outro, which was the whole melody of the guitar and the vocals, and I wrote that backwards leading into “When We Drown.” “I’ve Never Seen the Ocean” is a lot about regret. I think it’s a lot about thinking about a point in your life where you could have done something, or should have done something, and you always think back to that point, and it’s a pivotal point in your life. The overall concept is being able to accomplish what you wanted in your life. Everyone has a white whale of something that would make them happy. So the idea came from Attack on Titan where Armin’s dream is to see the ocean. In my head, I had this idea of someone in their deathbed saying, “I’ve never seen the ocean”; I have never been able to accomplish what I wanted. That was just the basic concept of the song.
Mel: So when I bring songs to the band, they are usually after I write a simple chord progression with a melody over it. It’s usually very spontaneous, like today I picked up my guitar, started playing, and the lyrics and melodies wrote themselves.
“There’s No Safe Place”, the third track on the album began the same way. It was summer, I just went to the old HMV on Yonge and Dundas cause I was doing some night classes at Ryerson at the time, and I bought the Lana Del Rey Born to Die album, and I think I was playing it every single time I drove my car that summer, and this is way too many hours to be listening to an album. Outside of that, I had “Summertime Sadness” on repeat at all hours of the day when I was not driving. And the “Summertime Sadness” progression is A, C sharp, B, F sharp. And if you listen to our songs, we love starting on A. We love moving to the C sharp. But we tuned half step down so it becomes A flat, C, etc. So I remember picking up my guitar, I would play that song, and one day I came up with these two parts. The first was a verse like part that went A, C sharp, E, A,
Then the lyrics wrote themselves. It was about a relationship, and for the sake of storytelling let’s say it’s in the viewpoint of the girl, and it’s very cause-and-effect driven. Every time the guy tries something, this negative outcome happens. So for example, the first line was something like, “You tried to protect me,” a very positive line, “but you just made it worse”, so a negative outcome in her eyes though. Or something like, “You tried when you protect me, just to make it better for you.” So it’s kinda like how she saw it right.
And it was supposed to be a series of these relationship scenarios where he tries, but she just feels like she’s getting used. So it’s just this verse part that loops and loops and it’s just him trying and him trying. And you know, you can only try so hard. When I showed Joe and he made this arpeggio version of the chords for the verse.
I had a verse that repeated and repeated until it went to the outro. The outro was based off that “You tried” part of the verse. So I took those two chords, the A and the C sharp from the verse, and I think I looped them. It’s hard to remember exactly what I did because me and Joe made so many subtle changes to the chord progressions for the album version of the song.
So essentially you get to this outro, I change the lyrics to one line that I wanted repeated, “You tried when you loved me.” So it’s suppose to be the epitome of a failed relationship. You try so many times, and I guess you’ve broken up, and that’s when he stops trying, and you kinda realize that. And you know, it’s only when he loved you that he tried. And it’s that sad realization that he’s not going to be trying anymore and he’s not trying anymore.
When we played it as a band, the song definitely exploded into something I never imaged. I remember the day we went to record it, Jeff shows up with new lyrics and a shouting part we used over the pre-choruses and outro. It’s the line, “I’ll daydream if I want to. It seems that I’m losing time.” And in the recording, the outro gets pretty heavy. It’s one of our favourite parts to play live. Me and Jeff ended up harmonizing my melodies. So if you listen to the track, my vocals are haunting in the back.
Joe: So one interesting song on Far From Home is “What We Already Knew”. It’s not a song we play live a lot, but it actually became one of our most popular songs online due to a YouTube site called Dream Bound. It was interesting because this was actually one of the last songs we wrote for the album. It actually didn’t even exist when we started pre-production for the album. We had about eight songs almost ready, and we really wanted ten. After one of our first few sessions of pre-production, Kenny wanted us to write a song that was very effects driven, ambient, very chill. He gave us this direction, and we didn’t have a pre-production session until a month or so later. I remember just taking an idea we had for another jam that wasn’t going to be on the album, it wasn’t as effects driven, it was more straight clean guitar, kinda Toe-ish. I decided to use the progression and change the overall feel and drown it in effects. I think there’s two different delay settings, one repeating quarter notes and one repeating in eighths. And then there is this low-fi reverb setting, and we probably put another reverb on top of it to be honest. When we recorded with Kenny, we had like two reverbs on almost everything. It became this really washy, space-sounding guitar part. I remember we recorded a demo of it. It just had a repeating vocal at the time, and that’s how I wanted it. It was supposed to be a transition track, very short, with a repeated melody line.
We recorded a demo and sent it to Kenny, and he was like “Yeah, this is exactly what I was talking about.” The one time in pre-production when he described it, that was it. So it was the song he directed us to write, and we ended up doing it without really knowing. When we recorded the song, it ended up growing to something a little bit more. More vocal lines were added and more vocal parts were added. I think it’s actually neat with this song, everyone in the band sings on this song, and everyone in the band contributed a line or two. I think it’s the only song where everyone has a line they wrote on it. It was also fun to record. I got to do an effects pedal, wacky delay solo, which we’ve done on a song before, but this one was crazier. And I remember that ending noise. I think Jeff’s favourite part of the album is that ending delay noise at the end of the song. Then we added Kenny’s melody line where Zack and Jeff harmonize in the outro. That wasn’t there before. It was interesting where we started with this song and what it ended up becoming because we didn’t really know where it would end up.
Zack: “We Broke the Sun,” I’m pretty sure it didn’t have a name until we live recorded it at Glenmore Studios with Scott. There’s a live video you can find online for that. I personally did not have any concrete drum parts. I didn’t know what I was doing before we went there even though we had been playing it for a long time. I still didn’t have solidly written parts. I don’t know if anyone else did either because we kinda reformed it every single time. We kinda messed with the structure. We committed to one thing when we recorded it, and it came out pretty good. Then I just took whatever I did in that video and I was like, “Okay, these are my drum parts now.” I had no excuse because they were immortalized in that video. It made me figure something out on the spot, and that just became part of the song. I like how it turned out. It’s a cool thing that sometimes you get put on the spot, and this what you have to do, and it turns out well. Sometimes the best things happen when you don’t think about it, and you just do it.
One of the songs that sticks out the most from Far From Home album is the title track “Far From Home” because I remember every single jam that we had, we would record it on my phone. It could be ten minutes, five minutes, a minute and a half, we just like to have everything so we can listen back to it later. I was going through a bunch of them on my phone that I had forgot existed from almost a couple years before that, and there was this jam we had going. It wasn’t really anything, but I was listening to it and there was the melody from “Far From Home,” the “Find your way back, find your way back home.” Jeff played it just randomly during a jam. I’m not sure if the chord progression was the same, or if anything was the same, but I heard that, and I thought it would make a really good vocal melody so I was like, “Okay guys, listen to this thing.” It was from a long time ago, and I don’t think anyone even remembered. I think it was also like seven minutes long. It was way too long, and we thought it was cool when we we did it, but no one would listen to it. So we took that, and we changed it into a vocal line, as a chorus line, and I think we liked it right away. That’s just one of the things I remember when I think about the album, and how I found it randomly, and I thought this could be a good thing. We wrote a whole song about it. And we recorded it, and the outro was way too long. We cut it in half during the recording process. Kenny was like, “This is not good.” We had this weird stop rhythm. We thought we were cool. Kenny set us straight, and it was pretty funny.
Jeff: So Far From Home, I think at least, is about trying to find — it’s weird to describe things because when you describe it, it’s solid, when really, songs and albums are about so many different things. But I guess to me right now, Far From Home is a lot about trying to find your path or your purpose in life. More in the fact of where you think you should be going, and I feel like at the time we wrote this was college years, university years. It’s a lot about trying to figure out exactly what you’re going to do. And Far From Home, to me at least, was very much that idea.
The actual song “Far From Home” was inspired by the game Earthbound, or any kinds of those video games where you set off on this adventure and you are not really sure where you are going, but you know that you should be going somewhere. Or you know that you should be going somewhere, but you are not sure if it’s the right way or whether it’s worth it or not.