By Dougal James
“There’s always good with the bad, and always bad with the good. So, don’t let go of any experience you have, just teach yourself how to find the positives within it.”
Sydney four-piece Dear Seattle’s debut album embodies a stoic sharehouser staggering out the front door for another night of beers they can’t afford with mates they can’t relate to. ‘Don’t Let Go’ is a red-hot furnace packed full of growling amplifiers and snarling critiques of a millennial life that is both grim and full of giddy energy.
The scope of the songwriting is focused and personal, weaving detailed honesty with nimble weed-stained fingers. According to frontman Brae Fisher, the lyrical content of the album could be summed up with the phrase “Life is bittersweet”.
Two main themes influenced the songwriting. Firstly, the success and touring schedule of Dear Seattle came with an “adjustment period associated with barely being home and never having money”, which he says put “strain on my relationships with my partner, friends and family”. These difficulties ultimately served as “constant internal reminders to stay humble and true” to himself. Secondly, the sudden passing of his father at age seven taught Brae to “appreciate the things you love in life before it’s over, that horrible things can happen in life but you will survive and you will heal in time, and that emotionally we are incredibly strong creatures if we treat ourselves right.”
The relentless catharsis of the band’s arrangements add a swarthy bicep to the thrashing limb that wrenches at your heart, pulling you chest deep into the foaming fray of navigating turbulent relationships in your broke 20s.
The chiming lead guitars could make The Edge curl up and weep. The rhythm section is packed with enough grunt to wallop Wil Wagner and his Smithies off their feet. Cathartic shout choruses soar across the album, equally at home blistering throats in a roaring festival crowd as they are shaking the walls of dimly lit band rooms.
Speaking on the band’s unabashed love for gargantuan crowd-pleasing power choruses, Brae Fisher said; “even before we released ‘Daytime TV’, the chorus was simple and catchy enough that people by the second or third chorus would be yelling it back at us and bouncing around.”
Standout tune ‘Maybe’ speaks of being suspended in a state of contemplation whilst embroiled in a cycle of partying. The lyric “another cheap round on a comedown” indicates an exhaustion with the way things are, and the core theme of the song “thinking maybe, maybe, maybe” groggily ponders whether this lifestyle continues at the expense of mental health. In the chorus, Fisher sings “Now I bum around” over bright, chunky power chords and a pounding motoric beat. This larrikin phrase jumps out in the midst of a contemplative tune rife with self-deprecation. It is a playful twist on the glorification of party culture evident in many contemporary local heavy indie rock bands.
Recently, Dear Seattle had the opportunity to hone their craft on a massive national tour with Aussie rock legends Kingswood. Of this experience, Fisher said the band was “very accommodating and understanding of how tough it can be as an opening band on a big tour. Especially in rural areas, as the opener on a tour like that you often play to small amounts of people in massive rooms, so it can be very disheartening. I think it really taught us that we put on the same show no matter how many people are there and don’t let it get to us. In terms of watching Kingswood every night there’s just such an element of professionalism and class to their show. Not just the songs, but the lighting, the sound, the tones, the stage presence. It’s always great to watch a band like that operate.”
Playing with such industry heavyweights could easily influence the creative process of a younger, less experienced group, but Brae said that he and the band “really tried to focus on creating something genuine to us as opposed to recreating something we love of someone else’s. All I knew was that I wanted it to be more rocky as opposed to grunge, utilising big choruses and intimate verses for a nice balance of immediacy and depth.”
‘Don’t Let Go’ has a uniquely Australian aesthetic. Not only are these songs of millennial disillusionment contributing to the modern Aus-grunge stylistic pedigree, (championed by the likes of Violent Soho, The Smith Street Band and Silverchair before them) they are grounded further by Fisher’s natural accent cutting through the heavy instrumentals.
These incredibly personal songs are rendered universally relatable by Brae’s native Northern Beaches tongue: “We were working with our mate Fletcher Matthews who was producing the EP and when we got to vocals, he started pushing me to sing more naturally. As we pushed and pushed it just ended up creeping in and now, I can’t imagine singing any other way. It just feels right, and actually sounds like me.”
You can catch Dear Seattle launching this powerful creation into the world soon:
“We will be doing an album launch party/show on Sydney Harbour out on a boat! People can grab tickets (super limited) and come spend the album release night with us which will be sick! Besides that, keep an eye out because there are big dates on the horizon!”