Life is hard, but there is beauty in the struggle. And there is so much beauty in Drug for the Modern Age, the sophomore album from Nashville-based Kopecky.
Unafraid of tackling heavy topics like addiction, love of self, and distractions from things that matter most, Kopecky's latest effort manages to address the need we all have for connection while simultaneously offering beautifully intimate lyrics that inevitably can't help but form a connection with listeners.
I had the opportunity to ask Gabe Simon (vocalist/guitarist) about his take on the new album... the symbolism, the songs, and the filming of their crazy fun video for "Quarterback."
The Reel Spin: The title for your new album, Drug for the Modern Age... is so rich in symbolism. It's also the title for one of the standout tracks on the album... which came first the album title or the song?
Gabe Simon: The track actually, which in itself is a cool story. It was a song I had thrown to the wayside, thinking it seemed a little esoteric. I had sent it to Steven [Holmes] one night, and he hit me back quickly saying he loved it. I had never realized how much it resonated with him till he sent me lyrics for the 3rd and 4th verses of the song. Coincidentally, this was the same time that Steven had ventured back to SC for drug rehabilitation with his family. His personal story threaded into what much of the record was trying to address... addiction, the struggle with self love and worth, distractions from the most important things in life, and the key element of love (friendship, familial, intimate) as a purifying and reconstructive tool for the lonely and hurt. With that all in mind, "Drug for the Modern Age" seemed the perfect image and title.
TRS: One of my favorite songs on the album is "Better Luck Next Time" -- especially the ending... it's so quiet and honest. How did the song come to be?
Simon: Love hearing that! It's one of my favorites as well. The song actually is a bit of a Frankenstein. The verses and pre-chorus were written by Kelsey [Kopecky], Konrad [Snyder] (our producer) and myself while just messing around in the studio one day. It just seemed to be one of those songs that never left our minds. The chorus was actually another song I had written with a dear friend named Trent Dabbs, so when I say Frankenstein I mean it. When we finally got into the studio, we tracked the song out two totally different ways, both of which we all hated! It was a guitar part that Corey [Oxendine] ended up playing that saved everything, you can hear it on the verse. So we deleted everything and built the song around that and the vocal melodies. It just turned into something totally raw and organic that we never could [have] just forced into submission. The same could be said of the bridge. I had an acoustic in my hand, and I shouted to Konrad to hit record. It was the first thing that came to mind, just felt right. I imagined it bigger, but the band loved how we dropped to this completely vulnerable moment. So, the scratch guitar became the moment the song needed. That is what music is all about.
TRS: The video for "Quarterback," just like the song itself, is so much fun. Do you enjoy the creative expression of filming videos?
Simon: Yes! It's a completely different side of the creative process, because it's a third party perspective of something you've created, thus it's an original idea. For us it was all about being who we are, not trying to act too cool for school or put on a mask. The director, Jeff Venable, was someone whose ideas we trusted completely. So it was all about relaxing and letting him take the wheel.
TRS: What is the song selection process like when it comes down to figuring out which songs will make the cut for a new album? Is it difficult to narrow down or is it a matter of which songs ultimately work best together?
Simon: Well, for us, it was a bit of a unique process. We did a blind vote. We had 30 songs in contention for the record. We all emailed our producer individually and tallied which songs we felt needed to be on the record. The goal was to pick 8 and then use the last four spots for what we felt the record needed as that glue. It was a hugely successful way to allow for every member to be heard equally. The glue ended up being "Better Luck," "Closed Doors," "Thrill," and "Drug for the Modern Age." So that space for the record emotion was hugely important. All that being said, there were still songs that we loved that didn't make the process. We play one, "Drive," live quite often cuz we love it so much but just couldn't get it right in the studio. We don't really love to force things, it needs to be completely natural and from the heart. If it's not, then it doesn't deserve a spot in a 44 minute musical window.
TRS: You guys are currently on the road touring. Are you enjoying the fan response to all the new songs?
Simon: It's been pretty great so far! Folks go nuts over songs like "Talk to Me" and "Quarterback." I think one of the biggest surprises was "Burnin'." We thought it would maybe be too heavy, but it's ended up being one of those songs where everyone just starts moving in this very trance-like way. That was the goal but we never imagined it would work so well. In regards to fun stories, I totally bit it the other [week] at BottleRock in Napa after slipping on champagne that I had shot into the audience... That was funny. Like slow motion. Falling on my face. Priceless.
For more on Kopecky:
Website - kopeckymusic.com
Facebook - facebook.com/kopeckymusic
Twitter - @KOPECKYmusic
Interview by Pamela Thomas