Dark days fuel the latest from the seven-piece Philadelphia collective
“Fuzz Minor,” which falls near the end of Always Foreign, the most recent album from epically named indie-rock seven-piece the World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, is among the angriest songs in the Philadelphia-based collective's catalog.
“Call me ‘a-rab'/Call me ‘spic,'” singer David Bello, who was born to Puerto Rican and Lebanese parents, howls as the music builds like a storm surge. “I can't wait until I see you die.”
“I think I took a bus from Columbus the day after the [November] election [of President Donald Trump], and that's when we started writing the record,” said drummer Steven Buttery, who was born and raised in Connecticut and moved to Columbus 3.5 years ago when his partner started doctoral studies at Ohio State University. “We had just kicked a member out of the band, plus over a year of seeing all the political stuff happening and then Trump actually being elected. It was a terrifying, weird time. Everyone showed up to the practice space [in Philly] feeling lost or hopeless because of the political environment. It was something you couldn't escape.”
The handful of songs that emerged from these early sessions, such as “Marine Tigers,” reflect this fractured reality, Bello singing, “Can you still call it a country if all the states are broken?” (The mood certainly wasn't helped by the timing of a second writing session, which necessitated Buttery taking a bus from Columbus the day after Trump's January inauguration.) Other songs are more inherently personal, informed by the 2016 dismissal of guitarist Nicole Shanholtzer, who appears to be on the receiving end of some of the album's more pointed lyrics. “I threw out all the records you're on,” Bello sneers on one track.
“Most of the personal stuff we've written about [on past albums] is pretty broad and has a lot to do with mental health and seeking help for any problems you might have,” said Buttery. “This time around, I think the problems might have been more personal just because of the personnel changes in the band.”
Recording sessions took place in Burlington, Connecticut, at Silver Bullet Studios, a facility co-owned and operated by guitarist/producer Chris Teti. As on past recordings, Teti and Buttery convened early to work out tempo maps and song structures — “Where things get slower and where they get faster,” the drummer said — essentially creating a musical skeleton the band could fill in, much like framing out a house.
“It's fun to see how much the mood of a song changes even once guitars get put on it,” Buttery said. “Everybody has to react to what I'm doing; there's not much opportunity for me to go back and change my parts to match somebody else's thought. It just lays the foundation for everything.”