The band figures out how to find hope in the darkness on new album

Ace Enders swears he’s OK.

Besides a scratchy throat (he just woke up), the Early November singer is in good spirits as the band makes its way from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Portland, Oregon, for its next show.

The state of Enders’ well-being comes up as soon as we begin discussing the band’s latest album, Lilac. I joke that after listening to some of the songs, I began to worry about him. In “Hit By A Car (In Euphoria)” Enders opens the song by wistfully singing, “Depression has become my old friend,” before going on to mention “every prescription I’ve forsaken” and deciding to “drink the night away.”

This is not the same Early November that released The Room’s Too Cold 16 years ago (RIP Drive-Thru Records). This isn’t even the same band that released Imbue four years ago. This is the Early November at its most honest: raw, dark lyrics about addiction, depression and the everyday struggle to just get through this. It’s all presented under the guise of lush pop melodies, new territory for a band that came of age at the height of early aughts emo.

“I do pop writing for other artists and whatnot, but I never include the pop side of my life into the Early November,” said Enders, who runs The Lumberyard Recording with Man Overboard singer Nik Bruzzese in Hammonton, New Jersey. “I had one night where I woke up with this really weird feeling of urgency, and I was like, 'I really want to allow that [pop] side to come out a little bit in this project.'”

As far as the lyrics go, Enders declines to clarify whether the songs address issues from his life or the lives of those close to him, but it’s clear that the subject matter hits close to home, and he’s eager to talk about these issues.

“In our society right now, everybody's extremely hypersensitive on all of these things, addiction and depression and whatnot. Having lived with these same things for my entire life, I feel like I'm pretty all right with trying to navigate it,” he said. “We all have people who are really close to us that are affected by it, if not us, ourselves. It takes a toll on our lives.”

Despite its heavy subject matter, Lilac is not an album about wallowing in despair. Enders said the first version of the album “was just a very one-angle look at a situation. It was a very depressing, sad thing.” Originally scheduled for release last fall, the album was pushed back due to contractual hold-ups, extended deadlines and the rigors of touring. (Besides writing the songs, Enders also produced the album at his studio.) “I think, ultimately, it happened for the best because we just kept adding songs, and the record kept getting better,” Enders said.

Lilac is an album about breaking the cycle, even if it takes a while. It’s about acknowledging your demons, not about letting them win. It’s Enders anxiously wondering, “Where are those pills I decided to hide?” on “Our Choice” before bursting into an earnest chorus: “It is a choice to be all right/It is a choice to be alive.” He sings the line with the conviction of someone who wants to wish it true.

“I've had those moments where in your head you're like, 'I need this thing to make me feel better, to make me feel human.' And you do the thing where you hide it, and then you can't find it, and then you freak out, and you're like, 'I don't know if I'm gonna be all right,'” Enders said. “It's a weird world we live in. Ultimately, while writing ['Our Choice'], I was thinking, 'Can you be OK?' For me, it was a form of therapy, because you're writing down thoughts and feelings in that specific moment. It's really important to remember that … whatever it may be, you're still stronger than all of it.”