Singer and songwriter David Stone crafts a how-to guide for his future self on the scuzz-pop band's excellent debut, 'Later On If At All'

“Keep your hands to yourself,” David Stone sings at the onset of “Every Thought I Had,” the first song off of Victory Lapse’s debut long-player, Later On If At All. “I gotta think of my health and well-being.”

While the line sounds like it could have been penned in the midst of this current pandemic, Stone actually wrote the song nearly four years ago, along with the rest of the melodic scuzz-pop gems populating the band’s new album, which it will release at precisely 6:26 p.m. on Friday, June 26, aiming to create the kind of shared, communal event around music that has largely been missing since the concert scene was shutdown by COVID-19 in March. “Hopefully we can get everybody to chill in the house and listen on their computers at the same time, like at a show or something,” Stone said.

This isn’t the first time the singer and guitarist has been caught off-guard by the results of the songwriting process, which remains a mystery despite the years invested in it. “Sometimes when I’m writing I basically black out, almost like I’m possessed or something,” said Stone, who’s joined in Victory Lapse by drummer Brandyn Morit, bass guitarist Geoff Spall and keyboardist/guitarist Bobby Metzger. “It’s happened to me before where I write a song and I don’t know what it means, but then two years later it’s like, ‘That’s what it meant.’ It’s almost like I’m creating this little how-to guide for my future self.”

Stone, 34, first picked up guitar at age 14, learning just enough “to be able to sculpt a song,” as he put it. (“I’m still not technically skilled or anything,” he added.) From the onset, the musician embraced the writing process as a way to process the world, however gradually. In general, Stone said he’ll accumulate random phrases and feelings and observations, allowing them to percolate through his mind for months or even years, believing if he forgets something that it probably wasn’t worth remembering. Then, whenever the inspiration hits, he’ll sit down and purge the songs in a span of days, emptying his head like an uncorked rain barrel. 

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Later On If At All is shot through with moments that rocket Stone into the past. The musician said he always smiles, for instance, while singing the bridge on “Virginia Lee,” because it captures an epiphany, or a moment of growth following a turbulent stretch. Other songs are more self-deprecating (“My good friend thinks I have rocks in my head,” Stone offers on the aptly titled “I Am the Trash”) or filled with questions that suggest the narrator is struggling to come to terms with some event. “Where the hell were you?” he sings on “Natalie Portman.”

“The whole record is just ups and downs, which is what life is,” Stone said of the album, which was recorded over a stretch of sessions with Jon Fintel at Relay Recording. “I don’t sit down to write a song unless I absolutely have to.”

Initially, Victory Lapse slated the release of its debut for early April, pushing it back after COVID-19 shut down the city, leading to the cancellation of a Brothers Drake release show. And even now Stone remains wary of focusing on music in a time when everything feels so volatile. Most recently, the singer spent a day recording a live acoustic set the same Saturday local protests inspired by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police started to ramp up locally. 

“I got home and it was like, ‘Wow. Why did I spend my day doing that?’” said Stone, who spent several days at the protests beginning that night. “Obviously this year is going to keep being weird, I think, and there are going to be layers of things happening — bad, good — and we just got to a point where we wanted to put it out there and start working on something else.”

To that end, Stone is looking forward to the Victory Lapse album that drops in 2024, and on which maybe he can start to make some kind of sense of the chaotic year currently unfolding. “That’s totally going to happen, man,” he said. “Before you called I was sitting in my room recording some tambourine tracks. I’m going to have some interesting things to say, I bet.”