Texan band Narrow Head have created one of the heaviest albums of 2020 thus far, not because '12th House Rock' is a towering inferno of insurmountable riffs - it's actually pretty melodic and contemplative - but because it sees them delve into themes of self-loathing, desolation, self-medication, the loss of loved ones and more. There's a lot going on here, and at a time when pretty much everyone's mental health is suffering, it feels as though many will relate. The band's Carson Wilcox tells us more.
Hi Carson, how are you doing? Are you busy at the moment?
Not busy at all at the moment. Texas isn't technically on lockdown anymore, but with the virus spreading as aggressively as it is in our state right now our day to day lives have been pretty quiet the past couple months and weeks especially.
How are you finding planning an album release during a pandemic?
It's definitely a bit strange! We've had the timeline laid out for a couple of months now so for the most part, COVID hasn't changed the game-plan drastically. We had to delay the video shoot and alter some of the locations for 'Stuttering Stanley' a bit to make sure everyone was COVID-free, and we could film in open outdoor areas.
Have you come up against any other unexpected challenges in getting the record together and out?
Since the record was finished in 2019, the global state of affairs right now hasn't really affected the record much, other than our ability to tour in support of it. But for reasons beyond that, I would say it was a bit difficult to get the record finished! We initially tracked about half of the record at our bass player's house and then scrapped those demos to track at a proper studio, which set us back a couple of months initially. That got compounded by trying to finish the record around the studio availability and touring we were doing at the time. All in all, we're all super stoked on the end product, and glad about the time we spent on it, but it definitely took way longer than we initially expected.
'12th House Rock' tackles some really heavy topics, what is it about writing about your struggles that appeals to you?
I think all art and music comes from a place of needing some sort of emotional or psychological release. Jacob [Duarte] writes all of the lyrics, most of which are pretty personal, but I also think some of them use exaggerated personal experiences to tell more universal stories or just fit the mood of the track. I don't know if heavy lyrical content "appeals" to us as much as it's just what came out of the time Jacob and I were writing these songs.
Were there any subjects you were hesitant to write about because they were too personal or raw?
We don't necessarily go into the lyric-writing process aiming to write about anything in particular, and by that logic, I'd also say that nothing is explicitly off-limits. This record pretty plainly discusses drug abuse, self-loathing, family tragedy and more. It's never approached in an awkwardly confessional way (a la mid-2000s emo bands), but I think the raw lyrics only serve to complement the music.
Feeling down to the point of not taking care of yourself is a really relatable issue, how do you deal with those periods?
I think anxiety/depressive tendencies and all forms of self-doubt are (sadly) pretty common amongst people today, largely due to social media and the insane degree to which we are all programmed to compare ourselves to other people, compare our art to others' art, compare our "success" in life to others. It's a bit trite, but I think every person owes it to themselves to detach from the internet from time to time and just ground yourself in something tangible. Ride a bike or shoot a basketball or something, haha.
There seems to have been a surge in talking about mental health through music lately, is there anyone you feel is doing it especially well?
I honestly try to avoid any video that's just a celebrity talking directly into their selfie cam, but Hayley from Paramore is cool and pretty transparent about her mental health, so let's say her.
What music helped you through difficult times while you were growing up?
90s emo music. Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music, Superchunk etc. Jacob's dad and uncle played together in an emo band, so he was hip to that stuff at a young age. When we met as teens, there was already a good amount of overlap in our musical interests, but he definitely put me onto some records that changed my perspective.
What's next for you guys? Do you have the next few months planned out?
Well, the record comes out soon, so we're really just excitedly waiting for that. Typically we'd be gearing up for some touring, so in lieu of that, we're thinking of maybe filming some other sessions. Writing a lot of new material. Just trying to stay busy as best we can!
Taken from the September issue of Upset. Narrow Head's album '12th House Rock' is out 28th August.
Featuring Deftones, Bully, The Front Bottoms, De'Wayne and more.