Tonight Alive: "I felt saturated by depression, darkness and lack of health"
It’s been a tumultuous time for Tonight Alive, but amidst health issues and a line up change, they’ve born a brand new record.
Published: 9:21 am, December 05, 2017
[vc_row][vc_column offset="vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10"][vc_column_text]It feels like Tonight Alive's ‘Underworld' is the record they've been threatening to make for a decade. "It has the polished, cinematic soundscape of [2016 album] ‘Limitless', but we've returned to the angst and aggression that the other two records had. It's the perfect balance for us," explains Jenna McDougall. "It's interesting to have done those two polar opposite records, 'Limitless' and [2013 album] ‘The Other Side' and then meet in the middle for ‘Underworld'."
As always though, Tonight Alive aren't retracing their steps. They're on a journey, and you're part of that adventure. "I'm exploring my darkness a lot more. On the last record, I was scratching for light at a time where I really needed it." Issues within the band, with their label and going through personal things left Jenna asking, "How can I enjoy my life more? How can I take control of my life? Becoming vegan and getting into spirituality, I was drawn into the light. Once you're on that journey though, you realise there's deeper work to do. The shadow work." 'Underworld' sees Tonight Alive explore that pain, take those unspoken truths and give them a voice.
If you wanted proof that the band are properly digging down into their issues and confronting them head on, you just need to look to Whakaio who, after recording the record, stepped away from the group to work as a songwriter, producer and engineer in Nashville. "It's weird that this is part of our story now," starts Jenna. "Whak was always the leader of our band, and I do feel like the core of Tonight Alive has been pulled out. But the four of us have been really integrated to that centre and have created a new one. We're more united than we ever have been, and that's out of necessity. Whak's drive is in the studio. He's such a good songwriter and I know he's a lot happier being creative than he is being a performer."
As for Tonight Alive, "it felt like we were in the eleventh hour of the band. I know people on the outside see things differently, but when you have a dream, a vision of where you want your band to get to, we don't feel like we've reached our peak, the goal or the finish line yet. We're approaching that ten-year overnight success story. We wrote the record we wanted to write, and it didn't feel like we were finished yet. I know we're not. And I know our fans know that as well. We're not finished yet. We've got a lot more to do. It was never an option for me to step away from Tonight Alive."
Instead ‘Underworld' sees the band stepping up. First single ‘Temple' is a fiery bloodletting, written at a time where Jenna "felt like I was war with myself and my body." Tonight Alive's music have always offered a light in the dark but for the first time, the band name their demons. "I'm intoxicated by my depression," starts the song, before admitting: "I'm consumed by the fear that I might never find the answer." There's no silver lining here.
"It was a case of either I own this thing or this things owns me. I don't truly believe that now, but at the time, I felt saturated by depression, darkness and lack of health," Jenna explains. Her eczema, the thing that caused a lot of the pain behind ‘The Other Side', returned. "It was this chronic state, full body discomfort. When you're itchy, it creates anxiety. You're constantly irritable. Using energy for anxiety is exhausting, so you get fatigued and that causes head spins and heart palpitations because your body is working overtime. I was highly strung, I couldn't sleep and I developed a food allergy to everything."
With everything she ate giving her an outbreak, "over the past couple of years I developed what you'd now call an eating disorder. I got into this bad habit where I had to throw things up because I was terrified it would get worse. I was in a state of fear for two years that anything I ate was going to trap me, make me worse, less happy and less comfortable so I found myself addicted to that habit of rejecting everything. It was bad."
Jenna started counselling. "I'm on a much better path now. Finishing the record, my health has improved so much. I'm no longer battling with that addiction but it's so fresh. It's only been a few months since the last time I made myself sick. ‘Temple' was written in May, recorded in June and was released in October. It's full-on, being onstage and singing ‘I make myself sick just so I can hate this a little bit more'. It's such a self-destructive habit, you throw up, you look in the mirror, and your eyes are bloodshot, and you say I hate you. It's such a negative place to be, but it's actually so freeing to sing and talk about it. And for it to not have been written two years ago and only just come out. This is a new chapter for us, with this sort of honesty."