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December 2019 / January 2020
Feature

WhoHurtYou: "We wanted it to sound like Robyn"

All Time Low guitarist Jack Barakat and singer-songwriter Kevin Fisher embrace pop and break-ups with their new project, WhoHurtYou.
Published: 10:59 am, December 02, 2019Words: Steven Loftin.
WhoHurtYou: "We wanted it to sound like Robyn"

Break-ups are tough, but when All Time Low guitarist Jack Barakat and singer-songwriter Kevin Fisher, aka Sweet Talker, found themselves going through rough splits at the same time, they channelled the experience into a brand new project, which soon became a band; WhoHurtYou.

"It's a bit like showing everyone your journal in your diary, so that's that's a little weird to get used to," Jack reflects.

"Personally, I never really thought about it until it came out, so when it did come out, I had a panic-moment of fear and basically a borderline breakdown. It was a really new experience for me, and I'd never felt that.

"I was like, 'oh shit, this is real'. I never regretted it, but there was a moment where I was like, 'oh, this is actually harder than I thought it was going to be'. Just because it is a very in-depth look into your life."

His day job as one-quarter of pop-punk renegades All Time Low means he isn't particularly front and centre, though he does admit that he's "very superficially [putting] myself out there" with them.

"I don't like to let a lot of people in my life," he explains. "So when these [songs] came out, there was definitely a moment of like... fuck. But now I feel great. It's a comfortable thing, and I'm very happy that we did it."

Jack's open honesty - even a surprise to Kevin - is understandable given that's where both of their lives sit now; they both underwent therapy to unpack and understand what they'd been through, and how to recover from the emotional trauma of their respective break-ups.

Presenting these honest, often vulnerable, accounts of the ins and outs of the end of a relationship to anyone outside of the two of them naturally brought its own string of questions.

"Everyone's like, 'Hey, are you guys doing alright?'" Jack laughs. "And it's like, yeah, we're doing fine, but when the songs are written, probably not as fine."

"I'd like to think that we're not going to be single for the rest of our lives"
Jack Barakat

A far cry from the world of All Time Low, the pop monster they've created swells and bleeds with its emotion. For Kevin, it's a bit closer to home since he's a songwriter for an array of acts including Five Seconds of Summer and One Republic.

"When we first created the project, we were kind of starting from scratch," he reflects, "but our initial and main influence was we wanted it to sound like Robyn. We wanted it to be pop-electronic sounding with dark undertones and dark themes."

The themes themselves refer to the stages of grief; hence the EP's title, 'Stages'. Traversing their way through the murky depths of the five corridors grief opens was an unintentional aspect, "not like, 'okay let's write a song about anger, let's write a song about loneliness'," Jack explains.

"That's just kind of how it made itself. It wasn't until the end where Kevin was like, the songs are all about one kind of unique theme but all very different kind of a vibe, and very different feelings. It ended up being a happy little accident."

Given they've dedicated an entirely new project, and penned a handful of tracks, to their respective relationships falling apart - were their exes aware?

"Yeah, I think that was always going to be awkward," Jack chuckles. "And I think when it comes down to it, if anyone has ever dated a musician or an artist, you gotta expect at some point that something they write is going to be about you.

"That's a part of what we do. And that's a part of what you get into when you - and for a guy or girl standpoint, there are tonnes of girl singers singing about guys - involve yourself with someone who's an artist or musician, you gotta think that there's a chance that something is going to be about you one day."

While the process itself held a catharsis, seeking therapy was essential in understanding and being able to present their emotions as accurately as possible, as well as diving deep into what they represented.

"It was helpful for writing that I had those therapy sessions because I very much knew exactly what I wanted to say," Kevin says. "And each of those things benefits the other. You come to realisations [when] talking to somebody in therapy that you can put into motion when you start sitting down writing."

Which is really what WhoHurtYou's sole purpose was - a vehicle for two people to process some complicated feelings that are all too familiar. It's also helped Jack unlock a side of him he didn't realise was hiding away. "It changed me in the sense that I see myself as a songwriter now, and as someone who could contribute lyrically to songs," he says.

"I do think it also brought up some demons, and maybe makes you dwell on the past a little more than you probably should. But I think, overall, it made me feel better as an artist. Having something like this come out of it is a very positive thing, rather than just dwelling on it and not being creative with it. We're lucky to have that outlet because a lot of people go through stuff and have no outlet they just have to let time go by or do whatever."

There's also no worry for the future of WhoHurtYou. Though the initial scenario that gave birth to these ideas has, in some ways, been exorcised - though "there's plenty more that we could say about that whole situation," Kevin clarifies.

"With this EP, that was how we put it together in the vision of having it be like the stages of grief, but I know that Jack and I feel like there are plenty more songs that could come out of our situations."

"Those songs are all very specific to two people that we both dated," Jack adds. "Whereas, you know, I'd like to think that we're not going to be single for the rest of our lives, so I do think that there will be, unfortunately, more heartbreak in the future. But also some love!"

Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Upset, out now.

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