Imagine going up in a hot air balloon on a nice spring morning, only to find the basket of the balloon soon evaporates with the intensifying sun, and in it’s place is an enormous labyrinth. At the moment, that’s how School Knights‘ new album Lethargy makes me feel when I listen to it. It’s eight tracks of amazing, airy but dense, alternative punk orchestration. I got a chance to catch up with front-man Michael Stein about what makes Lethargy different from previous School Knights creations:
We definitely approached this album in a totally different way than with the last effort, and I think you can definitely hear that. Lethargy is way more of a collaborative process than anything we’ve previously done. We spent a lot of time just writing, work-shopping, and practicing these songs. We recorded demos and practiced specific vocal parts and all that. We got really fucking sick of what we were doing prior to songs. This band has gone through a lot of changes in line-up and it continues to change in sound. We all have short attention spans, and we listen to so much music which makes it hard for us to be satisfied. I don’t know what happened, but pretty much within a month of recording the Free EP, we were sick of it. A lot of people really liked that EP, and it’s weird, but we just didn’t care about that at all, and if anything, it made us even more sure that we didn’t like it. A lot of the songs were childish and poorly constructed and Ben, Morris, and I all knew it. It’s definitely a drag when all the people who write the music can acknowledge that the songs are shitty or at least that we weren’t happy with them.
The title Lethargy really came last in the overall process. After we recorded everything and listened to the finished album a million times we came up with the name. It has two meanings for me: for one it’s how we started feeling about music after our last release (the Free EP). We got to a point where we couldn’t even listen to our own songs and everything felt really stagnant. On the other hand, I guess its also how the album made us feel to some extent. A lot of the songs that I thought were happy songs ended up sounding like sad songs, and the whole thing is kind of long and pretty spacey sounding. I think ultimately, it’s a good album to listen to when you’re feeling bummed out and bored, when you feel lethargic, hence Lethargy.
As far as recording goes, we went to a great studio called Black in Bluhm here in Denver. Chris Fogal (The Gamits) runs that place and he’s a bad-ass. We spent three days in that studio laying down tracks and using a metronome with all the different time changes made it pretty tedious, but we really feel we got the best takes possible for each part. Then once we started mixing, we would show Chris songs that we like and say, “We want the bass to have a tone like that, but cleaner and we want it to pop,” and we would play him our demos and be like, “We want the noise that we had here,” and then we would go get him tacos and he would just make it happen.
We really wanted to record one song on our own, and that ended up being “Heritage II.” We had a lot of other ideas for songs and noise things that we wanted to record, and we kept recording shit and then deleting it, and then the deadline came up, and I think we were supposed to have it done by 2pm, and we woke up at noon and rushed over to the practice space we use (since our neighbors are dicks) and just knocked out “Heritage II” in a half hour.
I will say though that we are proud of Lethargy. I am sure we will continue to change, but to me Lethargy is what I wanted for this band. It is, in my opinion, the highest point for School Knights, and I am really happy it exists and I hope people dig it.
You can grab Lethargy on School Knights’ Bandcamp, and on a beautiful cassette released by Bridgetown Records (Kevin Greenspon). A few weeks ago The Miscreant posted the jam “Low Tide.” Here’s a deeper look into the album via the track “Silicone Drip.”