1,5 years since we discovered one of our favorite emotional alt punk rock records of the past decade, Bold Statements, it’s my pleasure to give you an in-depth presentation of “Rally On”, the newest acoustic EP from Kalamazoo, Michigan band PACK SOUNDS (members of LOCKTENDER, MEN AS TREES, THE REPTILIAN, and BIKE TUFF). Their new offering sees them designing from a minimal perspective, with emotional, aching vocals and a solitary acoustic guitar as the main guide through this journey, accompanied by supplemental, but not intrusive instrumentation, indebted to the charm of natural sounds. Given their drive to deliver more energetic and faster punk rock anthems, this might be only for the while, so seize the moment, enjoy this lovely EP alongside our special track by track and music video premiere below, and be sure to listen to their debut when you finish.
“Rally On” came to be rather unexpectedly due to circumstance and a desire to persevere. Pack Sounds had been preparing for months to record a 5 song EP called “Real Gusto”. A week before our scheduled recording session our bass player decided to leave the band. We decided collectively that we didn’t want to record without a bassist and, at the same time, didn’t want to cancel our recording time. Since we had been planning to record an acoustic album in the near future anyways, it made sense to just record that now and then record “Real Gusto” once we had a new bassist trained.
“Rally On” was initially supposed to be just acoustic guitar and vocals with very minimal additional instrumentation. Most of our inspiration was being drawn from Against Me!’s “Acoustic EP” and older stripped down works. However, being in the studio with no definitive agenda lead to us experimenting quite a bit with different sounds, which created more complex songs than initially intended. We recorded with Mike Schuur at Sun Spot Recording in Kalamazoo. He was very encouraging of us trying out all kinds of instruments and sounds in the studio that we normally wouldn’t incorporate. All of the songs other than “Equal Signs” became much more layered, which we feel gives a unique sound to the record.
While Pack Sounds, at its heart, is a punk band, it felt liberating to push ourselves to create something outside of our typical genre. We have a lot of admiration for bands like Tigers Jaw that play different versions of their music based on their performing situation. As songwriters it’s nice to have that flexibility. We want to be able to play chill stripped down versions of our music but also be comfortable re-working “Rally On” songs to be played loud and fast too.
This song is essentially about finding your voice and having the courage to not be afraid to use it. Personally, while I find maturity has brought more confidence, I’ve struggled in the past expressing myself. Stressful situations would create such bad anxiety that I would literally stutter or feel as if I was choking on my words. I find it to be less of a problem these days, as I become more grounded in who I am as a person, but it doesn’t erase the fact that at times I still feel heavy regret.
Video by Dave Cullen (guitarist for Crowning)
Lyrically this is probably one of my favourite songs we’ve done. We recorded a more washed out, experimental version on “Bold Statements” but I really wanted to record it in a way that highlighted the message better. The lyrics were written around the time Same Sex Marriage was under heavy debate before it came into law in the United States. My mind is always blown that anyone thinks they should have any input at all on who someone is allowed to love and marry. A second wave of inspiration to re-record “Equal Signs” came after I recently read “When We Rise” by Cleve Jones. He is a prominent activist in the AIDS and LGBTQ movements and his story is truly moving. I’m really happy with how it turned out and love how the addition of Russ and Steve’s voices gives an epic feeling to the end of the song.
Eraklis Kallicragas was my Greek Grandfather who immigrated to Canada in the 1950’s. He was loved by everyone and was the type of person who just lit up a room when he entered. My whole family misses him tremendously and it felt appropriate to honour him with a song. Personally, writing this song became a source of closure for me in dealing with his unexpected passing and essentially a way of properly saying goodbye. Every lyric is a specific reference to who he was as a person and the eventful life he lived. We will record a full band fast version of this song on “Real Gusto” but I was particularly happy to record a stripped down, calmer version of this song that I was able to share with my Grandmother. Pretty sure the “punk” version will be lost on her.
“Buckets Half Full”
This is actually a sister piece to a song we will record on “Real Gusto” called “Glasses Half Empty”. Both songs are about addiction, how it affects loved ones and personal accountability. We never really worked on this song as a band so we had a lot of fun experimenting and creating all the weird textures that ended up on the song.
Asked about plans for the rest of the year and plots for their other projects, the band replied:
2020 will hopefully be a very productive year for us. Our new bassist is Greg Brewer, our drummer Steve’s brother and lead guitarist of Bike Tuff. He’s a long time friend and has been a great addition to the band. With the bassist role filled, we’d like to record “Real Gusto” as soon as we’re ready so we can tour behind it. We’re focusing on touring around the Midwest and doing a summer jaunt to Canada and down the East Coast. After that, we’ll probably start thinking about trying to tour Europe and the West Coast while continuing to write new music.
As for other projects, with LOCKTENDER on hiatus my focus continues to be PACK SOUNDS. I continue to joke with my brother that we should do a MEN AS TREES reunion but I suppose all of us would probably need to be in the same room for more than 5 minutes for that to actually happen. Maybe one day though. Russ will be touring with MOSS JAW in the Midwest this March and Steve will be touring Europe with DISTANTS this June. BIKE TUFF is a little quiet lately because of the singer recently becoming a father but they are currently working on demoing new songs for an upcoming release.