Bridging the gap between post hardcore, emo and indie rock, “The Shadow of Your Guard Receeding” from Munich based OAKHANDS is one of the most interesting releases in this genre, premiered earlier last month through This Charming Man Records. To celebrate, we’re pleased to give you a backstory about this project, its meaning, along with the band’s track by track commentary, their view on the current pandemic lockdown and their music scene in Germany.
Touching on subjects like family, mental health, social anxiety or masculinity in ones modern society, the band’s complexity, metaphoric potential and abstract forms of storytelling may seem a bit artsy and stand in contrast to their stripped down live performances, but it feels super natural and compatible. “The Shadow of Your Guard Receeding” will be visualized by 7 conceptual videos telling one story on 3 different time layers. Three of them are now available and you can watch them below.
For fans of: Foxing, The Tidal Sleep, Envy, frühe The World Is A Beautiful Place
We’re Oakhands from Munich, Germany mixing indie, emo & post hardcore into a genre we like to describe as “Sturm & Drang“, an energetic mixture drawing similarities to the German literature epoch (the german pre-classical era epoch, which favoured raw, direct emotions over traditional narrative forms & structures).
“The Shadow of Your Guard Receding” is our first full-length album, following our debut EP “Age of Swans” from 2016. For us, artistic values and self-reflection is really important – we have several videos out accompanying our songs that try to go off the beaten path and we’re creating with our drummer Jussi Urbach, a liberal artist studying at the academy of fine arts in Munich.
“𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑆ℎ𝑎𝑑𝑜𝑤 𝑜𝑓 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝐺𝑢𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑅𝑒𝑐𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔” 𝑖𝑠 𝑎 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑝𝑡 𝑝𝑖𝑒𝑐𝑒.
We started with the basic human emotions – e.g. fear, joy, sadness, anger, … – and wrote a song to each one, trying to capture a fragment of the feeling with the song. Put together, the songs depict the complete array of human emotions. The lyrics are pretty much the same – they take the basic human emotion as foundation to talk about concepts and conflicts, that evoke the very same feeling. The title “The Shadow of your Guard Receding” represents the act of showing emotions – opening up and being vulnerable to the outside, which is exactly what this album is. On the record, we’re always less than clear. In our opinion, life is complicated, full of conflicts that are not easy to solve – something that is basically never depicted in modern pop music, which is quick to put blame or offer easy solutions. We talk about the conflict itself, about its complexity, about the act of trying to clear the mist without leaving anything out. This is pretty hard considering how short lyrics usually are, which is why there is a lot of meaning compressed in our words.
We also put out an accompanying series of videos for the album, in which the different emotions are interpreted on a visual level
𝑇𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑘 𝑏𝑦 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑘 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑦
1. A Reverie, 1890
In the beginning, the song acts as a literal opener to the album – it talks about the background of the record, how it came to be, the hardships we faced and introduces the imagery that is used throughout the album. This then warps to the song’s main focus – it’s about surprise and talks about mental illness, the effects on the afflicted and about the forgetfulness that comes with, just to switch completely and show absolute foresight at the end of the song, predicting the end of the album.
2. several; (so that others may thrive)
This song is about social anxiety. The feeling to have to be somebody else to be liked by those around you. The point of realization isn’t really enough to stop this behavior and creates a contradiction, in which you’d like to be yourself, only to watch yourself try to be someone else and fail. Something which causes endless reproach afterwards.
3. Rejoice! Rejoice!
The lyrics talk of overthinking. Not as a specific topic but overthinking overthinking itself and in turn getting angry at oneself for this charade. This conflict is elevated to a high level of drama in an effort to ridicule the whole situation – the persona recalls Shakespeare’s Hamlet, modern drama’s most prominent skeptic. They even goes as far to compare themselves with Hamlet, thus exaggerating the dramatic connotations of the lyrics in a self-ironic manner and ultimately calling themselves out for these very thoughts, very well aware of the dramaturgy of this comparison.
4. La Jetée
“La Jetée” deals with obsession – it’s inspired by the experimental French science fiction short film „La Jetée“, in which obsession makes the protagonist blind to his own death. In the song, blindness is used consistently as a metaphor for obsession, and at the same time as a consequence of obsession. The persona exhibits this by drawing a picture of a romantic relationship, although it’s only from their own perspective. The words and the melodies consist of romantic clichés – the words could stem from literally any love song. This description is heavily biased, based on obsessions which obscure the narrator’s perspective and leads to his blindness (the metaphor and consequence of obsession). They song heavily criticizes this behavior, focusing only on one’s own perspective and feelings – something very present in today’s pop culture, where “artists” use the stage they’re given to declare their view on personal conflicts, actively drowning out those also affected. That is toxic masculinity.
5. SAMSA (or, the Lack of Constant Lack)
This song is heavily influenced by Kafkas ‘The Metamorphosis’. It’s about disgust, how people attribute negative traits to people they used to have affection for once there is a falling out. This process of going from liked to hated is likened to the process Gregor Samsa has to go through, from human to cockroach. However, the song does not specify who it is that’s going through the metamorphosis, who is becoming disgusting. Is it the person that attributes or the person that is attributed?
6. || twenty-two
|| twenty-two is our instrumental track of the album. It’s about fear, starting with nervousness and ending with absolute terror and depicts how easily fear can build up. How it can start with something simple and end up absolutely terrifying.
This song is an ode to nihilism and fatalism. The voice constantly repeats “I never get anything right” while never being able to actually finish the sentence. It’s such a heavy sentence that carries a lot of impact and meaning for me, no matter how often I hear it. The instruments also try to play in duple time but never actually find it. Still, the song goes on.
8. P A L M I N G
P A L M I N G is the result of us trying to make an emo-pop song. We were never quite sure if it would fit on the album but in the end I think it’s a great addition to the overall tone. We all usually listen to way lighter stuff than we’re actually playing and were trying to incorporate that in some way. That’s why the song’s emotion is “trust”, because its structure is something well known and trusted. Lyric-wise, the song talks about introversion, about actively withdrawing and finding solace in solidarity – but also the social repercussions that come with it.
9. The Parnassus
This is the song that describes our evolution from our EP “Age of Swans” the best, because it’s pretty close in style to our first songs. It’s also one of the earliest songs written for the album and it has changed the most – at times we completely forgot about it, just for it to reemerge again somehow. It’s riddled with crescendos, that’s why we assigned “anticipation” as emotion to this one. The title “Parnassus” is used to evoke exactly that – the top of the artistic world. The title alone builds up expectations the song could never live up to. The lyrics talk exactly about that, about expectations, being put on a pedestal by others and repercussions of this.
As the second-to-last song, 木漏れ日 has a very special role to fulfill. Throughout the album, by using the imagery of the sun, the lyrics point to the end of the album, to “There Will Come Soft Rains”. 木漏れ日 literally means “sunlight shining through the canopy”, a title that perfectly fits the tone of the song, but also is the last moment of peace before the end of the album, the coming of the sun. In this case, the sun is associated with warmth or light as in traditional imagery, but with destruction and fire. This song is the herald of the end, something thought benevolent, but turning out utterly devastating.
11. There Will Come Soft Rains
The title “There Will Come Soft Rains” is originally from a poem by Sara Teasdale from 1918. It is fascinating, how people even before the emergence of atom bombs could think of the complete annihilation of humans and even find something positive in this. The song is pretty much the same – it’s the last song of the album, the end, right after the devastation that happens in between 木漏れ日 and “There Will Come Soft Rains”. However, the lyrics talk about positivity after the fact and drawing one’s own conclusion. Funnily enough, this song is actually by far our oldest song on the record, we already played this song live when we were touring with “Age of Swans”. It stayed with us and we never played a show without it.
Plans for 2020
2020 is (obviously…) turning out a lot different than we expected & planed it be: We hope we’ll be able to play live by the end of the year, if everything goes well. But we’ll be busy promoting and releasing the rest of our upcoming music videos for the album, as we’re just kind of halfway through the album promotional campaign – there are load more videos coming your way.
Apart from that, most of our other plans will evolve with the current situation. That means, that we’ll surely work on new material sooner that we had originally thought. We’re looking forward to writing new songs with our current lineup, which is now well established (after really coming together towards the beginning of 2019)
German post hardcore and alt music scene
There’s a thriving skramz/post-hardcore scene in Germany – Knarre, twins, La Petite Mort/Little Death, Neska Lagun, We Too Will Fade, just to name a few very strong names. And of course “veterans” like The Tidal Sleep. Bands like Lingua Nada, Lirr (waiting on new music from them, though) work with these influences but take them to very different, wild and diverse places. Same goes for Kora Winter, who are more on the metal side, but deliver aesthetical bold & progressive, mathy-metalcore with hints of post-hardcore, black metal and yes, german hip-hop undertones. At the same time easily cater to huge festival crowds, in the best of ways while being DIY all the way. Apart from that we take great joy in watching scenes like post-techno around artists like Carl Gari, Stenny and/or Rosa Anschütz as well as the post-folk scene of Munich based around labels as Trikont & Gutfeeling, who do a great job of showcasing alternatives perspectives on Bavaria, where we live in particular.
COVID-19’s impact on local community and music scene
As mentioned, it cancelled the majority of our plans for 2020. We’re rather lucky, as we don’t rely on making money with our music but we have colleagues and friends in art & music who have been struck badly by the impact of Covid 19. It’s hard to say how bad it will hit the music scene and our community, it’s likely it will mean “our” community is going to work more in DIY-spaces and venues due to „commercial“ clubs closing down. But it will surely hit the established structures hard – we hope there’s enough DIY-spirit around to pick up what Covid 19 destroys.
We really want to encourage people to support the current cultural strucutures which are now under threat: Although we’re huge fans of DIY-projects we want everyone reading this interview to consider, to take a moment to think: What are your favorite cultural spaces & places? In what state are they in right now? What can you do to support them? If they haven’t adressed ways to support them yet, get in touch with them – no matter whether they are DIY-strucutures or commercial strucutures. It’s up to our support whether they will survive COVID-19. Building new strucutres is becoming increasingly difficult – let’s all work together to at least keep the current structures as well.
Records worth a good listen
Twins – Soon
Rrose – Hymn to moisture
Andrea – Ritorno
Friends of us making late 90’s emo with superb songwriting, strong emotions and nearly even The Smiths-/Godlike guitar arrangements.