British melodic punk act ARMS & HEARTS is the solo project of Steve Millar whose upcoming record is an honest and heartfelt collection, nodding to the likes of Brian Fallon and Chuck Ragan. On the new single “Community” (see the lyric video below), Millar is joined by The Scandals’ Jared Hart, for a punk rock ode to camaraderie and togetherness. Arms & Hearts has become a mainstay in the buoyant Manchester punk scene and exudes a sound that has picked up acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, with Arms & Hearts drawing parallels to the mainstays of the New Jersey scene. Today, we’re giving his new record a special track by track commentary, offered by Steve himself.
Equally comfortable on a dimly lit folk club stage or at a loud and lively punk show, the heavy-touring singer/songwriter combines the storytelling and work rate of a classic troubadour and heart on his sleeve punk rock passion, asserting himself as one of the most prominent figures in the UK’s underground music scenes.
‘The Distance Between’ sees Millar dropping his guard to confront thoughts of unfulfilled potential, mental fatigue and his own mortality head on. Emerging victorious, bloodied but far from beaten, in nine tracks he also demonstrates the resilience and character of a man desperate to prove you and everyone else wrong.
Aligning the downtrodden yet youthful sound of modern British punk and the hopeful, rose-tinted Americana epitomised by blue collar New Jersey, Arms & Hearts has carved himself a place amongst the UK’s flood of would be singer/songwriters with consistent touring across the UK, Europe &, more recently, the USA.
This was written intentionally as the opener song because I thought that we might as well as get dark pretty early on. Start as you mean to go on etc, etc. It’s about navigating a lot of existential dread that comes with my darker depressive episodes. Concepts like how I’d be remembered if I stopped being alive right now and seeing my existence as a fairly mundane experience up until now. All the cheery stuff.
Kerouac on Minimum Wage
The concept behind this song started as a bit of a stupid injoke between me and Sam (Mixtape Saints) I remember being on tour with them and trying to read ‘On The Road’, thinking it was a complete of pile of shit and how the characters are definitely rich kids. Sal hitting his aunt up for cash every few chapters didn’t set super well with me (It’s also a really hard book to read and I don’t have the attention span really). I then related that to my experience of working really soul destroying, minimum wage jobs, barely making ends meet, my only purpose being to make rich people richer and without a clear end in sight. I guess that’s just life in late stage capitalism.
Forever The Pessimist
I wrote Forever The Pessimist about giving up alcohol way before I gave it up. I think it was me realising that I don’t exactly have a healthy relationship with it. Most of the time it was subconsciously, intentional, self abuse at worst and a damaging coping mechanism at best. I didn’t really realise the true meaning behind until months after I’d written it, as hacky as that sounds. I’ve since been a year and a half sober (mostly) and I’m trying my best to keep it that way.
As I’m writing this, I’m just beginning to realise how depressing this album really is haha. Static was written about a panic attack, there isn’t much more to it than that but it’s just a good old mental health spiral narrated to music.
I was feeling pretty jaded about music and life in general when I wrote this one. It was kind of about seeing other musicians fuck over each other, self contradict their beliefs for their own personal gains and realising that I probably do the same thing. It was written on the back of a pretty harsh tour in November/December 2018 that saw me deal with some of the worst of my depressive episodes while on tour. It was particularly tough for me because I’d rearranged my life to be able to continue touring as heavily as I did.
Unfortunately doing what I’d sacrificed so much to do was no longer making me happy, so it left me at a bit of a crossroads with what to do with myself. I’m always a bit jaded but it did pass, quitting alcohol definitely improved my ability to cope on longer tours. It was beyond an honour to have my good friend Jared Hart from Mercy Union appear on this one. I first met Jared when he was playing in Brian Fallon’s band and I was definitely a fan first. His album ‘Past lives & Past Lines’ is up there with one of my favourite records made so it’s a bit of a dream come true. He’ll roast me for kissing ass here though.
Out For Blood
‘Out for Blood’ is about no longer keeping toxic people in your life — the kind that cross the line one too many times. I wrote the chorus immediately after coming home from one particularly challenging evening where I definitely hit a crossroads with the person this is about.
Worry in the Walls
Worry in the Walls kind of expands on the theme of exhaustion with being poor and working crappy jobs I tried to get across in ‘Kerouac’. Just having no end in sight and constantly living hand to mouth. I truly believe that our current healthcare systems for mental health focus too much on curing and not prevention, and prevention starts with altering our systems. We put it down to the chemicals in the brain (which 100% is a massive factor, I am in no way anti-medication just for clarification) but never talk about the external factors, particularly young people from working class or less privileged backgrounds face. Grinding away at shitty jobs for little to no financial security always on the horizon. You wanna be a ‘Mental health advocate’? Quit voting Tory and campaign for socialism or its only gonna get worse. The only real way to improve MH is political change because underfunding services and wage repression is a political choice.
The Distance Between
This ones about aspirations and how they can mess you up. I drew on some drug habit related experiences I had when I was younger. Myself and Dan decided to get really weird with it, this is the only song without an acoustic guitar on it. We spent a good few days playing with all the guitar layers, and I think this is where Dan really shined as a producer.
So, Fortitude has already been released previously, but I felt that it needed another go. It’s been my staple set closer for years and I can’t see that changing, it also evolved slightly since I first recorded it in 2016(?) so I wanted to give it a final send off as hacky as it sounds, it earned its place on the debut full length. It’s also probably the one of the more upbeat ones on this record so I felt a positive ending was required after all the misery!