Nathan Gray (the frontman of influential punk band, BOYSETSFIRE) has just announced his sophomore solo album, Working Title, due out January 31st from End Hits Records. The album finds Gray expanding his sound to capture the mix of punk rock urgency, power pop hooks, and singer/songwriter intimacy that has defined his prolific musical career. To celebrate the announcement Kerrang! has premiered the record’s title track (which features the legendary Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music on backing vocals) along with its accompanying music video and an in-depth interview with Gray.
Kerrang! praised the album’s direction saying,
“Working Title has Falstaffian sense of introspection to it. It’s not that Nathan has given up on the less-than-cheerful aspects of life, only that he’s taking them in stride and resolving to move forward first and foremost.”
Working Title follows Nathan Gray’s 2018 solo debut, Feral Hymns, an album that represented a massive shift both for his music and his mental health. Working Title functions as a direct continuation: it’s the long but hopeful road after the breakthrough, and this time Gray isn’t traveling alone. “Making Feral Hymns took a huge burden off,” he explains. “Now with this record, I wanted to figure out how to help support other people who are in their own dark place. We’re all connected in struggle and realizing that you’re not alone can really help—you think there’s no one that can feasibly understand what you’re going through but in actuality there probably is.” Recorded by producer/engineer Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls (The Menzingers, Dave Hause, Brian Fallon) and featuring drummer Jake Blochinger (The Banner), bassist Chris Rakus (Boysetsfire, The Casting Out), and guitarist Ben Christo (Sisters of Mercy), Working Title reflects the ups and downs of Gray’s continuing journey and the communal spirit that drives it.
Nathan Gray will be touring throughout 2020 in support of Working Title, starting with a run of EU and UK dates in February with US shows soon to be announced. See full itinerary below.
Working Title track list:
1. In My Defense
2. I’m A Lot
3. Working Title
4. What About Your
6. Still Here
7. The Markings
10. No Way
11. Never Alone
12. The Fall
02/14 Berlin, DE @ Columbia Theater
02/15 Münster, DE @ Sputnikhalle
02/16 Köln, DE @ Kantine
02/17 Frankfurt, DE @ Batschkapp
02/18 Hamburg, DE @ Gruenspan
02/19 Leipzig, DE @ Conne Island
02/20 Nürnberg, DE @ Hirsch
02/21 Wien, AT @ Szene
02/22 München, DE @ Backstage
02/23 Zürich, CH @ Papiersaal
02/24 Stuttgart, DE @ Wizemann
02/25 Saarbrücken, DE @ Garage
02/26 London, UK @ The Courtyard Studio
On his second solo album Working Title, Boysetsfire frontman Nathan Gray seeks to release himself from the burdens of his past, and repurpose them into a source of shared experience and empathy. With its focus on compassion, support, and growth, the album finds the Maryland-based songwriter significantly expanding his sound with a full band to incorporate punk urgency, power pop hooks, and folk intimacy—resulting in his most dynamic and uplifting work to date.
After the end of Boysetsfire’s initial run, the prolific Gray stayed busy leading projects like The Casting Out, I Am Hersey, and The Nathan Gray Collective, but found himself in an unhealthy place mentally and physically. It wasn’t until writing his first proper solo outing—2018’s Feral Hymns—that things changed. The spare recordings emphasized his soul-baring lyrics, where Gray allowed himself to open up about the abuse he suffered as a child. The album became the first step towards healing and Working Title functions as a direct continuation of this ongoing process: it’s the long but hopeful road after the breakthrough, and this time Gray isn’t traveling alone. “Making Feral Hymns took a huge burden off,” he explains. “Now with this record, I wanted to figure out how to help support other people who are in their own dark place. We’re all connected in struggle and realizing that you’re not alone can really help—you think there’s no one that can feasibly understand what you’re going through but in actuality there probably is.”
Recorded by producer/engineer Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls, Working Title’s music reflects the ups and downs of Gray’s continuing journey, as well as a communal spirit. Drawing influence from the formative music of his youth like The Replacements, Bob Mould, and The Cars, he recruited drummer Jake Blochinger (The Banner), bassist Chris Rakus (Boysetsfire, The Casting Out), and guitarist Ben Christo (Sisters of Mercy) to help actualize a more driving, band-oriented sound. “This is definitely what I’ve been building to,” Gray says. “But I didn’t want it to just rip all the way through, I wanted it to still be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It needed to be a journey. Feral Hymns was so down and out, and now I need to push up.”
That sense of determination is palpable throughout Working Title. Opener “In My Defense” explodes from the speakers with the kind of ferocity and unabashed sense of melody at which Gray excels, its lyrics boldly declaring the album’s mission statement: “I’m a work in progress, indefinitely.” He explains, “A lot of this album is about how you’re never fully there, but I think that’s how it has to be. There’s that living experience of realizing that you’re not trying to cure yourself.” That idea is expanded on tracks like “I’m A Lot” and “Working Title,” the former a tongue-in-cheek power pop ode to making gradual but important personal changes, and the latter a mid-tempo anthem of encouragement that features Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan on backing vocals.
Amongst the raucous rock songs, tracks like “Refrain” and “Mercy” find Gray dialing back the volume and utilizing subdued strings and piano, and serve as powerful reminders that while we can never fully escape the challenges of life, we can be better prepared for them. “Life is going to keep coming at you,” he says. “How do we make ourselves more resilient and pick ourselves up quicker?” For Gray, community and understanding are key support systems in pursuit of this goal. “Hold” is both a display of appreciation for those who have helped him through the years and an outstretched hand to those who might need help now. “Never Alone” celebrates the desire to create safer spaces for those who have been marginalized by intolerance. “I was thinking of my friends in the queer community, and about how numb or callous people can be regarding the idea of a safe space. It’s important and that kind of ‘suck it up’ attitude is toxic.”
The hook-filled, sing-along “The Fall” and humble, folk-inflected “Down” close Working Title, the songs’ sonic peaks and valleys serving to echo Gray’s sobering but optimistic words. Each communicates a desire to let go and leave the pain of the past behind, while also holding onto the lessons of acceptance and perseverance. “Falls will happen and that’s ok,” Gray says. “But we’re trying to learn to pick ourselves up when we fall down.”