Many of us approach adulthood kicking and screaming, but responsibilities, and the reality of aging, is beyond our control. Marriage, mounting bills, careers, and having kids slowly usher us through to the other side. However, Seattle-based indie duo WEEKNITES isn’t going out to the 30-something pasture without a big bang. The band’s debut album mixed by Chris Walla (Deathcab for Cutie), Fate Is A Big Tiger, is an escape hatch to a majestic music wonderland that melds synth-washed dream pop with post-punk emo and instantly memorable melodies.
“We started the album writing process as we were phasing out of a dirt rat lifestyle. Everything around us was changing personally and socially, and the album has this chaotic consistency to it that probably stemmed from all that. It was the only outlet we really had at the time, and it feels and sounds like we stuffed 3 years into 30 minutes,” shares Dave Stine.
Weeknites formed in 2015 as an indie quartet playing the standard local show circuit, and issuing a pair of EPs before essentializing into its current duo incarnation. Members Davis Helgen and Dave Stine share a vision and tireless dedication to their music, and the pair soon found together they could be self-reliant in terms of writing and realizing their artistic aspirations. Dave is a self-taught musician and producer who is drawn to texture and adventurous guitar sounds. Davis is a focused songwriter, and big picture guy with a gift for melodic constructs.
Davis and Dave dreamed up Fate Is A Big Tiger while working the same job. “All day we would talk about the album we wanted to make. Something that combined mid-2000’s indie rock, Swedish pop, and emo. We set a bunch of arbitrary rules to follow that fit what we pictured as a ‘perfect album,’” Davis recalls. “We wanted to lean into what we felt makes a record more than a playlist of 10 songs—we wanted to make an album; something big and complex. We aspired to create the type of music we felt we were missing which was something we would have read about on a blog in 2007,” affirms Dave.
Conceptually, Fate Is A Big Tiger grapples with unwieldy post-20s internal and external turmoil, including expanding waistlines, fading friendships, and the cursed blessing of finally finding true love. The album-oriented release opens epically with the title track, a dreamy dose of emo indie pop. The lyrics here acknowledge the inevitable tedium of adulthood with biting lyrical flair. The jaunty new wave pop of “Outdoors USA” details the woes of manic late-night eating. “Sour Berries” is both airy and anthemic, balancing sublime atmospherics against visceral drumming. The guys embrace their inner Laurel Canyon folkie side on “Miserable Now” with glistening acoustic passages, and stately strings. Here, there is an intriguing rub between the gentle flow of the vocal melodies and the acerbic wit and Morrisey references in the song’s lyrics. One choice passage features the lines: You scream and curse your parents and you tell them that you’re miserable now/When every song that you sing sounds like /Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now/Must really want them to be miserable now.
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑏𝑢𝑚’𝑠 𝑡𝑒𝑛 𝑠𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑐𝑎𝑝𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑙𝑢𝑠ℎ 𝑠𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑠𝑐𝑎𝑝𝑒𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑓𝑒𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒 𝑐ℎ𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑔𝑢𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑠, 𝑎𝑡𝑚𝑜𝑠𝑝ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑐 𝑘𝑒𝑦𝑏𝑜𝑎𝑟𝑑𝑠, 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑦 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑒, 𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑦 𝑐𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑚𝑒𝑙𝑜𝑑𝑖𝑒𝑠.
Fate Is A Big Tiger’s ornateness belies its DIY homespun production. The record is self-produced, pieced together collage style, and was recorded in various apartments, closets, and garages, among other improvisatory workspaces. It has the distinction of getting the seal of approval from Chris Walla — formerly of Death Cab for Cutie — who mixed it from his home base in Norway. The album fits nicely alongside classics by Jimmy Eat World, Yellow Magic Orchestra, The Anniversary, and The Radio Dept.
RIYL Jay Som, Turnover, The Drums.
Track by track commentary:
Fate Is A Big Tiger – This little song felt like a good way to set the table and bring this batch of songs into focus. We also wanted to lean into our favorite “album” moves and have this gentle intro build, then seamlessly crash into track two.
Totems Of Youth – I think this was the most chaotic songwriting / production process out of the whole batch of songs. All of the pieces were there but it didn’t make sense for the longest time, until it did. It was such a challenge to crack this song and once we did, we knew it was the opening to the record.
Sour Berries – Davis had this demo with fuzz bass and the melody on loop and we went through many versions of it until we brought the 12 string on it and this big opened tuned guitars. We were fully opposed to using fully strummed chords in any song up until this point I think.
Premium Heather – Davis tried to write a melody for the verses but it just worked better as this weird song with a tempo change and 2 “choruses”. We wanted to make it as chaotic as possible. I think it worked.
That’s Just Me Now – It was super fun watching this song slowly come to life. Davis recorded a demo that we kept calling the “Jimmy Eat World song”. It was basically the entire finished song with a few pieces missing here and there. Once we started tracking, it started to feel much more dramatic with the addition of strings and little loops I made with guitar. Our friend Susanna Champlin sang on it and it added this completely new dimension to it. Finishing this song was the moment where I think I realized I could maybe pull off producing this whole album without knowing what the hell I was doing. When Chris sent us his mix and told us he was obsessed with it, I think we both blacked out a little.
Outdoors USA – I think we worked on this one for about two years. There’s probably a hundred different mixes of this somewhere.
Pepper – One of the first songs we started when writing but maybe one of the last that we finished and recorded. The main riff and chorus came together really fast but fleshing the rest out took many iterations. Davis named it Pepper and I thought it was hilarious because it’s what my Korean mom used to call my penis as a kid. I just ruined the song for you.
Body Temp Spirits – This was the first song we recorded on this new batch of songs. Dave took the intro loop we wrote into Logic and turned it into this big hard hitting thing. Then we were like “can we do this with all of the song ideas”. Then it was like “ok I guess we’re making a record like this now and I’m producing it?”.
Drinking From The Lake – It is about drinking from the lake of one’s memories in a period of change, not finding comfort and then returning to the present. It is built from several different pieces written over the past few years in an attempt to mirror its content musically. There’s so much happening in this song and it was really daunting to produce. The last note on this song always feels like a final breath of relief.
Miserable Now – Davis wrote this with all the parts done and the demo was this faster, full band thing. I don’t know when the idea came about to make it acoustic but we really leaned into it. It felt like such a great bookend to the album and we wanted to just fully go for it – strings, piano, the works. The juxtaposition of the lyrics against something so saccharine and schmaltzy appealed to us as well.