Emotional post hardcore & screamo subgenres have grown a few undeniable strengths that made them well developed, ever interesting, and captivating in the last 2 decades or so. Ubiquitous experimentalism, talented lyricists, and a nuanced approach to composition – these traits have kept dozens of well-experienced (TOUCHE AMORE, etc.) and new up and coming bands at the front of the music kaleidoscope. Wide range of influences made them inclined toward slighty subtler songraft, making their work difficult to classify. The newest offering from California ambient and post rock infused emotional post hardcore / screamo act TO BE GENTLE does not completely breaks the formula, but truly succeeds at serving to convey the real, tangible feelings of the author. We caught up with the band’s guitarist and vocalist Jake Beeker for the full breakdown of the record.
The album overall is about human connection of all kinds. Most of these songs are about or are dedicated to prominent people in my life, and what it means to be gentle to them and myself. As someone who has realized that a lot of the situations and problems with the people in my life that I’ve experienced could have been handled with gentleness rather than other abrasive emotions, I wanted to make this album with that in mind as a testament to personal growth.
1. Understanding Healing – This song is an introduction to the album, it’s more or less a sonic preface to the emotions conveyed on the record, for whatever the listener may take from that. The song title ties into the themes of the next song.
2. All the Things I Was Too Scared to Say – This song is dedicated to my step-mother. She was diagnosed with brain cancer when I was younger and had to undergo surgery to save her life. She wanted me to call her before she went into her operation, but circumstances prevented me from doing so. This caused a rift in our relationship, and took a long time to heal from. The song’s lyrics are about the things I wish I could have told her before her surgery, that I couldn’t say.
3. We Build Our Castles in the Air – The song title is from a line from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”: “I am longing to be with you, and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.” This song is dedicated to my partner, who I care for very deeply. Dracula is my favorite novel, and has been a very influential piece of literature for me as a lyricist.
4. Du Sang – Du Sang translates roughly to “blood” in French, and is another song that I dedicated to my partner. I tried to go in more poetic direction with these lyrics, and wanted a longer, more post-rock influenced feel for the song. This song was inspired by a lot of my favorite bands, and is a conglomeration of a lot of different screamo and post-hardcore influences. This song took the longest to record, and was the hardest song to get completed. Altogether, we spent almost 60 hours recording this album, but this song was definitely a highlight and a challenge for us.
5. Road to Himeji – When I visited Japan, the most exciting thing I was looking forward to on my trip was to see the Himeji samurai castle. During the bus ride there, I was writing in my journal about a lot of troubles and anxieties that were occupying me at the time, and tied it together with imagery of how I thought the castle would make me feel. The beauty and largeness or the castle was surprisingly comforting, and was a very reaffirming spectacle to observe. It was a pleasant distraction of my anxieties and reminded me of the beauty that life holds, and the worth that hard work and perseverance has on an individual.
6. But a Sound – The interlude was a track meant for the listener to reflect on what they just heard so far through the calming reverberated guitars, and was added later to the album. I wrote this song with looper pedal and made one track half speed, and a quieter track underneath the main riff reversed. It was interesting to see how it all played out. I thought it was fitting after the last part of Road to Himeji and right before the next track which starts quite starkly as well.
7. Tender Green – I wrote this song during a time when I was reading a lot of Walt Whitman, so there is a lot of nature imagery in it. This song was written along with That Which Is Safe for a split recording, but we as a band thought they also deserved a spot on the album. The two songs are about heartbreak that comes with hurting another’s emotions, and the dread of brokenness.
8. An Amputation – This is one of the first songs we wrote as a band, along with We Build Our Castles in the Air. I feel like these two songs sound the most different from our other material. I wanted to have a more riffy, twinkly guitar line in a song, and got hooked on this one riff. We later expanded upon it, and ended up with this full song. An Amputation, at its basest element is about losing friends.
9. That Which Is Safe – The first song of the two we did for the split, this song is one of our favorites (and most popular). This song follows the same themes of brokenness and dread that comes with heartache. This song is my favorite song to play live, as during the bass and drum part I like to go around the room and do off-mic shouts and wildly move about the crowd. It’s the most cathartic and therapeutic song for me, and I’m glad so many people enjoy it.
10. The Hand That Rests On My Shoulder – This song is dedicated to animals and veganism in general. We are a vegan band and really wanted a song for this particular message. We were able to contact Beyond Carnism, an organization focused on vegan activism and outreach, and were fortunate to clear usage of audio of Dr. Melanie Joy in the song. Dr. Melanie Joy does a lot of talks and writing on vegan philosophy and the psychology behind her coined term “Carnism”, and we as a band have also read her books on such topics. The lyrical motif of “a hand resting on my shoulder” is somewhat like something telling me I had to go vegan. I wasn’t always vegan, but I remember the day when I decided to. It was like a light switch flipping on, it just made sense to me. I felt like it was something I absolutely had to do.
11. One Day We Will No Longer Hurt – My partner is my biggest influence and support in my life, this song is dedicated to them. Overall it’s about letting them know that the things that hurt us in life and the anxieties and obstacles we face won’t always stay present; that they are temporal. It also has a reference to Dracula in the lyrics.
12. To Be Gentle – The title track sums up the whole album: the lyrics portray what it means to me to be gentle, and how it connects through myself and other people. This song was the most fun to write, and I really thought it was a great way to wrap up the year of writing spent on the album. I really like the chord progression, and used some of my favorite pedals on the guitar tracks.