Interview: Courage My Love On the Sound of 'Synesthesia'

The Canadian pop-punk trio have transitioned into a more mature, synth-powered sound.

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Toronto-based pop punk band Courage My Love has been gaining traction on the pop punk scene since 2010, when they were discovered in a Battle of the Bands in Ontario. Since then, they've released guitar-heavy tracks and made a name for themselves.The band is composed of twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn-Horn––who share vocalist duties and play the drums and guitar, respectively––and Brandon Lockwood on bass. Back in April, they went into the studio to record their second full-length LP, an effort that would become Synesthesia.

The synth-heavy album features the band's heaviest songwriting yet, a sonic and content shift that has given the band a new attitude toward songwriting. Mercedes Arn-Horn has described it as "We lost our ego of wanting to show off," says Phoenix. "Now, when we write, it's more about the song and what it needs. We try to make songs instead of flashy parts." The new album is out in February, but can be pre-ordered through InVogue Records' website.

We talked to drummer and vocalist Pheonix Arn-Horn, who began shaping the bands direction toward a new synth-tinged sound about the band's sonic shift, and their hopes for the future.

You titled your album Synesthesia to show stylistic maturity; why does that specific word match your new style?

Synesthesia is a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another. For example, the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color. We chose that title because that's the way we feel when we experience music. All the artistry is connected, and what inspires you might be unexpected. I can see images and color tones when listening to songs that I really like. I think most artists see art everywhere, even if it's just walking down the street. We tried to capture that overwhelming feeling of overloaded sensations and emotions on the album.

Synth programming has shaped the sound of this album considerably; why decide to go in such a different direction sonically?

It was honestly a pretty organic progression. It wasn't something we consciously decided to do, we just wrote the songs we wrote and felt like the textures that synths or keys add to a track were what they needed. We're very much a band that doesn't want to make the same album twice. We feel like it's important to stay true to yourself and "do you," and sometimes that means experimenting and doing things differently. It might seem like a big change to people just hearing the songs now, but you have to remember it had been 2 and a half years since we put out our last album. In that time we wrote 2 and a half years worth of songs, and to the general population who didn't hear the growth that went on during that time period, the change seems pretty drastic, but the fact is change is natural with the passage of time. We aren't the same people/musicians we were 2 and a half years ago.

You've said the record is about emotional empowerment; what tracks in specific empower you and why?

All the songs on this album have very personal meanings. "Drowning" is about talking a friend with mental health issues out of committing suicide. "Two Headed Monster" is about realizing you're in an unhealthy relationship. "The Year I Disappeared" is about learning to live without someone and getting back to the person you were before them. "Never Gonna Change" is about realizing you're fine the way you are and that you don't need to change for someone else, because being you is enough. We felt like it was important to show that even the things that bring you down can be empowering. That loving and accepting yourself is not an instant thing, and that when you stumble it's not a weakness, but part of the journey.

Was the songwriting for this record different from your past work, seeing as the style is a noted departure from your older records?

I think because this was our first full length album there was a lot more pressure when we were writing. Some of the songs on the album we had to rewrite so many times, like so many times it's actually ridiculous. There was a point when we'd finished recording and mixing the album, we 100% thought it was done and coming out the next month...and then we had to take another year and re-write and record everything all over again. It really discouraged us, we started doubting our abilities and even questioned whether or not we should continue. I don't think we've ever really sat down and asked ourselves "can we actually do this?" before. But I think in the end it was very necessary. The album wouldn't sound the same if we hadn't knit-picked everything. It's important to realize when you're not doing your best work, and we had to put our egos aside and really consider whether or not what we were doing was ours. We're all really proud of the end result, and I think that's what's important; being proud of what you make and being able to stand behind it.

What are you listening to right now?

Honestly our influences have been so eclectic recently. On the guitar end of things; lots of American Football, My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead. On the programming side; Purity Ring, Crystal Castles, and Moderat. And of course, Ellie Goulding is our queen.

Where do you want the band to be in the next five years?

I think we all just want to continue doing what we do. Obviously the dream is to make music your whole life and to be successful, but the truth is if we're playing what we like to play and writing songs that are meaningful to us and to others, then we can't really ask for more than that. Even though being a musician seems like a glamorous career, if you're only in it for that then you're not really in it for the right reasons. There should be a much bigger purpose behind it. The world isn't always a kind place, but sometimes, every once in a while, music can take you away from where you are and what you're dealing with. It can do something positive.

If you're a teenage girl with acne and body image issues and you're feeling pressured by your friends to do things you don't want to do, and you're thinking about sex but you're not sure if you're ready, and you want so badly to find yourself but you have no idea who the hell you are, sometimes when you put in your headphones up in your room and listen to that one album you start to feel like you belong. Or if you're tired of working at a job that you don't feel passionate about, you've been exhausted and yet can't sleep, you're always busy and yet you feel like you're doing nothing with your life, you feel like your daily routine is crushing you and you wonder if cutting yourself would make you finally feel something real, but sometimes when you close your eyes on the train to work and listen to that one song you love, you start to feel like you could do big things. That's what it's all about, making an impact on someone's life for the better.

As a musician at our level, you have to play some bad shows, go on some rough tours where you don't sleep and you get sick, and have to work that shitty part time job to pay your dues. But if you want to try and make the world not just a tolerable place but a BETTER place, and you really want to make an impact on people with your music, then you don't care about any of that. You'd be content to live that life because you're doing what you love. And we are.

Follow Courage My Love on Facebook and Twitter, and listen to first single, "Stereo," below.