The Native Sound
With a name like Funeral Advantage, it's no surprise Tyler Kershaw's dream pop project is diluted by the idea of death: the death of a relationship, for one, lies at the crux of Please Help Me. The follow up EP to 2015's Body is Dead is very much in the vein of its predecessor in Kershaw drapes anger and sadness in a sound that veers on jubilant. Even at his angriest, Kershaw's music is diluted with a bouncy, upbeat guitar and a bass that needs to be danced to. It's this kind of juxtaposition between joyful music and sorrowful lyrics that makes Kershaw's music so delicious to listen to.
Kershaw spoke to Popdust via email about his influences, making music during turbulent times, and why listening to the songs on his new record make him just the slightest bit uncomfortable.
Despite all the death and funerary imagery in your music and aesthetic, your sound is light and even happy. Do you usually work in contrasts like this?
It's more about having sense of humor about death and the negative. This comes across in a feeling of contrast to some people. I like to think of it as writing songs almost sarcastically. I've always written songs about death and negative things, but when people meet me they're normally pretty surprised to find out that I'm a pretty outgoing guy, albeit very sarcastic and dry-humored. My songs do not sound happy to me, but it's whatever you want to take away from them.
I hear a lot of early Smiths in your sound; were they an influence at all? Who are your other influences?
I used to get this comparison a lot more, and I've come to accept it more in the past year. Johnny [Marr] is one of my favorite guitarists of all time, style wise, so it'd make sense that I try to play guitar and write like him. I feel like I've always fallen short: my parts aren't particularly hard to play on any instrument. If you try to play even the simplest Smiths song on guitar, you're in for a rough time. I did also just realize today that I ripped off the snare tone in "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" for my last album. The comparison actually makes sense and I'm tired of fighting against it.
The Cure is and has always been my biggest influence. During writing and recording this album I was obsessed with listening to The Drums and The 1975. I don't think it shows on the album, really but I get into a comfort zone of listening to the same albums over and over. There's no way I didn't take some kind of influence from them.
In a Consequence of Sound feature feature, you said "CEOT7K" is your angriest song. Does this strong feeling of anger characterize the EP?
I don't think it does. I think the other songs are, for the most part, pretty fast and aggressive sounding but the anger is pointed elsewhere, so it feels different. The title track on Please Help Me is an apology song, and that theme organically pulsed through the rest of the songs for me. "CEOT7K" is a snapshot of the random bursts of anger, which I don't ever capture white writing and I may not ever capture again.
You made Please Help Me on the heels of breakup; was it a cathartic effort?
No, it wasn't a situation where I deserved any catharsis, really. It's really difficult for me to listen to these songs because I wasn't really working through anything when I was writing them. I was sort of just talking about what was happening and how I was feeling during the worst time in my life. I've never felt good talking about things, so I would never try and write a song to work through anything. I deserve every feeling I had while making this album and I wouldn't want to discount that.
How does the sound on this new effort compare to Body is Dead?
A lot of my friends tell me my voice changed during this year. I had been running my voice out a lot because I think I was trying to emulate a softer sung person on Body is Dead. I, unwittingly, decided to be more of myself in my vocal performance on this album. I've felt like less of a character this way and the songs are more real to me this time around. Body is Dead was made up of songs I had laying around for about 2 years before I recorded it. This time the songs were all written and recorded during an extremely turbulent time in my life.
I had to live in my car for a few weeks, I was staying with friends who would let me record at their house. I had to go back to recording at my parents on the south shore for a little bit in the end. I needed this record to be done because it felt like I was killing myself to not be done. The performances on these songs aren't rushed, but there was a huge urgency that I can hear sonically and it bothers me a little.
Where do you see this project going in the next five years?
I'm very unsure if this is going to last five more years. I just hope it gets easier if it does last.