"We went there with around 40 songs, but a quarter of the record was probably written in Nashville," lead singer Holden Glazer says about the band's upcoming debut.
Glazer might only be a teenager, but his voice and songwriting carries significant weight. The Catching -- also featuring Jake Farbman (guitar), Evan Hemwall (guitar) and Drew Brendli (drums) -- are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, with the impending release of their massive and rather striking debut studio album, Teenage Fiction. Anchored with the undeniably empowering Ready Set Go, which hits the heart in immeasurable ways in light of recent tragedy -- "be-be who you want to be-be, the time has come to let it show" rings the the hook, before the second verse protests "don't listen to people saying that you have to change, come on, give up your fear and get out there and break off the chains" -- the album is poised to cause more than a few waves. The title itself, Teenage Fiction, is lifted from one of the early numbers, the bouncy Seventeen. "When I had written [that] song, I already had the album title in mind. The album title actually came before a lot of the songs were complete," Glazer tells Popdust over a phone call recently. "One day, I was just in the car on my way home, and it just popped into my brain. It made complete sense."
"By then, we had a pretty good idea of what was going to be on the album, song-wise. I thought about where I was in life. I was still 17 and a junior in high school," he continues. "It was the summer and I was getting ready to make a debut record with the band. I thought about my lyric content. It occurred to me that everything I was writing was from a young perspective. I haven’t had many world experiences yet. Essentially, it’s about how my opinion and view is still growing. A lot of kids think they know what they are talking about but we have a lot to experience. Each of the songs pertains to something that has happened in my life or somebody close to me."
Teenage Fiction is not your stereotypical vanilla release from a group of young guys (the label "boy band" doesn't quite capture their spirit). There is a bright lift to the entire album, tracks like Lighter and Better are evocative and moving, and there is a mature understanding of how the world works, even, as Glazer professes, they don't have much real-life experience. But the ways they address love, loss, transition and the future is remarkable.
Needless to say, Glazer is wise beyond his years and speaks candidly about the album's creation, lessons he learned through the process and how Nashville molded his art. Dig into our Q&A session below:
You talk about not having a ton of world experiences, but what is interesting is how powerful your lyrics are.
While I’m saying I don’t have that many real-life experiences. I do have experiences that are very relevant to other people. We all go through similar things, especially at a young age. There’s heartbreak, loss, gain, some excitement. For my songwriting, a lot of the time, I hear a melody or a chord progression in my head. Most of our songs start that way. I go from there. Lyrics usually follow. I usually start with filler lyrics -- a lot of the time they are actually pretty similar. But I start with words that fit the melody, and then, I sit down to really get into the lyrics. I ask myself ‘what is this song about?’ A lot of the time, I already know what it is about from the get-go. From there, I bring it to the guys and sit down and work out our separate parts and the vibe of the song.
What did you learn about yourself through writing this album?
I’ve learned how much music can bring people together. I’ve always known this...but from the experiences I’ve gone through for release and getting ready and being in Nashville and meeting so many people. Music is not only such a big part of my life but everybody’s life, no matter who you are. It’s very relevant. In the past, we had recorded EPs and done little projects. It occurred to me, for the first time when we were recording this album, especially when I was singing the lyrics with such emotion, that I might touch somebody with these words. They might take me as seriously as I am taking myself. One day, I might have somebody come up to me and say ‘you’re song helped me.’ What I’m doing is not only important to me but it could be important to others.
What was your experience like in Nashville?
Nashville was an incredible place to hone our skills. We also became closer as a band. What happened was I got hooked up with our producer Skid Mills, who lives in Nolensville, Tenn. We had Nashville in mind. I met him almost a year before to the day with my dad. We flew down to Nashville, went to a restaurant and just sat down with him and talked shop and heard what he had to say. We were pretty much already set on working with him. We had a date planned we were going to leave. We had the studio time booked, all that. So, I met with Skid and sat down with a guitar. We had already been FaceTiming and swapped ideas for songs. He’s a very talented songwriter, too. We discussed what we were thinking in terms of the album. It was very exciting. It felt very real. A couple weeks later, the band and I left for Nashville, and we were there for about a month as a full band. During that time, we’d go out at night and walk around the scene and go to every restaurant or live shows. It was so incredible to see how many people were out and about playing music and how many people were willing to listen.
Nashville is such a songwriter town. Listening to people pour their heart and soul out onstage definitely influenced how we connected to our music and maybe even a little bit of our sound. There’s not much of a country sound on the record, but there’s rock. We went there with around 40 songs, but a quarter of the record was probably written in Nashville. We went to an Imagine Dragons concert the first Wednesday night we got there. It was a great show and totally amped. We really dove into their album. We took some inspiration from just being there and having music surround us. ‘Nothing Good about Goodbye’ was written the day after we went to that concert. I started hearing stuff and sat in the hotel room with Drew and Evan and went through it for a minute. Then, Jake showed up, and we went through the song. It was just there. If we had recorded ‘Teenage Fiction’ in New Jersey, it would have been an entirely different album.
What were some of your favorite moments in the studio?
There was one moment when we all were sampling some sounds to throw into a song. I’m pretty sure we were sampling claps for ‘Ready Set Go.’ I remember we were just clapping along with the chorus they way it is. I don’t know why, but we all started laughing really hard. It was just a good moment.
When Skid had come back after the first or second day recording drums and we still had our scratch tracks of guitars. He said ‘so I took this song home and I added a bunch of things to it. It’s super cool.’ This song was ‘Better,’ the third track on the album. What he did was add the violins and little synths to it. In the past, the band and I had only recorded our guitars and bass. There was never really anything extra. He brought us this highly-produced version of our song. I had written the song with Skid in pre-production. We were there for about 10 days in a rehearsal studio before we went to record at Blackbird. When that song came to life, though, we were so excited. That’s almost been with every song. We’ve had an idea of what a song should sound like, but we had no clue what it would actually be.
What is also intriguing about the album is how it all fits together cohesively even when the songs are so vastly different. Lighter, for example, is so different than all the other songs. Did you think in terms of needing to create a cohesive debut set?
What’s really cool about this is we did not think about it. We just wrote the songs and put them together. Of course, it was in the back of my brain ‘what is going to sound the most cohesive.’ But at the same time, we had so many different songs but we kind of knew which ones were the best. We ended up picking our favorite songs, and they ended up all working in that way. That makes me happy. I get similar comments about how each song is different but it all comes together to make one sound.
To jump back in time a bit, you and the band met as kids?
Jake and I had met when I was seven years old in a local school music program called Paul Green School of Rock. My family was musical, so I grew up listening to music. My mom played classical piano; my dad played guitar. It was something I just enjoyed, so they entered me in that program. Jake and I lived three minutes from each other. We met at the program and became friends. In School of Rock, you do covers and you learn together. When we got old enough, we decided to start our own band. The two of us (and two others who are not current members) played around, not really serious.
Eventually, I’d say three years ago, Jake and I were like ‘let’s take this seriously. Let’s actually book some gigs and keep writing.’ We had Drew at this point. We played one gig the year before that, and our old drummer had moved on from music. We found Drew and it couldn’t have been a better fit. So, we had the three of us and a different guitarist. I remember Jake and I sat around the table and called so many different places, like little bars that had a stage or whatever it was. We didn’t know anything. We tried to book some stuff. We did get some inquiries. We booked the Stone Poney, which is the legendary venue down here in Asbury Park. We played out even more. Fast forward a bit, our guitarist left, and we added Evan to the group. We started to craft a different sound and style. At this point, I was 15. We’ve been together a couple years now and growing and growing.
When is the album coming?
Right now, we are working on getting a distribution deal to get the album out there. We are independent, although we are working with a company that is an independent label service. We basically own all of our music. That’s the cool part. We don’t have to give up any percentages. Now, in the future, we may transfer over to a label, if the project becomes big enough. We will be playing out locally. More stage time is always awesome. The album doesn’t have a set release date yet, but it’ll be here soon enough.