For most roommates, the day-to-day is routine; maybe they pass each other doing dishes in the kitchen or watch the occasional movie on the shared couch. For Liam Yorgensen, Quinn Lane, Brendan Whyburn, Declan Chill, and Miles Reynolds of Sarah and the Sundays, though, the days often structured around musicality and the creative process are anything but mundane. Though they are quick to note that the seldom-fight still bubbles to the surface, the dynamic brings their shared love of music to the forefront of their relationship.
“It’s been great to be living with our friends, to make music [and] have that be the center of our lives,” Yorgensen explains to EUPHORIA. “There’s no ‘what time I’m going to show it to band practice today?’ It’s just ‘everyone’s here, let’s practice, let’s make music.’”
Whyburn continues, “Especially through COVID, we kind of can take anything at this point. People are like, ‘Oh, you’ll start hating each other on tour. I don’t think tour is going to beat COVID.”
Perhaps it’s just that passion that makes their impending upward trajectory seem crystal clear. Just over a month after Sarah and the Sundays’ first LA performance and the release of their latest album, The Living End, the group’s path to continued success is clearer than ever — their single, “I’m So Bored,” has over 1.1 million streams on Spotify, the band’s Instagram account soared past the 10K milestone, and their TikTok presence is quickly becoming the best place to catch a glimpse of their collective, eccentric sense of humor.
And with the hilarity comes a whole lot of heart, too. It is best reflected in their lyricism, encapsulating moments that captivated us for better or for worse. Putting into words what we were all feeling, darkly, during the height of the pandemic, “I’m So Bored” puts it directly: “I haven’t seen the sun since the last time you saw me / Remember when we used to do whatever we wanted?,” while “Vices” takes a more inquisitive approach to facing inner troubles head-on: “Would you ever even let me say goodbye? / Was that really your decision?”
The music that engulfs those lyrics, though, somehow gives them a brighter demeanor. It’s part of the appeal of Sarah and the Sundays; they give even the most dim of feelings in lyricism new life sonically. The band is building out its own indie dream, and The Living End — paired with their often reserved but ultimately powerful performance style — is a brilliantly crafted milestone on the path to … well, the living end.
Tell me a little bit about what you wanted to do to differentiate The Living End, sonically, from So You’re Mad About the Cups.
Whyburn: So, You’re Mad About the Cups was very different in the recording process. When we started working on The Living End, it was the first time we were all as a band together and playing live shows, which wasn’t really a thing for So You’re Mad About the Cups. Just getting a sound outside of recordings; So You’re Mad About the Cups was all centered around the recording side of the music. The songs were more created for the listener when you’re streaming it, whereas The Living End is more for the listener when we’re playing live. We all started living together a couple years ago, and we were playing those songs a whole lot in our house and really honing in on what we wanted out of it, playing together. [It was] the group aspect of it, the five-piece really coming through in every song and letting all of our personal sounds come through and coming together to create something that is a representation of the band as a whole.
How does the collaboration process differ from So You’re Mad About the Cups to The Living End? What was elevated this time around?
Lane: [For] So You’re Mad About the Cups, everybody was kind of split off the across the country, so it was definitely a lot more cohesive being in a studio together, all five of us, and everyone’s listening to whoever’s recording their part and [giving] their input as opposed to sending it across the country and having someone record something and send something back.
Chill: We recorded So You’re Mad About the Cups and that was mainly me and Liam. I recorded Quinn playing some drums, got Brendan [and Miles] on there, but it was all just on our MacBooks. This time, we made the whole album on our MacBooks like we always do, and then practiced it for another month and a half and went to Nashville and could already play the whole album start to finish. It was a lot more of just being picky about knowing what we already wanted it to sound like compared to previous albums. [That was] a lot more of like, “What’s missing? What could fill the gap here?” There was none of that in this album. 99% of the time, it’s just like, “This needs to happen next.” … It was very formulaic in a good way. It didn’t feel creatively stunting at all, just very efficient and frictionless.
I want to know a little bit about the order of the tracklist. In which ways was it ordered intentionally?
Whyburn: We had all the songs, and we were hashing out the tracklist on a whiteboard on our back porch because that’s where we spend most of our time. And this was before we had recorded the album; we had planned the tracklist and then went into the studio with that, so we got to record the album in order, which might have affected it in some ways. I think it gave it the flow that it had. We just had a specific vision for the arc of the album. Each one of the songs is basically just each day in the studio chronologically.
You all seem to be living the roommate dream, making it through the pandemic and you all still like each other. In terms of the album you created in that environment, I want to talk about the intro track, “For Harry.” It flows seamlessly into “Coward,” which is such a satisfying listen, so I would love to know why “For Harry,” which seems like a dedication, is the first song on the album.
Chill: So, “For Harry” and “Coward” are actually kind of the same song, originally. That song came about a little over two years ago, so we’ve been playing that for a while. At some point, we just kind of incorporated this big intro, which started super slow and kind of sleepy, and that became “For Harry.” Over the course of practicing the album together, we had two cats, one named Harry, Harry was really old, the cutest cat in the world, a little bit senile. We would always start band practice with that song. We would start with the intro to “Coward” and he would always walk in and just sit right in front of somebody’s amp, so it was kind of fitting. After we recorded the album and stuff, Harry passed away, and it kind of felt right to split it. We were already planning on splitting the songs and having it be the cool transition, but the dedication happened afterwards when he died because that was the song that would always bring him in to sit with us when we were jamming.
What I’m curious about is why the title track closes out the album — it feels relatively rare. I usually see a title track in the first half.
Yorgensen: That track is a special one. “Pulling Teeth” is right before it and that’s so distorted and electric and has a lot of crazy energy. I think it’s kind of the calm after the storm, which is not really the same, but it’s how I think about it. It’s sort of just like a peaceful resolution to the rest of the album, and that song, to me, is about moving to Texas with the band and starting sort of a new life. Saying goodbye to my friends in Connecticut and my life in Connecticut, and same for three of the other four members. I think that was the resolution to all the change and the growth that we’re talking about in the album, and then it ends in this like, “We made it, we’re here at the living end.”
“Pulling Teeth,” from a listener’s perspective, diverges a lot from the sound of the album because it feels like the first time that you hear something other than strings starting a track, which was so interesting. It sounded more synth-heavy and distorted. Was the intention to make the song sonically different from the rest of the album, or did it just happen that way?
Reynolds: That track was on our first album, which is not on Spotify anymore. It was originally on that, it was made as a very synthy, kind of produced track; there was a rap on it. We were revisiting all of our old songs and trying to figure out which ones we could play live these past two years, and we got to that one and thought we could try to make this arrangement that was more playable live. First of all, it was a fully produced song before, and that would hit really hard with this kind of built-out song. We started there and just worked on it for a while, probably six months or something just like playing it live, adding breaks and stuff like guitar solo instead of rap. Messing with the composition a little bit to get it to be really good live — it was designed for that.
I’d love to know a little bit about each of your individual favorite tracks on the album — what is a standout track to you?
Lane: My personal favorite is “Veneer.” I just really like all the cool little arpeggiating synths in the background during the verses. It’s my favorite one to play on the drums other than “Pulling Teeth.” I just think it’s a really dope song.
Reynolds: I’m also going to say “Veneer.” I just think there’s a part of the second verse of that song or the whole second verse of that song that… we had made that song previously with a producer in Austin and didn’t get exactly what we wanted out of it. But when we made it in Nashville, it just felt like this really unique mesh of synths we hadn’t used before and percussion and vocoders. I think it sounds like us, but a boundary of us that we haven’t gotten close to yet.
Whyburn: I really like “You Might Not See Me Again.” I think it’s pretty different than most of the other songs on the album, and it just gives me such a good vibe. I feel like I can listen to it nonstop, and it just feels right.
Chill: Mine is probably “Vices.” That song kind of started a lot of what would become the album, just knowing certain people and stuff. I was really stoked because I love playing slap bass … but it doesn’t always come off the right way, so when I can find a place where it fits and feels right, I’m a big fan of that. That song just kind of feels like us really grooving. I bop my head probably the hardest to that song other than “Pulling Teeth.”
Yorgensen: My favorite is probably “The Living End.” It’s a really special song to me, it holds sort of the most meaning out of any of those songs to me. A lot of my songs that I write are sort of pieced together, like different thoughts pieced together in a way that I think sounds good, but that song is very much, front to back, an idea, which I don’t do often. It’s kind of special for me to be able to do that and that it ended up being such a meaningful song. It just reminds me of home, I guess.
In terms of the playability, do you feel like there’s anything on this album that’s changing for you vocally as opposed to what you were performing live pre-The Living End?
Yorgensen: That’s an interesting question. I am not a trained vocalist in any capacity, so I really don’t know how to sing. I was just going with it; I just sang a song and then sang a bunch more. I don’t have crazy intentions with my vocals, I’m more of a lyrics guy. Whatever I can do to get across what I’m saying in the most efficient way or the way that sounds the best to me is what I’m going to do. I’ll take input, obviously — the rest of the band will be like, “What if you did this? What if you did that?” and that always helps because I’m just not that creative vocally.
In terms of lyricism and writing, what was the process like there? Was this a collaborative writing process?
Yorgensen: So most of the lyric writing for this album is me, it’s my heart in the band. I’m not the strongest guitar player and I’m not the strongest singer, so I consider my strength to be songwriting and I think that’s what I bring to the band. So, that’s where I focus most of my time and energy. I spend a lot of time sitting alone in my room writing songs; I wrote probably 40 or 50 songs for this record, and then we narrowed it down to 13. It was a very introspective process. It was the same way I always write pretty much, so I kind of just followed my habits.
Are there any songs that hit the chopping block when you were all narrowing it down that you still want to release?
Chill: There was one song that we made three to four days after deciding that the album was done. We were like, “Oh, here’s the album, it’s done!” Tracklist, whole thing’s ready, then three days later, we just recorded this sick demo. And we still haven’t done anything with it, it’s just still on my computer. “High Tide.” To this day, what a banger. It was in the exact same creative space that we were making the album, just happened to be [a few] days after the cutoff.