Arriving in stores on May 4, Superheaven's Ours Is Chrome is a beast of an album. The record finds the Pennsylvania combo firing off guitar riffs that are thick as molasses and wedging in hummable vocal melodies right beneath the surface. Released under their original name, Daylight, Superheaven's 2013 debut album Jar was a critical success and propelled them into full "band to watch" status.
With Ours Is Chrome just a few weeks away, I spoke with Superheaven vocalist and guitarist Taylor Madison about his feelings on being called "shoegaze," the financial struggle of being in an underground touring band, and which groups he sees as peers.
The first question I have to ask you is what brought on the name change?
Well, there’s another band called Daylight. We knew about them for years, but never really worried about copyright issues. It was brought to our attention that they owned the rights to the name, internationally. Rather than continue putting out records and printing shirts with a name we knew we’d inevitably have to change, we just changed it preemptively. It sucked and was a giant pain in the ass, but it’s whatever. Now we have a name that when you type it in somewhere, we are the only thing that comes up.
I remember when Jar first came out, some of my musician friends and music writer buddies started saying it was “very '90s,” in a good way. What’s your take on that?
I don’t know. We’re definitely influenced by ‘90s music, but we’re influenced by all kinds of music. I get why people say that. It makes sense. But it gets to the point where people are kind of obnoxious about it. Like, saying we have long hair and wear flannel shirts sometimes, acting like we’re trying our hardest to look “grunge” or some shit. Please. I’ve been wearing flannel shirts my whole life, and I promise you it has nothing to do with trying to be “grunge.” I’m a goddamn adult. I dress however the hell I want, and that’s the only reason I do anything.
That brings me to the whole musical genre debate. I’ve described Superheaven and “shoegazey,” but I have seen people call what you do “grunge.” Are we all too concerned with the whole genre thing?
I would never describe our music to someone as “grunge.” I certainly wouldn’t describe us as “shoegaze” either, but it seems like that one is getting thrown around a lot lately. I won’t sit here and say certain labels don’t annoy me, because it definitely gets to the point where I’ll see someone call us “pop-punk,” or something, and I’m left thinking “damn, really? Do we sound like that?” But in the end, I do think people get too into the label thing. When someone asks what our band sounds like, I tell them “rock ‘n’ roll.” We are a rock band. That’s it.
Got it! An interesting topic you cover on Ours Is Chrome is the struggle of being a full-time artist in this day and age. When bigger bands go away on tour and miss out on a lot of stuff happening at home, they make a really good living, and that helps counterbalance the downside. Superheaven isn’t at that point yet.
Truthfully, I feel like it gets harder and harder every day. I’m at the point in my life where there’s a lot of pressure to be getting married and starting a family, and I’m not even close to being there. The only thing I really know how to do is be in a band. I’m not even sure if I’m all that good at that! A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it can be for bands to actually make money. Don’t get me wrong, our band is never in debt, or losing money. But that’s because we’re smart about things. We don’t do things we know we’ll lose money on. Simple as that. But it is absolutely hard to be in a full-time band and have that band not be your main source of income.
The lyrics to “I’ve Been Bored” are really interesting. The line “I've been so sick of flowers on everything” stands out to me. Are you referring to a specific music scene and aesthetic?
The song is kind of just about bands not doing things for the right reasons. I just see a lot of bands doing the same stuff that they see other bands doing, and it’s super transparent to me. It’s one thing to have similarities to another band or two, but to blatantly do the exact same thing that other bands are doing is kind of obnoxious.
I read that your younger brother was paralyzed after a motorcycle accident. My younger brother was killed over a decade ago, and I know how much that kind of tragedy can color your outlook on things. Did you touch on your brother’s accident in any of the lyrics on Ours Is Chrome?
I’m sorry to hear about your brother. That’s got to be tough. My brother flipped over his handlebars one night and wrecked. He was paralyzed from the chest down. It was obviously really difficult for him and my family. There is a song on the new record about it, but I don’t think the lyrics are super blatant without the knowledge of the accident.
How important is Superheaven’s graphic design sensibility to you? Do you get involved with that aspect of the band?
Well, we make all of our own merch. Joe [Kane] is kind of the main idea guy, but he also puts everything together because he’s good at Photoshop. I can kind of draw, and I have a lot of ideas, so I also contribute to stuff. A cool aesthetic is important to us, and I think it isn’t for a lot of bands. I’m not sure why, because that’s one of the things that grabs my attention with a lot of bands I like. It bums me out when I like a band and I don’t want to wear any of their merch because it all sucks so bad.
Of all the bands you’ve played with in the past few years, who do you feel is on the same wavelength Superheaven is on, musically speaking?
I think there are a few, but I think it has more to do with our mindset when it comes to music. Title Fight and Code Orange come to mind. Both of those bands do whatever they want with their music. Obviously it matters to them whether or not people like their music, but it doesn’t take priority over them doing exactly what they want, and I think our band is also like that. Sure, we want people to like our band, but I’ll be damned if we ever do something simply for the sake of some else liking it.
Superheaven will kick off a U.S. headlining tour on May 15 in NYC with Diamond Youth and Rozwell Kid.