“Calm, chaotic and cathartic” are some words that perfectly describe the new The XCERTS album.
It’s been four years since The XCERTS released an album to the world. Now, this August they are back with Learning How To Live And Let Go.
For Murray Macleod (frontman), life lately has been good, positive, and exciting. “We feel very thankful to just be doing what we do and do what we love.” He said regarding his new project. However, it was never like that before. As we go back in time, there was a time during the pandemic where it felt like music was never going to be the same. For the band, the feeling of never performing again was inevitable, plus the fact that they didn’t have a record deal when they were making the album made everything more complex.
The journey of recording Learning How To Live And Let Go goes all the way back to 2019, when the band started already demoing it. In fact, the record was written and demoed up until the point of going into lockdown. “We thought we were going to release the demos, but it turned out they were not good enough,” the singer explained. The 3-piece group went back into the studio and stayed for around a year, prolonging the whole process. Nonetheless, in Macleod’s words, this time was “really freeing, artistically pleasing and fulfilling.” Nobody was pulling them back because there were no pressures on talking to the media, record labels, or management teams.
Simultaneously, they took the chance to experiment musically, which they haven’t done before. “We used to make records quite traditionally, where we used to play in a room at the same time. This time it’s pretty much a studio record,” Macleod said. Alongside this, their brand-new album explores a whole theme of lust, ego, and euphoria. The record is described as lyrically messy, with loud and quiet moments, as a way of representing what the band had experienced during the last couple of years. “I feel like this album is the death of the ego, it has a lot of soul searching during the pandemic because we have so much time to self-reflect and I realized I needed to get out my own way.”
Melodiously, the album is an emotional rollercoaster. On one side, it recalls some Weezer, Nirvana and Hole vibes, thanks to the energetic beat with screaming vocals. However, on the other side, it turns all the way down with slow tunes. The balances between sounds were achieved thanks to the band being bold and not fearful. Most of The XCERTS career has been quite cautious on the things they do, as the vocalist explained, but “this time round, we had a conversation on if we are going to do the alternative rock thing, we are going to go all the way. And if we are going to be quiet; we are going to go all the way down.” This is a way of having high and lows in terms of volumes and as a metaphor for the story.
Furthermore, their main influences were focused on modern hip-hop. As the vocalist recalled, the freedom of changing the rhythms was “really fucking punk.” Yet, the band does not discuss specific influences, because they do not like to give people a prompt of what the album sounds like. They rather hear what other people think about it. “If someone thinks it sounds like a certain thing, it probably does.”
Talking more specifically with Macleod, the record is about personal matters. The fact that soon enough people would be able to listen carefully to the singer’s deepest emotions and thoughts can be overwhelming. However, for him the thought of being afraid or intimidated felt like censoring himself. He aimed to be the most transparent version of himself on this record due to the specific story he wanted to tell. He reflected on how everyone, as young people, denies being vulnerable because it lacks coolness. Nevertheless, as time goes on, “the coolest thing you can be is yourself. That’s what punk rock means to me and has always meant to me. It’s about individuality and being comfortable within your own skin. So, it was important for me to be transparent,” told Macleod.
Furthermore, this new album brings a new sound and concept to The XCERTS music. The process of evolving was not easy, but at last, it helped the band figure out their vision and where they wanted to take things. “At the very beginning, I wrote four songs to get out of my comfort zone with a friend of ours. I played them to the guys, and they were like ‘no’,” he added. The singer wanted to do something radical, and somehow felt inauthentic. For Jordan Smith (bassist) and Tom Heron (drummer) it was so different it didn’t make sense. It wasn’t them at all.
Despite this, making the record was massively therapeutic for the band. The songs gave Macleod a way out to all the thoughts that were festering inside his head. “It gave me purpose; it gave the band purpose which we didn’t have for two and a half years.” It helped them to be together again and feel the amount of love and support that everyone was giving them while recording.
Aesthetically speaking, the idea behind the album cover revolves around chaos and calm, with nothing in between. Visually, the artwork represents a journal or diary that “you were not supposed to be looking at” explained the frontman. To complement it, an eye rolling back and two hands holding meant the absolute terror of the chaos and the love in the calm. In addition, the album name was not originally Learning How To Live And Let Go. In fact, it was a last-minute change. When talking about the whole concept of the album, Macleod realized the first title didn’t quite fit. But this final one did perfectly. “For me it was about letting go of ego and pride and fear. Letting go of little things that continue to hurt me that happened in the past. It’s about finding some inner peace.”
Finally, the record turned out successfully as the band wanted. It was challenging from the beginning. The group wanted to keep working on it for months to go, though the management team told them to let it go. “How ironic!” the singer commented. Overall, the band is proud and happy that they achieved their vision.
Learning How To Live And Let Go releases August 18 via UNFD.