The Effens on Soft Sound Press

Interview: The Effens discuss “Things You Can’t Take Back” & musical intuition

As a lifelong music fan, I find bands I love every day. Whether for one song or for the rest of their career, I’m on board. What’s more rare is finding a band that really stops time for a minute, the kind where I have to mark the moment I found them because I know it’s going to be significant in my life. The Effens has been that band for me in 2021. From the moment I first heard “Pavement Age“… I knew. The release of “Things You Can’t Take Back” in February really solidified it for me.

“Things You Can’t Take back” is such an inexplicable combination of heart-on-your-sleeve grunge and perfectly composed eloquent indie rock. Listening makes me feel like I’m eavesdropping, like this is far too personal for me to be intruding on. I know this is the exact type of song that would make me accidentally start bawling in the middle of Lee’s Palace. It just quietly weaves its way through your torso until it finds the exact damaged heartstring and then *pluck* it makes you feel it all as if it was your own story.

We had the chance to chat with lead singer Austin about their new music, trusting your musical intuition, and what to expect from their upcoming EP (due out later this year). You can read it all below, but be sure to give “Things You Can’t Take Back” a spin first to set the mood.

Congrats on the release of “Things You Can’t Take Back”, it’s got such an interesting energy to it. Reminds me of an unexpected cross between Stars and Nirvana. Can you tell us more about this track? 

Those are really great comparisons that I never would have thought of. I love when people put bands together like that & I hope that means that we are making something original.

There are two different stories going on in the song. One story is about promising love and commitment to someone who asks you not to say something you don’t mean; something you can’t take back. It’s more painful to hear a dishonest “yes” from someone than it is to hear an honest “no”. The other side of the song could be about the aftermath of the first situation. Being in a relationship that has turned hostile and trying to get the other person to stop before they take it so far there is no going back. The closer you are with someone the more power you give each other’s words. The song is about that moment. The very second something is said aloud that changes everything. 

Between this song and “Pavement Age”, the through-line seems to be that they’re extremely emotive, to a point of making me feel like I’m being invasive by listening in. Is that kind of honesty something you strive for, or just a natural byproduct of how you write?

It’s definitely something we strive for. Sincerity is the highest goal in everything that goes into a song. From the lyrics and vocal performance to the snare sound. I have to ask myself “Does it sound like I mean what I’m singing” “Does this snare sound serve the song or does it sound like production that is of the time”. I think If you can find that “sincerity” it’s also more likely to sound original. On a personal level, if I’m gonna be spending months working on a song, recording, mixing, and finally performing it over and over again, if it didn’t mean anything to me, all of that process would feel hollow.

As the songwriters, performers, and producers, you have a lot of control over your sound and how it’s heard. Where do you find inspiration for the process?

Intuition is ultimately all you have to go by when you’re doing something creative. The first ten years of being a musician for me was just developing a trust in my intuition.

If something isn’t working or sounds like we missed the mark, 90 percent of the time it’s because we didn’t let intuition guide the process. I heard Bruce Springsteen describe it in a rock-umentary (I believe it was about Darkness on The Edge of Town) as “artistic instinct” meeting “artistic intelligence”. You want the “instinct” to guide the process and the “intelligence” to hammer out all the details. Once you can let go and follow intuition, inspiration can appear anywhere, from a youtube ad, a video game, or an off hand remake from a friend.

Has being isolated and not out experiencing new things affected your songwriting? What can we expect from the upcoming EP?

It honestly hasn’t affected the songwriting. Usually a song starts because something is bothering me and I want to figure out why. So there have been lots of opportunities for self examination while being isolated.

This new EP has songs on it ranging from the last ten years to just before lock down. We’ve basically been compiling songs and figuring out which ones feel right together. Each song on the EP is about something different but there is a thread that has come through it. Fighting to maintain an innocence while trying to evolve. Having to face difficulties without letting it take too much of you. 

I can imagine that being at this stage of your career, you want to be out playing tons of shows to get the word out. How have you replaced that in your band schedule to keep moving forward?

We have poured more energy into making music videos which we always loved doing. That has been received well. I started making videos showing our recording process and how the songs are produced. We are figuring out more things to live stream and maybe we will make some more performance-based videos in our own separate spaces. Just being able to communicate with people through comments and DM’s saying they enjoy the new songs is helping keep us focused.

What’s the best thing fans can do to support you right now? (Streaming, tweeting about the music, buying merch, etc.)

Sharing the music, sharing the videos, sharing the band with the people you love. 

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