Breaking up isn’t fun. If it were, more pre-collapse couples would bite the bullet the moment it was loaded. But sometimes, the pain of a breakup comes with extra baggage. If you’re in a particularly rough spot, or thrust into one after the relationship ends, then don’t be surprised if the resulting sting traces back to a less obvious and arguably more painful reason.
That was the case for Sam Patrick, the singer and guitarist of Providence emo shoegaze band Darklands. In the turbulent end of a breakup, he started feeling lost in addition to the built-in depression it often comes with. That loneliness transformed into something worse: isolation. So he, drummer Jeff Novak, and bassist David Marcotte set to work on putting the feeling—being trapped in the recurring nature of feeling lost without a home—to sound on their debut full-length Hate It Here, out May 18 via Atomic Action. Sometimes, you end up building homes in other people. Other times, those man-made structures collapse. The album captures what it’s like to watch everything crumble and how to muster the strength to try to build something new.
“I’ve moved around a little bit in life, within Providence and Boston,” explains Patrick. “I’ve lived in a bunch of different homes, held a bunch of different jobs, and lived with different people, but nowhere ever felt right. Even touring regularly, I never felt at home in any city we visited either. The last place I identified as a home was my parents’ house, and now that’s sort of unrecognizable, too. When you meet someone you’ve known on and off again for years and you gel in every possible way, someone who understands everything you’re about, including your worst parts, then your life picture becomes clearer. When things go horribly awry, all of that dissipates. You’re stuck with where you were before. This [breakup] in particular brought a moment of realization that sometimes things won’t work out between you two and you can’t do anything about it. You just have to learn how to deal with it. With all of that comes a lesson: You can’t expect other people to be your home.”
At once slick and grimy, Darklands create a coarse landscape of racing drums and waves of guitar on Hate It Here, like a combination of early Built to Spill (“Kennsington”) and crunchy Sonic Youth B-sides (“Northern Ignorance”). That’s due in part to the nonverbal communication the band’s members have created. Patrick and Novak in particular have developed a system to express how to flesh out songs without understanding the first step of how to play one another’s instruments. The two expand one another’s skeletal songs with surprising comfort.
Lyrically, Hate It Here plays like the low point of realizing your mistakes, including self-assured choices that reveal themselves to be naive moves only in retrospect. Through reverb-filtered hollars and guttural mantras, Patrick finds a way to morph a wrong turn of events into an album of miniature, relatable attainments. That’s present on “Freemont,” which was the hardest song for the band to write. On it, Patrick found himself facing newly vivid lyrics, where a previous topic shed its ambiguous indifference to reveal an undeniably specific and personal lyrical core. He had to come to terms with himself through honesty. It was only then that he could feel more comfortable reflecting on the past, even if little progress had come from it at that point. Elsewhere, those lyrical reflections are masked in thick fuzz. The aptly titled “The Hill I Choose to Die on” is a wholly self-aware romp through indifference and obstinance. Like Darklands’ disinterest in letting others dictate how the band sounds, operates, or evolves, the song hurls itself into high production and full-volume instrumentation.
While Patrick, and to some extent the band, is still pretty down on himself, at the very least, funneling his energy into music has been beneficial. The insular nature of Providence’s music scene has helped breed a familiarity and consistency necessary for the band’s growth. Back in 2013, Darklands formed after a failed attempt on Patrick’s part to play music in a different band. It wasn’t until he learned to believe in himself that Darklands came into existence.
“A higher-profile project was going to start between a few people I knew in Providence,” he explains. “They were from hardcore bands but wanted to do something in the ’90s alternative sound. Immediately, I thought, ‘This is going to be it. If I’m ever going to be in a band, this is the one.’ The audition went abysmally. At that point, I hadn’t been playing guitar too much and was very unprepared. It was discouraging. I wanted to throw out all of my stuff. But Sean Murphy from Verse told me it takes a lot of work and encouraged me to stick with it, so I did. Here we are after all of that work.”
That hard work will be in full flex at Darklands’ album release show at Great Scott this Monday. With musical friends Sneeze, Twin Foxes, and Saccharine performing as well, Darklands are guaranteed a night worth relishing in, no matter how tempting it is to put themselves down. The post-breakup world has been one with ample time to establish new hobbies and strengthen Darklands’ sound. At the very least, it’s proven there’s plenty of land to find a new home ground, too, and Hate It Here is part of the long process of building oneself back up.
“Without sounding too pathetic, I can be very hard on myself,” says Patrick. “Even now, I have a hard time separating myself from the record and listening objectively. All I hear are faults or things that could have been changed. I’m like that with pretty much everything in life. Being kind to yourself is hard. That said, I’m proud of how the album personifies us as a band, possible flaws included.”
DARKLANDS, SNEEZE, TWIN FOXES, SACCHARINE. MON 5.14. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 8:30PM/18+/$10. GREATSCOTTBOSTON.COM