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The title of Now, Now’s first new album in half a decade begs the obvious question… Saved from what? They certainly didn’t seem like a band that needed saving after the release of their 2012 LP Threads. When the world last heard from Now, Now, they had made their late night TV debut with Jimmy Fallon, and landed tours and shows with bands including Fun. and Bob Mould, among others. For better or worse, the usual path for any band that seems like they’re on the cusp of a break through is to strike while the iron is hot. That is, to hurry back to the studio to work with a proven producer known for having a hand in a few big records. Bands and artists that find themselves in this situation are compelled to “go big, or go home,” and in Now, Now’s case they did just that, they went home.
It might not have been planned that way, but that’s where they ended up-- back in Minneapolis without a clear sense of how to move forward. Despite any success or acclamation earned up to that point, self-doubt set in, and a crippling writers block entrenched itself further. Weeks became months, and months dissolved into years, all while the band’s modest but fervent fanbase were left to speculate on social media as to what was behind the silence. At a particularly low point relates KC, “I felt like I was pursuing the wrong dream, that maybe something else would reveal itself to me.”
She felt pressure from both herself and those around her so immense that it froze her. “It felt like everyone was mistaking how much I was obsessing over the album for not caring about the album, but in reality I was putting too much pressure on myself to be able to write. So it felt like everyone was angry with me on top of me feeling like I was ruining my career and disappointing myself.” As a result she reveals, “I had some very difficult conversations with myself and with people close to me who were worried about my happiness.”
“I still carry a little bit of guilt for adding to that stress that KC is talking about,” reveals Brad. “After a year of people around us asking ‘why is the album not done, your career is about to just be over,’ I as well started to question my career choice, to question my talent, and I started buying into this idea that KC wasn't working, even though I was right there watching her work. That's something I'm embarrassed by and wish I could take back. But through that we got stronger as friends and collaborators, and I learned the hard way that the only reason we make music is for ourselves.”
Following a few years of frustration and introspection however, the ice began to crack while tracking the single “SGL.” “The production on that song was completely different at first,” recalls Brad. “It didn't have that main acoustic guitar part, and it never felt right. But one day I picked up an acoustic, turned off all the guitars we had already recorded and just played, and that came out. It felt so natural. It was also the first time I felt KC be excited about hearing the way her voice sounded. There was suddenly a new confidence in the way she sung her words.”
As trying as it was for Now, Now, and as baffling as it may have seemed to those on the outside looking in, this intense period of self-examination ended up bringing us the record we have today. No doubt a better one than might have come to pass had they managed to turn one around more quickly. The pair that had met in marching band and begun writing and recording songs together over a decade ago as teens, hadn’t yet been forced to set aside time to discover themselves. It was something they needed to do before they could advance.
Part of that discovery process involved their sound as well. “It took me a lot of time to explore different production techniques to really find what worked for us,” says Brad, who in between Threads and Saved further developed his skill set behind the boards through a solo record under the moniker Sombear and work with other artists. “Figuring out how to make my voice sound has been a pivotal piece of us finding our sound again too,” explains KC. “We also tried to keep everything as timeless as possible. We are very influenced by classic pop and classic songwriting, and were inspired by the power and sustainability those types of songs have.” The guiding principle on Saved they agree, was to trust themselves and to not turn away from anything just because it was too far removed from their past material. “I was definitely scared at the start of the process to go outside of that box,” says Brad, “but I wanted to so bad. Once we really followed our own vision is really when things started coming together quickly.”
“I know it’s been a long road,” says KC, “ but I wouldn’t change any part of it. If we had put an album out right after Threads, we wouldn’t have gone through that period of self-discovery. I think we would’ve continued to stifle our emotions and hide the fact that we were struggling as much as we were. We needed to hit rock bottom. In order to rebuild and come back stronger than before. I think we might have made an album that was timid and vague and unchallenging. But I know that’s not what we were meant to do.”
Saved is anything but “timid and vague,” boasting the most direct songwriting and transparent lyrics the band have ever written by a mile. “I’d never felt comfortable being myself. I always felt like I needed to hide behind something,” says KC. “‘Back to the heart of it all’ from the song ‘AZ’ is the most important conceptual lyric for this album. This is the most exposed I’ve ever been lyrically. I’ve never been this open.” It’s also no small coincidence that the lyric speaks to the pair’s return to their writing and recording roots as well. While they initially started out in the studio, after completing “SGL” they finished the rest of Saved while working on ideas and tracking the album in their basements together, just as they had on their first recordings back in high school. When everything was done, with a fair bit of relief they sent the record on to Andy Park in Seattle for mixing.
The only people who know the full extent of the meaning behind Saved’s title are Brad and KC, but it’s clear to see that salvation for them, at least in part, involved escaping the constraints of their own hangups and insecurities. All so that they might be free to grow into the people and artists we see and hear today on their new album. After such an arduous process, “it’s been really validating to see people on the internet and hear people at shows say they feel like the new songs are exactly the way they hoped we’d go,” says KC. “We're lucky to have fans that care not only about the music, but about us as people,” adds Brad. “It blows my mind to hear people tell us their different stories about how they found out about us. It's those moments that really keep me going. We feel really lucky that people connect with our music in such a deep and personal way.”