Released this past Friday, JOVM mainstays Friendship Commanders‘ Kurt Ballou and Friendship Commanders co-produced third album MASS is a concept album that thematically is about time, memory and frontperson Buick Audra’s personal experiences of leaving Massachusetts, a place she left because she no longer felt comfortable or welcome.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I managed to write about five of the album’s singles:
- “Fail,” a grunge-inspired ripper built around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming and enormous mosh pit friendly hooks and choruses paired with Buick Audra’s expressive, Ann Wilson-like delivery. “Fail” manages to simultaneously evoke a cry for help and a desperate attempt to connect with another that just seems to fall a bit short. The duo explained that the song was written to honor the memory of Spore‘s and Sunburned Hand of the Man‘s Marc Orleans, who committed suicide in June 2020. “We chose to make the song energetic, dissonant, and big, just as he would like it. Bit of a departure for us from our usual doomy vibe, but it’s still the same band, we think,” the band says.
- “High Sun,” a 120 Minutes-era MTV alt-rock/shoegazey-like single that’s a a bit of a departure from the doom-influenced heaviness that they’re best known for. “When I moved away from Boston, I hauled an enormous amount of shame along with me. I had experienced these weird, high-impact moments that were not only troubling on their own, but the aftermath saw me painted as an outcast in my former social groups,” Friendship Commanders’ Buick Audra explains. “And I was young enough to believe that I was the problem. I had been in one controlling relationship in which being different was treated as disobedient, and I was punished for it—publicly. Being a person who was wired to take on blame, I absorbed it. But now when I look at the story, I see the manipulation, the dynamics that repeated themselves. They were experts at making people feel like outsiders, experts at deflecting responsibility. I wanted to drag it all out into the daylight with this big, fuzzy song. I’ve been waiting a long time to say this.”
- “Vampires,” an earnest, arena rock-like anthems — with the new single being built around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming, enormous shout-along worthy hooks. Much like its predecessors, “Vampires” is informed by and fueled by deeply embittering and at times humiliating personal experience. And as a result, the hurt and disdain at the core of the song is visceral. “There was a season at the end of my time in Boston where I was being turned into ‘The Problem’ by someone who wanted to control me and couldn’t; it was a moment where I could have played small and gone along with what she wanted, as I had once done,” Audra explains in press notes. “But I didn’t. I played big. I kept what was mine instead of giving it away—which included parts of my identity. And while the result was a scorched earth reality that impacts my sense of self to this day, it also ended the whole thing. I learned a valuable lesson in that season: don’t fuel the narcissists. Keep your power for yourself. It’s what they hate. And if they’re going to drag your character out in front of everyone you know, you might as well burn it all down for the warmth.”
- “Still Life,” a stormy and forceful ripper built around Jerry Roe‘s thunderous drumming, Audra’s towering walls of guitar and her powerhouse vocal, which in this song express hurt, confusion, simmering anger, defiance and pride within the turn of a phrase. The band explains that the song outlines a series of interactions in which one person is told to be quiet about their injuries, to essentially “walk them off,” even when those injuries might be life-threatening.
MASS’ sixth and latest single, “We Were Here” continues a run of earnest, heart proudly worn on sleeve anthems built around Roe’s thunderous and forceful drumming, Audra’s roaring guitar work and powerhouse delivery paired with the duo’s unerring knack for enormous, arena rock friendly hooks and choruses.
The duo explains that the song look back to a time spent in a city, where you felt like a different person. And as a result, the song is fueled by a sense of loathing, shame and discomfort — but from a deeply universal position: If I had known then what I know now.