Their new album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, is a breakthrough indie debut for Pela veterans Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson. And now, joined by Rob Allen on drums, the new three-piece hailing from New York is ready to put the past behind them.
"The thing that finally broke up [Pela], was probably the thing that breaks up every band. For eight years we never really fought. Sure we had disagreements, but we always talked them out," Sanderson has said. "But in those last few weeks our strong personal bond cracked and we fought amongst ourselves. The minute that happened, the band was over."
The death, resurrection, and rise of a music career.
While the band was over, not all the work was finished. And as McCarthy and Sanderson continued to lament what they had lost, they eventually decided that the material deserved to be finished no matter what. And this time, as the Augustines, they would go it alone.
Taking a rough cut originally recorded in an old and cold Canadian church under the direction of producer Dave Newfeld, best known for his work with Broken Social Scene, McCarthy and Sanderson set out to finish one of the most personal songs ever written by McCarthy. Book Of James touches on the tragic life and death of his younger brother who hanged himself while undergoing psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia.
His mother had done the same years earlier. Also diagnosed schizophrenic, the state eventually put her sons in foster care. She later committed suicide; her body was discovered in a homeless shelter with a business card. It was from the local mortuary; her children's names were scrawled across the back.
Book of James isn't the only song that pays homage to the tragic qualities of McCarthy's early life and family. The entire album bends and twists around the grittiest corners of New York, Los Angeles, and even Mexico (where he had once traveled in search of his father). It's an album about facing struggle and surviving no matter the outcomes of everyone else around you.
Chapel Song is a slice of an incredibly raw, emotive, and deeply personal album. Although much of the material is constructed from McCarthy's experiences, Sanderson has an equally pained past, with family members suffering from drug addictions and mental conditions.
Although UNFD is releasing the album physically in Australia and New Zealand, We Are Augustines are hoping word of mouth can drive the independent biographical album, with all its earnest angst that ranges from cathartic to ferocious. It grows more gripping with every play. It's brave, brazen and near impossible to pick out only a few tracks.
Augustine, the song that the band is named after (McCarthy and Sanderson both have August birthdays), touches on how a family might try to hold each other up, even if they are unwilling to share the relationship with others. East Los Angeles breaks between the beauty and heartbreak of homelessness. Juarez is the story about an ill-fated trip to Mexico to find McCarthy's father. Patton State Hospital relives the confused anxiousness of mental illness. It's not the only exploration of it; the entire album tells the story.
Rise Ye Sunken Ships By We Are Augustines Rises To 9.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Nearly every track on the 12-song album is perfectly executed as the set explores trying to carry on with life. Underrated by some reviewers, Rise Ye Sunken Ships is certain to kindle a life of its own, securing a little piece of history along the way. Expect this one to be talked about for years to come as the album that will be cited as an inspiration in alt rock.
You can download the self-released digital album Rise Ye Sunken Ships from iTunes in several countries. It was recently featured as a pick of the week, with Headlong Into The Abyss included as a free download. You'll want to see the band live if at all possible. I caught them at The Roxy in May, and have been waiting for the album ever since. The emotional tugs hit twice as hard live. These guys are the real deal.