Where you go you when you’ve reached and sat at the top for so long? That’s where we started this back and forth with Richie James Follin of Guards. Fresh off the release of Modern Hymns, the much anticipated follow up to In Guards We Trust, we talked about youth riddled pressure, parenthood, and more.
Kendra: It’s not uncommon for a band to take their time from album to album. Back when you dropped your debut, it was received so wonderfully by critics and fans alike, and from it, you toured extensively and played some of the most notable festivals and venues around the world. At the end of that cycle when you sat down to pen the next record, did you feel burnt out or any sort of pressure to make an album people would value just as much as In Guards We Trust?
Richie James Follin: Serious question right out of the gate! I was more burned out from that tour cycle than I have ever been in my entire life. We didn’t come home for a year and a half. It was a surreal feeling. I never wanted to tour again in that way. There was also a ton of behind the scenes legal battling going on to get us off our label. I had to sign a piece of paper that says I wouldn’t mention this press, but it’s been long enough I think. I don’t feel pressure to deliver anything to anyone anymore. When I was younger, in my first band The Willowz, I would let it cripple me. You are so tremendously insecure and guarded in youth, but it’s what makes you so cool.
As you grow older, I think you figure out that you just need to please yourself, even if you become much less cool ha. I have researched this, and all the musicians I admire pretty much all agree on that. When you look back, all that is going to matter is if you were doing it for yourself. If I am excited about something that’s all I care about. If Loren or my family get excited about a song it will help me focus on it, but even then if I don’t feel it won’t be on the album. I wrote a lot of this record on my laptop while on that “In Guards We Trust” tour.
I just couldn’t release it until now. When I write something new I always think it is better than what I wrote before, because I am still figuring it out. I think the most important part of being an artist or songwriter is being able to tell the difference between what is actually good and not good.
Kendra: Because it’s mentioned that you guys tried to write it and for months were just not getting anywhere. How do you feel the move to LA helped get you out of that funk?
Richie: “Last Stand” was a song that was being finished during that New York period. Other music projects were a distraction at that time. We really moved for personal reasons. It is much easier to hide out in LA though. The separation lends itself to writing.
Kendra: In the end, I think people are going to love Modern Hymns just as much, if not more based solely on how amazing “Last Stand” is. From the arrangements to the lyrics, it’s one of my personal favorites of the year. But I want to talk about the video. Where did this homage to old Hollywood horror treatment come from?
Richie: Thank you! A lot of the visuals for the album are found footage. Basically, it was the only thing I could find dramatic enough to fit the song haha. Those two films fit together so well, and it still feels playful while being dramatic. I just knew it had to be black and white, so I started looking.
Kendra: Scarier than a horror movie? Becoming a parent! Richie, you that this record in part reflects becoming a first-time parent. What emotions from that new experience were you surprised by and what ones made their way onto Modern Hymns?
Richie: Becoming a parent is terrifying. That new part of me’s laced inside of this record. Especially, in the song “Beacon”. When you become a parent you kind of reevaluate your own experiences and that comes through in the writing. A lot of the writing took place during the American madness…which I think is impossible to mentally escape. It’s also a breakup record. It’s most importantly a light at the end of the tunnel kind of record. It isn’t negative when dealing with negative themes. I hope people feel it is uplifting because it is to me. All my favorite songs communicate that in some way if not directly. Even those nihilistic punk songs…they somehow seem uplifting or inspiring to me haha.
Kendra: You’ve proven to be masters of your craft, but if you could have any other musician walk up to you and say, “‘Take My Mind’ and see all my musical wonders,” who would it be?
Kendra: With the album out towards the end of May, can we expect some late Spring, early Summer dates to arrive soon?
Richie: Yes! Tour dates will be announced shortly!