Editors' Notes “The two words we kept coming back to were ‘real’ and ‘honest’,” Birds of Tokyo frontman Ian Kenny tells Apple Music of the rock band’s sixth album, Human Design. “When you’re writing, they can be two of the most confronting words, depending on what you’re talking about.” For Kenny, he was talking about a devastating 2017 breakup, which he addresses in plain-spoken fashion throughout (in “Good Lord” he sings, “Nobody loved you like I did/Thought you’d be mother to my kid/But it all changed when I saw you with someone else”). The album documents the stages of grief following the breakup, from defiance (“Unbreakable”) and despair (“Designed”) to acceptance (“The Greatest Mistakes”) and, finally, moving on (“Never Going Back”). Finding new love and starting a family helped with that final stage, which Kenny touches on in the uplifting “Two of Us” and the emotive “My Darling My Son”. In contrast with 2016’s riff-heavy predecessor Brace, Human Design is stirring pop rock, where sing-alongs and hooks abound despite the often heartbreaking lyrical focus. Here, Kenny offers a track-by-track guide to the album.

The Greatest Mistakes
“We decided to kick the record off on a bit of an ‘up’ moment. ‘The Greatest Mistakes’ is saying, ‘Look, we all make mistakes, it can cost us an arm and a leg and sometimes a piece of our heart, but at the end of the day we all make mistakes, we all stuff up from time to time, and we will get through it.’”

Two of Us
“Fast-forward three years from the event—let’s call it ‘the event’—and things are so much better and I have wonderful people in my life these days. It’s just such a different landscape. Funnily enough, even though it’s early on in the record, ‘Two of Us’ is kind of the bookend of the story. We tried to roll out the record chronologically, but as a listen it didn’t feel that great.”

Good Lord
“Probably the hardest song to write for the record. I remember at points putting the song down and having to walk away from it. But the guys kept me going through that and working on that song, especially Adam [Spark], our guitarist, he helped me with the language, just to get comfortable with being honest. It’s fucking hard to do. Especially when it’s so raw.”

Designed
“Through the relationship, I had tried to be forthcoming and honest and show who I was all the time. And I thought that was what someone wanted, and I was being told that’s what they wanted. And because of that, there were plans made and time invested and hearts and souls invested, and then to…find out it’s nothing at all like it’s been laid out or what’s been promised, it just made me doubt myself. It made me doubt what I had to offer, who I am; it really made me second-guess myself.”

Dive
“I was thinking about the people who had supported me through this and what I wanted to give back. I’ll be forever grateful to my circle. So I was writing it for them as a bit of a thank-you, but as the song came to a close and I finished the lyrics, I actually realised I was probably singing it more to myself than anyone, as a bit of a mantra just to get through it. So it was a bit of self-help, but I do feel that song is for the people who have truly helped me.”

When Home Calls
“It’s a deep love song for home. But home for me is my family. And at this stage of the game we all have families, and we miss them more and more as the years go on when we’re away. They are such a huge part of what makes sense in our world. It’s a bit of an homage to the ones we love at home.”

Photo by the Lake
“Adam and I were writing together in Perth when we started the basic ideas for this record, and he had this voice memo, and it went for four seconds, I think, and it had this line in it: ‘Tell me if it’s easier with somebody else.’ And I thought, ‘That is such a great line, a great way to start a conversation.’ We designed the whole song from that. Adam’s been through his own separation since we got to this point. He went through a pretty heavy period as well. In a weird way I kind of sung it for him, ’cause I was thinking about him at the time.”

Addison
“Addison is a song about…my ex. When it all fell apart, it was just one of the most lonely places I’ve ever been. It became so much more than ‘I’ve just lost this person.’ I lost everything. The future, the plans we had invested, the city I lived in, everything. And Addison is just another name for someone I can’t name.”

My Darling My Son
“It’s a message to my very young son, who I have hopes for and I just want the best for as he comes up through the world. I think this is one of a few things I would like to write for him at different stages of his life. Only because music is the best way I can truly express myself to the people I love and who are important.”

Unbreakable
“It was almost a reaction to getting kicked so hard from the breakup. I refused to be beaten down. I didn’t know what the road looked like ahead, but I knew it was going to be shit and I was wishful that this will get better and I won’t be beaten. That’s how I was feeling. At the time we were working that song, we got asked to try and drum up a song for the 2018 Invictus Games, and as this came together it just fit.”

Never Going Back
“We wanted the record to end on a fairly momentous point. We really went balls to the wall on that one. I think that spoken-word bit in the middle really makes the song. I was very conscious of it in the studio, having to perform that bit, 'cause I was kind of speaking about myself and exposing a little bit more. But fuck it. I’m never going back to that place.”

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  • The Greatest Mistakes
  • Dive
    Dive
    Birds of Tokyo
  • Good Lord
    Good Lord
    Birds of Tokyo
  • Two Of Us
    Two Of Us
    Birds of Tokyo
  • Unbreakable
    Unbreakable
    Birds of Tokyo

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