When Deeper began work on their second LP, the Chicago post-punk outfit had a clear idea of what they wanted to make—a kind of tapestry of guitar-driven textures, loops, and noise. But in the middle of the process, with just over half the album written and recorded, guitarist Mike Clawson abruptly left the band. “We had to figure out where we wanted to go with the rest of it,” bassist Drew McBride tells Apple Music. “We had to figure out what we were actually trying to say. I feel like that really helped us reformulate what these songs meant to all of us and what they were driving us towards.” What followed was a set of new songs—“The Knife” and “Willing” among them—colored by everything the remaining trio was feeling in the wake of Clawson’s departure. “It all hit hard,” drummer Shiraz Bhatti says, “and we all had pent-up anger, things that we wanted to say to him. Throughout the last six months of him being in the band, we saw him slowly change and fade. He was doing things that he normally wouldn't be doing.” Months passed, Auto-Pain was finished, and no one had heard from Clawson since he’d left the band. “We were like, ‘Oh, Mike's going to come around, and we're all going to be friends again. It's just a matter of when, not if,’” McBride says. “And then he passed away.” While on tour in Europe, the band received word that Clawson, struggling with depression, had died by suicide. “What I learned,” guitarist and vocalist Nic Gohl says, “is to never not talk to your friends. That's definitely the first thing that I learned when I found out Mike passed away, because as much as I was mad at him and I knew he was mad at me, I love him like a fucking brother—I’ve known him since I was 15. If somebody commits suicide, it's not easy to ever really get over it. So many of these songs were experiences that we had together.” It’s forever changed the way they hear and think about an album that represents a leap forward for them creatively. “Nic was saying this the other day, but it's the last stuff [Mike] ever played on, and a lot of people haven't heard this,” Bhatti says. “We definitely want to make sure he lives on through this record.” Here, the trio walks us through every song. Esoteric Nic Gohl: “The driving force of that is Mike's riff—that ditty in the beginning is just so fucking catchy. The song’s a little angsty, and the vocals are like, ‘Where the fuck are you right now?’ which I think is a good way of interpreting the record—it's a pretty direct song for a record that I think is pretty direct. It deals with a lot of depression and anxiety and mental health stuff, the inner monologue within your head. Like, ‘Why do I feel so fucking old? Why is everything so gray to me?’ It's the start to feeling nihilist, basically. You're just like, ‘Fuck everything.’” Run NG: “It's like escapism. It's about trying to run away from the things that you have to do, or just blocking the things you have to do to help yourself. I’ve had a knee injury for about three months, from a fight I got into, and I still haven't gone to the doctor. That's just who I am. I don't know about you, but anything that's good for me, I don't do it. ‘Run’ is exactly what that is. You know what you're supposed to do to be better, and nobody ever does it.” This Heat NG: “It is definitely a little bit of a tribute to [UK post-punk band] This Heat. We also wrote it when it was the dead of winter. We're fucking cold as shit all the time. Literally, last week or this Monday was the first time we had seen the sun in, what, two weeks? 21 days. That's the typical winter Chicago. It really connects with us Chicagoans, us Midwesterners.” Drew McBride: “We took the idea of talking about This Heat and it morphed into longing for warmth. Just being like, ‘Man, we wish there was something to warm us up and make us feel good.’ It's a burner.” Willing NG: “The lyric ‘willingness to ignore’ was actually something that I wrote in a...I had a little bit of a notebook of lyrics that I was writing at the time. That was also around the time that Mike had left the band, so it was definitely a little pointed. We were mad at him, and he was mad at us. I mean, Mike was one of my best friends growing up. I've known Mike for years, and when I wrote that line, I don't think it was meant for him. I think it was more meant for myself, or maybe meant for something else that I was thinking of, but when I revisited that notebook and I saw that line, we had just gotten off tour and we were planning on recording the rest of our new record—and then he quit. I lost my best friend and I was mad at him. I didn't want to be friends with him anymore. And, you know, it just fit the whole thing. It was easy to kind of just say over and over again.” Lake Song NG: “That’s definitely a pretty pointed lyric [‘What's the point in living this life?’] at a certain person. It's just about not knowing, you know? When you know you've done something and you're not happy with yourself. You’re out of line, or not even out of line, just not being the best person you could possibly be or just the best partner, like anything like that. And the line ‘because you're sheltered’: It's because you somehow lie to yourself, or there's somebody around you that's telling you it's okay, even though it's not. It's not about suicide or anything like that. It’s, what's the point of being alive right now if you're not actually going to be the truest person. It’s not a hateful lyric. It's more like, ‘Come on. Let's fucking do this. Stop being the barrier between you and being happy.’” Spray Paint NG: “Do you see a lot of the people that spray-paint themselves to look like robots? Or gold to look like an Academy Award? That's what that whole thing is about. It's about a kid that lives on the street and they fucking spray-paint themselves to look like a robot. What does it take to get to that point? Is it mental health? Is it just being financially stable? The fact that you spray-paint yourself makes everybody around you not want to be close to you because they're scared of you. What does it take for that person to just cover themselves in that color and just be completely taken away and that kind of idea?” DM: “Oh, wow. I always thought it was, you're putting on a front to who you are. Like you spray-painted yourself gold to try and puff out your chest.” NG: “That's a way better idea.” 4U NG: “I don't remember if it was me or Mike that started playing those triplets, but it was definitely because Mike had been learning a lot of Metallica riffs at the time. I remember we used to do this shtick where when somebody was tuning, or if we needed a break within the set, I would be like, ‘Hey, do you guys want to hear Mike play a riff?’ And it would either be a Metallica riff or we would do a rendition of Creed’s ‘With Arms Wide Open.’ Mike would start playing as I would start singing—it was brilliant. But I do remember he was playing a triplet and then I did that harmony over it, and then Shiraz started playing the bass. It all just kind of fell together.” V.M.C. NG: “It stands for Venetian Monument Company. It's a local Chicago thing I used to drive by all the time at work. It's about the idea of talking to your grandpa about war. Like, every time you talk to somebody that went to war, and you idolize them, you're also glorifying the fact that they completely have totally destroyed lives trying to save yours.” Helena’s Flowers NG: “That name actually comes from a flower shop in Chicago, on Grand Avenue. It's another place I used to drive by. And I just always thought the sign was really cool. We all just wanted all of the lyrics off the cuff, and same with that 'auto-pain' line. I don't know if maybe you feel like this sometimes too, but sometimes, no matter where I am or what situation I'm in, I just have this negative feeling going forward. Just this depressive cloud over me. That's what I think 'auto-pain' is. It's like, don't trust yourself on auto-pain. Don't trust yourself when you're being depressed, because maybe it's not the best interpretation of what is actually going on.” The Knife DM: “We had been working on the bassline before Mike left the band, jamming. Me playing this really circular bassline; Shiraz came up with a pretty cool beat to it. Then Mike left the band and the song changed. We were like, ‘Okay, we need to find a way.’ Part of ‘The Knife’ is you keep making the same mistakes and you can't break out of this cycle. And really dropping into the coda was this breakthrough, where you realize that to move on from the mistakes that you've made, you have to acknowledge them in a way that a lot of people don't, so you can really grow from it. I think that kind of breakthrough is what, to me, really defines the record.” Warm Shiraz Bhatti: “‘Warm’ was one that started as what we called an interlude, which really came from the idea of having textures. But then we just really liked how it sounded, and Nic laid vocals on separately a day after recording it to see what it'd feel like, and we just kept it as a song.” DM: “I think having it after that big breakthrough, that big moment on ‘The Knife,’ teases out the idea of the next phase of where the band could go. I always felt like putting it last teases these new opportunities. Or for the story that goes through, struggling with mental illness and wanting to be better, and you keep making the same mistakes, and then finally you get somewhere that's new, and who knows if you'll stay with that, but you can hope that you can pursue something different.”

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