Death, self-destruction, mental illness, lies, and, ultimately, resilience: Of Mice & Men tell stories that are every bit as intense and difficult as they sound on the metalcore band’s merciless sixth album. “This record is about perspective,” bassist and vocalist Aaron Pauley tells Apple Music. “I would never claim to have the answers or claim that I can save anybody. I mean, I think I need saving multiple times a week! But I see a lot of people in [difficult] places I’ve been, and to take them out of it, even if it's for three and a half minutes, that's everything.” Here, Pauley details the ideas behind each track on EARTHANDSKY.
Gravedancer “It's the undeniable opener. It begins with an Indian instrument called a dilruba. The song takes you through a nihilistic journey of being aware of self-destructive habits. When you see the world as hopeless, the end doesn't seem so bad, you know? As a society, I think we’re collectively feeling that. We’re just dancing around the grave.”
As We Suffocate “This is a commentary on the same hopelessness behind ‘Gravedancer,’ but from a different point of view. This song looks at being pragmatic in dealing with the situation rather than being nihilistic and accepting the situation.”
Taste of Regret “This is our take on the age-old adage ‘Silence is wisdom when speaking is folly.’ I think too many people in 2019 don't know when to shut their mouths, and this is a tongue-in-cheek way of saying it. Musically, we call the song a barn burner—very rapid, very aggressive songs that open up to a big melodic chorus.”
Mushroom Cloud “This song sat with me for a while. I didn't really connect with how manic and schizophrenic it felt until I had a really rough couple of weeks where my health started taking a weird turn. I stopped eating, I was awake for two or three days. Then, I had a full-on snap—a full anxiety attack at three in the morning. I put the instrumental on and it was like Mozart. It was like I heard the song and understood what it was saying, and the lyrics came out. This song is a very ugly and upsetting mirror that put me on a track to actually take care of my mental health, to talk to a doctor and take steps to get healthy. It was really cathartic after the fact, when I could be self-reflective. I couldn’t listen to the whole song for a long time, but it saved me in a lot of ways. When I play it live now, it feels like I'm conquering a small empire.”
Pieces “‘I was writing this as I was slowly descending into that madness. As people who put a lot of ourselves into what we do, it’s really, really easy to give so much of yourself, your time, your passion, and then not replenish those tanks. It's really easy to feel empty. To feel like, ‘Okay, I've given everything I have to give and now I'm worthless.’ Musically, the verses are really fast, but there’s a lot of harmony and melodic tension. It reflects that feeling of the candle burning at both ends while you feel it getting hotter.”
Deceiver/Deceived “You could call the 2010s the decade of cognitive dissonance. Have we ever lived in a time where so many people lie to one another and to themselves? Everything is so vitriolic, especially in politics. It's so easy for people to put themselves in an echo chamber and be completely happy feeding themselves as much bullshit as they want. Isn’t it just fucking exhausting? You have to remember a lie every time you tell it. You only have to remember the truth once.”
Earth & Sky “Musically, this is very experimental for us as a band. Typically, we like keeping things straightforward, just keeping your head banging. But we experimented with different time signatures and tempos. It has this beautiful dichotomy of elements, like fire and water, or earth and sky. You can't have the sky without earth. They’re antithetical, but they define one another. The record is about perspective, and I wanted the music to show that.”
The Mountain “This is an Easter egg, but ‘The Mountain’ and ‘As We Suffocate’ coincide. They were designed so that you could almost swap parts or lyrics. Empathy is a curse for me, because I am one of those people who take on the pain and suffering of people around me, or from situations that I see. My mum has told me my whole life that it's a blessing, but a lot of times it feels like a curse. I think a lot of people choose to turn themselves into stone—it’s easier to be a mountain that feels nothing. It’s like, if sticks and stones can break my bones, why don’t I just become the stone? Why don't I just do the breaking? Then I don't have to be broken.”
Meltdown “Who doesn't love a good old-fashioned meltdown? I probably have at least one existential crisis a month. And the older I get, the more intense they are. I've just turned 31 and I'm like, ‘What is my purpose now?’ It felt like I’d fucking forgot a class assignment. ‘Did I do everything I was supposed to? Shit, I’m pretty sure I forgot something.’ There's just tons of existential dread. I think everybody needs a little dose of it.”
Linger “It’s an ode to all of the friends that we've lost. It also pays respect to the pain that loss brings, and the understanding that it never goes away. It's like a big heavy-ass sword that’s dangling at your side. It's really sharp, it keeps hitting your leg, it keeps cutting you. As time goes on, the sword is just as heavy, but the blade starts to dull and so does the pain. The older you get, the more people you’ll lose. The sooner you understand that it's okay to feel that pain, the less it’ll cut you.”
How to Survive “It’s ultimately about resilience. About getting back up, putting one foot in front of the other. This record is a record about perspective; it’s made to make you think and bring you down into the depths. We’re dumping a lot of heaviness on you. So I think it's important to wrap it up on a somewhat high, more triumphant note.”


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