There’s no shortage of new bands seeking to make their mark on the world; one of the more exciting prospects rearing their heads are North Carolina’s By George, whose upcoming debut albumThe Life of Guy is a concept album chronicling the life and times, from the high to the low, of its titular character, Guy.
Blending fuzzy psychedelia with a hefty dose of earlier Foo Fighters, their latest single ‘Relax’ is out today and chronicles the complex relationship between a boy and a figure of authority who are at odds with each other about the boy’s development. Ahead of its release, we got in touch with the band to discuss how they formed, what inspires them and what we can expect from them in the future.
Can you tell us a bit about how you all found each other and formed the band?
Henry and I first met when I came across an instagram video that he had posted playing a slide solo to Sweet Home Alabama back in our sophomore year of high school. I remember DMing him and we set up the first jam session with little Crate and Fender amps that sounded like crap. We really clicked though and started learning a bunch of covers and playing together most days.
After finding a bassist and drummer, we started playing shows around Charlotte to support the release of some songs we wrote in the summer of 2016. Since then, we have been through multiple iterations of the band, all with different fantastic musicians, until we landed on the band that would become “By George.” Henry and I almost decided to scrap the band until we found an incredible drummer, Chaandmon Croft, who quit his summer internship to come and play with us. We then reached out to our friend Will Henshaw at NC State who was interested in playing bass. It really came together with this group, and we have all gotten super close over the last couple of months.
Who would you say are the main influences behind your sound? I hear a hefty dose of the Foos, for one. Are there any that people might not expect?
Early on, we were in that phase of trying to match up a guitar chord melody with some lead guitar line to form indie rock, and our first two EPs represent that effort. I wouldn’t say there were too many influences on that sound as we were really trying to experiment in Henry’s basement, but we were listening to a whole lot of Cage the Elephant, Foo Fighters, Twin Peaks, and Tame Impala at the time. I hear some Kurt Vile in “Better in My Head” as well.
After those EPs, it was our freshman year of college and we wanted to do something bigger. We committed to the idea of a concept album (release coming up in a few weeks!), and started listening to the musical and lyrical styles of the transitions that make “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” and other concept projects unique. We took that progressive/psych rock influence, along with our many hours of listening to the Foo Fighters, Tame Impala, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, John Mayer (yes we are basic too!), Ryan Adams, and everything in between to form our new sound. Not quite sure what to call it, but it has been a whole lot of fun trying to develop our style.
Your upcoming single ‘Relax’ deals with some fairly personal topics - how important is it to you that your lyrics are more relatable?
“Relax” is the first installment in our chronicles of the “Life of Guy.” With this project, we wanted to make sure we were communicating relatable struggles through music in the way that we imagine them being experienced. So, to directly answer the question, it is important to us that our music is dealing with topics that listeners can relate to so that we are really connecting with our audience.
We have gotten a few comments on the juxtaposition/disconnect of the lyrics of “Relax” and the vibe of the instrumental, and we actually love that. The lyrics to “Relax” can definitely be interpreted as sad or “downer,” but we think that, as a young person, these feelings are better dealt with through the positive, cathartic release of upbeat rock. Don’t be sad about it when you can turn it into music! That’s the fun part.
‘The Life of Guy’ is your upcoming record - it’s a concept release you’ve been working on for two years now. Can you tell us more about how you chose that, what drove you to follow this concept and what the creative process has been like?
Building off the last 2 questions, we have always been big album guys. What I mean by that is when we listen to music together, we usually throw on a record (you wouldn’t really “throw on” a single in the same way). When we were listening through a record one day (it was probably Villains by QOTSA or A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay at the time), we were talking about how we could reconcile the often conflicting musical goals of producing a coherent body of work vs. an energetic, 2-3 minute single. Records seem so legitimate: like such a full body of work that can be revisited again and again. However, we also enjoy the irresistible hooks and catchy melodies of singles these days, so we decided to take on a project that brought both worlds.
The songwriting process for each song was mostly independent of the next musically, but we made sure the vocal themes were progressing how we wanted. We knew that we wanted to tell the story of a character that acts as a general stand-in for a human being. Yes, he is technically a guy, but it can be anyone. The point is, we wanted to talk about how he deals with youth, relationships, death, boredom, longing, anxiety, happiness, and everything in between. We hope that everyone can find at least one song they can relate to on the record.
As for the instruments, no matter how different they got throughout the project, we tried to find a middle ground where they could share space before parting (often on song transitions). This was super fun for us, and I think we will try to carry some of these same themes forward to our next projects. It is all super fun, and it gives music more life when we discuss as a group what we want all of the songs to communicate together, not just as separate songs under a project name.
What are your plans for the future (or perhaps hopes would be more accurate)?
This group has been nothing short of the biggest blessing in each of our lives. We all led pretty separate lives before doing this, and even for the first little while after creating the band. There were multiple times in high school and college when it seemed like life was going to get in the way, but we have always just made the bond stronger and wanted to do it even more.
That is all to say, we want to do this for the rest of our lives, and have aspirations to make many more albums. We are already a good bit through piecing together our next project. Our ideal lives would consist of going around the world, connecting with people through music and having valuable experiences together. Once COVID clears up, we will be doing everything we can to actualize this vision.
What do you want people to take from your music?
First and foremost, we just want people to have fun. It sounds dry, but we feel like recently there has been so much stress and uncertainty in the world that a return to fun is much needed. Our idea of fun is a huge room of happy people jamming with us, and we can’t wait to make that happen.
As far as the concepts in our music go, we want to evoke those feelings that make life worthwhile for people. Just found that old picture you thought you’d forgotten? Sometimes you need to reminisce, to be nostalgic. Going through something stressful? Sometimes, you need to face anxiety head on and it helps to hear someone singing about triumphing over it in a relatable way. Feeling like people just don’t understand you or you’re meant for something else? Sometimes you need some rebellious energy. Last but not least, sometimes you just need to feel good. We want to do all of those things through our music, and it’s a blessing to at least try and achieve that.