BAILEN Break Down Their Emotionally Heavy New LP “Tired Hearts” Track by Track

The NYC-based sibling trio’s sophomore album is out now via Fantasy Records.
Track by Track

BAILEN Break Down Their Emotionally Heavy New LP Tired Hearts Track by Track

The NYC-based sibling trio’s sophomore album is out now via Fantasy Records.

Words: Kim March

Photo: Erica Snyder

May 05, 2023

If the three vocalists who comprise BAILEN sound like they have a particularly strong chemistry, chalk it up to the fact that they have a long history together—a lifelong history, in fact. The vibrant alt-pop outfit takes its name from the last name of its three members, siblings Julia, David, and Daniel Bailen, who first turned heads in 2015 with their single “Something Tells Me” and caught fire shortly after in 2019 with their debut record Thrilled to Be Here.

Yet 2019 was a lifetime ago for the trio, with the intermediary global pandemic coinciding with (or, in some cases, influencing) personal hardships in each of their lives regarding relationships and familial health concerns. That said, the four-year wait for Thrilled to Be Here was as much the result of these life events as it was inspired by them, with the newly released Tired Hearts embodying both the unfathomable pain and the total ecstasy of overcoming it that each sibling seems to have experienced during that period.

With the help of producer Brad Cook (whose credits include Bon Iver, Snail Mail, and Waxahatchee), BAILEN effectively transforms that pain into something uplifting across the record’s 12 tracks as the trio support each other artistically and emotionally over the course of Tired Hearts—at one point even writing autobiographically prescient lyrics for each other. With the LP out today via Fantasy Records, stream along below (or check it out here) and read the track-by-track breakdown supplied by Julia, David, and Daniel.

1. “Tired Hearts”
Daniel Bailen: “Tired Hearts” is one of the first songs we wrote for this new record and it dictated a lot of where we took the rest of the songs thematically and musically. It began as an adaptation from a 19th century poem about an Irish factory worker and speaks about the search for understanding and belonging while our means of survival drives us further from that. To be quite honest,  it’s a song about late-stage capitalism. We had worked on this song over the summer of 2020 and Daniel had made a rough demo in Logic that had some different sonic textures we hadn’t explored yet. The version on the record ended up using most of the stems from Daniel’s demo.

2. “Nothing Left to Give”
Daniel Bailen: “Nothing Left to Give” came from the total abandon of feeling so overwhelmed that you no longer care if everything goes wrong. The song is a mantra to help me crawl out of a depression hole, to help me clean my room for the first time in a while, to call a friend when I need to talk, or to keep an overwhelming day in perspective even when it feels like you won’t survive it. A lot of this song was written in a period where I’d tried nearly every class of medication to treat my anxiety and depression and nothing was really helping, or the meds were giving me weird side effects. It was a frustrating experience to pluck up the courage to try a medication only for it to be a false start. David helped finish the chorus when I came home singing the first line, and then we all sat around and hashed out the verse lyrics together. The piano on the recording is the one in the living room of our apartment. It’s this janky old player piano that kind of has this chorused sound to it.

3. “These Bones”
Daniel Bailen: These Bones was written in March 2020 when the world stopped. After spending every waking second with each other in a van for a year, the three of us were suddenly separated. In our haste, my partner Erica and I left the city and all I grabbed was my bass. The instrumentation was a product of not having David and Julia to play with, only having a bass with me, and the feeling that it was such a lonely and personal time that it felt like the right vehicle to express myself. There is something very somber and solitary about a solo bass and vocal song that captured the energy at the time. Additionally, just using my falsetto for the entire song felt like the only way to sing when the world stopped. Why would I sing loud? Who was around to hear? There’s an intimacy to this song that sprung from the world stopping. 

During that same month the world changed, my mother-in-law-to-be was diagnosed with breast cancer, and our grandmother was in the hospital with COVID. I wanted to write a song that I could send to them that would comfort them and give them hope and a message of healing, since we weren’t able to visit them. The line “These bones will heal on their own” was circling in my head, and the rest of the lyrics kind of wrote themselves. Sometimes I have drafts and drafts of lyrics, but this song came all at once. It’s one I’m very proud of—it’s probably the most honest and personal song I’ve ever written.

4. “Leave Me Wanting More”
Julia Bailen: “Leave Me Wanting More” came out of a fight I had on the streets of Edinburgh with my boyfriend, suitcases rolling on the cobblestones behind us. He’s really non-confrontational and even-keeled, and sometimes all I want is for him to fight back. His even-tempered and understanding style of argument—if you can call it that—drives me up the wall. The line “If this is a joke, why am I the only one laughing?” comes from the manic frustration of not having my partner meet my escalation—it’s the argument equivalent of being stood up. 

The song started off live as more of a loud rock song, and for the record we had this more intimate approach and it really transformed the tone of the song and brought out the tension in the chorus lyric. I think it came out really understated with an underlying insatiability that I love. One of my favorite moments in the studio happened when we were making this track: We were sending the background vocals from the demo to try out and there was a glitch when transposing the BGVs into the new key of the song. So when we flew them in, they were in the wrong key and we sounded like chipmunks. But when we listened back to the song with the chipmunk vocals, we all loved them and they stayed! 

5. “Here We Are Again”
Julia Bailen: “Here We Are Again” is about running out of things to say to your significant other. It goes through all of the seasons of being in a long-distance relationship and lands on the frustrating phenomenon of having nothing to say to one another on the phone. It’s exhausting having to relay the events of the day over and over again—especially when all you have to tell is the monotony of being on the road. 

I had gone in for a writing session on my own in London and we wrote the chorus and pre-chorus of the song, but the verses were feeling a bit insincere. I brought it home to David and Daniel and we tried to work out a more personal approach to the song. Daniel, in a stroke of inspiration, just started writing all of these lines from my perspective—moments of my life and relationship that we had all lived through together or heard about—and the verses just poured out of him. David took them and put them into this more rhythmic form that made them feel really good in three-part harmony. It’s weird and very cool that those verses are some of the most personal and real lyrics on the record for me to sing, even though Daniel wrote them!

6. “Call It Like It Is”
David Bailen: Julia had the chorus line “Call it like it is” written down in her notebook for a while. Then we did a writing session with our friends Sam and Adam from X Ambassadors, and they had this amazing bassline that we just started singing this line over. We had a lot of fun in that session, and then after the session we fleshed out a verse melody and shot it back and forth a few times, and the song came together pretty quickly. It was a real collaboration, and really became one of the most fun songs to play live on the record. The solo at the end was a very last-minute addition that we added during the mixing process, and we’re so glad we did  because it’s such a fun moment and gives the song this whole other dimension.

7. “Change Your Mind”
Julia Bailen: This song came from a couple of different people in my life leaving me in New York for far off places at the same time. It’s about giving yourself to someone who has a really bad grass-is-greener complex and can’t stop chasing some version of themselves in some distant land. I know I can’t do anything to stop them from feeling like there’s a better life somewhere else, even if it breaks my heart every time they leave. It’s funny, we had to fight for the lyric “war of attrition,” because Brad thought it sounded too much like “war of nutrition.” But we’re big on nutrition, too, so it’s kind of a win-win. 

8. “Love You Blind”
Julia Bailen: This song, oddly, was inspired by an Angela Merkel speech. It’s about all of the excuses you make for someone you love, even if they don’t deserve the generosity. This song has been through a lot of versions too—it started out as a folk song, very Neil Young-y, and became what it is in the studio when we were trying to figure it out. The guitar line came from a song that had about a zillion rewrites and just never worked. And there was a magical moment in pre-production where we married the two and it finally worked! That was the most magical moment of pre-production—when David, Daniel, Brad, and I were sitting around playing this guitar line and Daniel and David started singing the chorus of “Love You Blind” over it out of the blue. Everyone in the room lost their minds. It’s such an amazing moment when the puzzle pieces finally lock in together.

9. “Relic”
Julia Bailen: It’s very strange to know someone so intimately and to leave each other. It’s like leaving a version of yourself. Daniel was trying to write a pop song but couldn’t help but break all of our hearts instead. The song originally had a bridge that was this epic rock-out section, and we realized that all the song needed was the first half, so we ended up shortening the song quite a bit and making it more of a little moment in time. We’re all singing so quietly on this recording that you can really hear the rain coming down outside Brad’s house. It felt like the right moment to record this song. David and Daniel are actually singing in their falsettos in unison on the verse of this song, which is a really cool effect. 

Recording this song really brought out a lot of emotions for all of us. It’s such a vulnerable vocal performance, and David was having a very emotional time with it and you can really hear the vulnerability in his voice in the take that made the record.

10. “BRCA”
Julia Bailen: In 2019, I got genetic testing done and received a diagnosis for a gene mutation that makes me extremely likely to get breast cancer at some point in my life. The gene is called BRCA and it’s a hereditary mutation that my mother has, her father before her carried, and now I have. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and expressed a lot of guilt when I learned that I, too, had the gene mutation—guilt that I tried to assuage many, many times. 

In 2021 right before we were set to record this record, I came up with the melody for this chorus but never had any lyrics for it. I tried to write them, but they just kept coming out pithy. Between pre-production and recording the record I felt a small pea-sized lump in my breast that was unfamiliar to me in my self-check. I quickly called my doctor and went in for an examination and she sent me to get an ultrasound. In the cab ride home and in the day or so while I waited to hear if I would need further testing, the lyrics to this song just poured out. The verse lyrics came out over a melody that David had sung in pre-production, and the song became a letter to my mom saying how I wouldn’t trade this gene mutation for all of the other genes she gave me and the beautiful relationship we have, to assure her that there are worse things in this world and that I’m happy that I have the power of knowledge and access to screenings and technology that make this a survivable cancer. 

I also wanted to use this song as a way to tell my mom—and remind myself—that I’m determined to not let this diagnosis impact how I live my life. The mental weight of wondering when the proverbial cancer shoe is going to drop has, in the past (and sometimes now), given me a lot of anxiety, and for a while made it hard to justify the intense and chaotic lifestyle of being in a band—but somewhere in this journey I decided (and the pandemic was a powerful reminder) to live my life like I’m dying and not let the dying part get in the way of living. The lump that I felt turned out to be a cyst and was harmless—but I’m glad I made sure! This is also a track that David mixed!

11. “Shadows”
David Bailen: I came up with the chorus on a drive during a tour in 2019 before the pandemic. I wrote this after my now-wife had gone through a pretty rough few years, and was just trying to get back up on her feet. It always amazed me how through all the turbulence in her life, she always managed to be there for me. The song clicked lyrically in the middle of the pandemic when we needed a break from our tiny Washington Heights apartment that looked out onto brick walls. We decided to buy a blow-up pool and set it up in her mom’s backyard as our pandemic vacation. The first verse of the song pretty much describes the moment when I looked at her laying in the pool and knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. 

It’s also a promise to her that whatever we go through we’ll always share the burden and be there for each other in a reciprocal way. The song saw a ton of rewrites—it started out big and belted (and we play it live that way), but in the recording process it ended up being one of the most tender and beautiful songs on the record. Brad really encouraged us to let the emotion of the lyrics dictate how we sing it, and the truth was that this wasn’t a song that I was screaming and belting. It was a sort of tender whisper of a song, a gentler “Hey, I’m here for you, too” moment.

12. “Hiding”
Julia Bailen: We could release an entire EP of different versions of this one song. We wrote this song with the inimitable Amy Wadge, and it was really just a song about the quotidian ways you love your partner and show gratitude. It started off as a ballad. David came up with the chorus on piano and we wrote the verses together with Amy, and then Daniel went home and watched the Bee Gees documentary and immediately made a demo in Logic that was heavily inspired by the (other) iconic sibling group. We hope that it retained some of its Bee Gees-ness in the final recording, but we went through lots of drafts and lyrics and rediscoveries to find this song’s identity as a Bailen song first and foremost. 

We ended up cutting this track with engineer and producer Ricky Damien. Ricky brought the track to life with us in our home studio and just hung out and ate sushi burritos and had a blast. At one point there were so many tracks in the session that our computer overheated and we had to put it on an ice pack! We scaled down the tracks after that. Maybe one day we’ll share the insane sonic journey this song went through to get to where we landed—there’s a pretty iconic dark pop version of this song that we made with Brad that you would have a hard time believing is the same song.