I don’t think I’ve ever heard good things said about long distance relationships. It’s not that distance makes a partnership doomed, but it definitely isn’t ideal to be separated from what many consider their missing half. “Worse,” the latest single from Rebecca Coleman and Devin O’Brien who make music under the name Pageants, captures that complicated feeling of distress, longing, and peculiar anxiety that comes with knowing that things can only get harder.
The track is a shimmering combination of surf pop and country balladry. It’s the sonic equivalent of sunlight catching the glint on a fresh teardrop. “‘Worse’ is a self-soothing lullaby for my overwhelmed psyche and others in a similar position,” explains Coleman, Pageants’ primary songwriter. “I wrote this at a time when I was really missing Devin while he was on tour with Cherry Glazerr. All we could really do to actually see each other was FaceTime once in a while, and we’d try to talk on the phone every day. When we did get the chance to FaceTime, we’d always kiss the screen at the end of our call.”
In the single’s video the two paint a colorful mural with heavy symbolism. “We were looking to create a sense of tension between two emotional realities, linked together by a painting. One side is content and carefree, while the other is lonely and forlorn, and both are held together by a physical manifestation of collaboration and love,” says O’Brien.
You can watch “Worse” below and read on for a short Q&A with the duo. Pre-order Sun and Settled Days here.
How did the idea of painting for the music video come about?
Devin: I studied drawing and painting in college so I had a huge 5×5 canvas and some materials lying around from a neglected project. I decided it would be cool to work on a painting together and figured watching the process unfold would be entertaining in an ASMR kind of way. Sometimes I just like to jump into an idea and figure out the concept as the work reveals itself. In this case, we both agreed that the painting—a symbol for our love and collaboration—would link together two emotional realities. One side is content and carefree and the other is lonely and forlorn. At the end of the day we really needed some new art in our bedroom and a vid, so this checked both of those boxes.
“I get a little bit tired of the whirl that I endure / But it happens to be the most important part to me”—how did this lyric come about?
Rebecca: This notion came from feeling like I’m constantly trying to keep up. I tend to get overwhelmed easily and I equate that feeling to getting swooped up in a whirlwind, if you will. I find it totally exhausting to compete for success in this day and age, but it’s also incredibly important to me to feel like I’m succeeding in life (Capricorn problems). I’m attempting to learn to just take it one step at a time.
I love that lyric about “kissing our screens.” It reminds me of a conversation I’ve had a lot recently around technology where it creates connections between loved ones, but also adds infinite external noise. Is that conflict also at play here?
Rebecca: 100 percent! FaceTime was the best it was going to get while Devin was off on tour with Cherry Glazerr, so we were really lucky to have that capability while he was away. But on the other hand, I was then tied to my phone in a lot of ways. I was constantly checking to see if I missed a call or a text…I was watching Instagram stories to see where everyone’s at… It’s almost like stalking an ex, except it’s your partner of 10 years. The thing was, if I did miss the call, then that was most likely the only chance we’d have to check in that day. And if I missed it, well, now the band is off to the next thing and everyone in the van is going to hear our conversation… Not ideal. I got used to it for sure and figured out how to manage it a little better as time went on, but still, that anxious feeling stayed with me.
Can you tell me about the layered vocals that are sort of hidden toward the end of the track?
Rebecca: Devin and I came up with this idea of trying to simulate the feeling of a call between us as we transition into the bridge of the song. He had me talk into the mic and I remember not really knowing what to say, which is basically a reflection of how some of our FaceTime conversations would go. We’d just kind of look at each other and attempt to catch up, but neither one of us could ever keep track of what we actually had to tell each other. I think it ends up feeling like a sonic metaphor for that “infinite external noise” you mentioned.
Compositionally, how did “Worse” come about? Were there any inspirations for that melancholic, wistful sound?
Rebecca: I wrote this one on my own in my bedroom and it was like the melody and lyrics were already worked out. I usually sing lyrics as I’m writing, and that will normally be pretty close to what I end up with when the song is finished. I don’t journal very often, if ever, so a lot of that expression works itself into my songs. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what the inspiration behind it was because it just happened!
How does “Worse” fit into the bigger picture of Sun and Settled Days?
Rebecca: This one definitely serves as one of the sadder songs on the record, which all in all finds me processing old trauma, and the topic of this track, dealing with Devin’s seemingly endless time away while touring. If some of the other songs on the record portray renewal and liberation, then this one serves up an ample dose of anguish and longing to really round out the vibe. It’s all about balance, right?