“If something sounds super poppy we try to fuck it up, if something sounds really harsh then we try to make it sound catchy as well,” LURK vocalist Kevin Kiley commented with the unveiling of his band’s new album, Around the Sun. This is an accurate description of the aggressive Chicago collective’s debut project, which feels too sugary for diehard punk fans, while the harder-edged tracks could easily scare off pop-leaning audiences—between Kiley’s theatrical, howling vocals and the garage-punk instrumental, the middle ground they straddle often feels like a similar sonic formula trod by The Hives a few decades back. Citing Ramones and Devo as inspirations on the project, though, the band finds the perfect balance between those two artists’ respective genres while excelling at drawing out the playful energy they share.
With the LP dropping today via Pure Noise, and before the band debuts the tracks live in Chicago with their peers Militarie Gun (whose new EP, now that I think of it, is actually also very Hives-y), Kiley and bassist Dan Durley took the time to walk us through the album track by track, breaking down the evolution of and meaning behind each of Around the Sun’s 10 songs. Additionally, the group is debuting a new music video for their single “Sterilizer,” which sees them rocking matching red jumpsuits, and also, yeah, just…rocking. Check it out below, along with a stream of the full album.
Kevin Kiley: When this song eventually came together, we had a lot of the other songs already written, but this one just stuck out as the album opener. I think lyric-wise it also kicks off the overall theme of the irrelevance of time and not paying mind to other people’s expectations of you. The first line is sort of an adolescent jab at that and felt like a strong opening. Musically I think it sounds like a hardcore take on a Devo song or something.
2. “Pressure Points”
KK: This song is mainly about my disdain for people who obsess over their internet personality. People seem to devote a substantial amount of time to commentating on every life matter over the internet. If there’s anyone’s opinion I could care less about, it’s anyone who spends more time preaching or judging than doing. Maybe a slightly boomer take, but sue me.
3. “Crack a Smile”
Dan Durley: This song is a touch brighter than the rest of the album, but it ended up fitting in nicely at the end of the day. I remember us all sort of surprised by the song after listening to it after we tracked it, which is always a good feeling because it means you’re exploring something new—but that can be a little nerve-wracking too. After we tracked it, we were all really stoked on it but we also sort of zoomed out a bit and basically said, “This is really awesome, but this is probably as far in this direction as we should go right now.” I think it helped inform how the rest of the songs on the album came together, making sure we had some parts in there that were a bit darker or aggressive to balance everything out. I love the layered falsetto vox in the chorus and how we build up the last chorus into a totally new part. It all reminds me a lot of late’90s/early-’00s rock hits like “Teenage Dirtbag” or something like that.
KK: The energy of this song reminds me of an MC5 song or something. It has a sort of self-confident, rock ’n’ roll swagger to it. Lyrically, it’s about how there’s a lot of clout chasers in scenes who only come around with selfish motives and how you can’t let that shape your art or expression. There’s a great feeling of freedom that comes with getting over the concern of what those people will say or think of you or your art. Art and expression can be a scary, vulnerable thing, but it shouldn’t be dampened by some phony.
DD: We went into the studio without much of a clue as to where this one was gonna go. We did minimal pre-production on this song ahead of entering the studio, and none of us had heard it with Kevin’s vocals yet, so it was a surprise to all of us when we started building it together. I remember Kevin telling us he might sing the song in Bulgarian, so I think we were all prepared for it to get a little weird. I love how it turned out—it’s a cool mood piece that sort of frames the entire record.
KK: This song was written right before we entered the studio in the beginning of March 2020, which is such a wild time to think about. We were all witnessing in real time how our stupid and greedy government had left us so ill prepared for something like a pandemic, and it felt (and still feels) dystopian. The response has basically been money over people since the start. I was already in the process of writing a song thinking about how capitalism has upheld institutionalized racism, poisoned our food, dominated the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, and so on. Then you-know-what happened, which made it even more relevant.
KK: This one’s about a pretty grim and depressing time in my life when I was younger and living in Chicago, but lacked any kind of direction or motivation. I think maybe the menacing feel of the song made me think of that time when writing it. Probably one of the “harder” songs we have, and maybe the first one written for the LP.
8. “Top Secret”
KK: I’m pretty sure Kevin Maida came up with the main riff of this song at practice one day. The song kind of wrote itself after that and felt super catchy. With how catchy and bouncy it sounded, I wanted to make the lyrics a little weird but still have a hook to them, especially in the chorus. Aside from that, I think my favorite part of this song is the little riff and synth lead before the chorus. It sounds sort of dismal and I’m really stoked on the synth patch we dialed in—it almost sounds like a theremin or something. Lyrically, it’s about how sometimes we can isolate ourselves in an echo chamber of similar people. I think this can skew people’s perception of reality. It’s a valuable thing to get out into the world and meet different people from all walks of life.
KK: I think this was written the same week we entered the studio. Very glad we were able to finish it because it’s maybe my favorite on the record. It’s about how strangely complex a career in music or art can be to navigate. There’s no formula or telling what’s going to work, and it’s all so risky. If anything’s confirmed that, it’s been the past year and a half of watching artists scramble to survive and think of clever ways to adapt.
10. “Around the Sun”
DD: This was one of the last songs we wrote for the record, and is a good example of everyone pitching in to make the final version sound exactly like what a LURK song should be. I brought in the main riff that everyone shaped into something new that was a little darker to fit the album vibe. Pedro really structured the drums in a dynamic way that made each new part smack you in the face. Kevin Maida, Alex, and Kevin Kiley all played around with leads and guitar harmonies to sort of get it into that Thin Lizzy space, and Kevin K. had the long outro/coda in his back pocket ready to go. Once we put the outro at the end of this song it instantly became the album closer in our minds. We almost stuck a quick punk song at the end of the album because we didn’t want to end “soft” in a way, but at the end of the day ending with this song was the obvious choice. It felt right and just made sense. Building the outro together with our producer Andy Nelson was one of the most fun parts of making this record. It felt like we could just play it on a loop and keep adding new layers to it into infinity.