There’s no greater reference point for charting your own personal growth than your hometown, which—no matter how hard you squint—remains more or less exactly the same as you grow older. It’s odd returning home after moving away for even a year, as it gives you a fresh perspective on it for the first time in your life (if nothing else, everything suddenly looks so small), while if you stick around the area for too long you may find an alternate route toward these realizations of how things really are as compared to how you perceived them growing up.
All that said, you can’t help but feel like the title of One Step Closer’s raging debut album This Place You Know is just a little tongue-in-cheek. When vocalist Ryan Savitski belts out lyrics shaded by traumatic experiences tied to this locale—in his band’s case, Wilkes-Barre in Eastern Pennsylvania—over the course of the album, about struggling to free himself from the only home he’s ever known, his frustrations seem more than a little evident, if not in the lyrics then in his throat-shredding delivery on par with the oddly stacked list of hardcore heavyweights who tore up Wilkes-Barre before OSC.
With the group’s album out today on Run for Cover, Savitski took the time to walk us through the project track by track. “This record was written in a dark part of my bandmates’ and I’s lives, and carries an emotional weight to it,” he shares. “The lyrical meanings to these songs are the way I perceive them, but I want people to perceive and connect with them in their own ways. So take these lyrics and create your own meaning behind them.”
Stream the project below, and read on for his comments.
1. “I Feel So”
This song describes the feeling of being heartbroken over a relationship and not knowing where you belong anymore. At the time I felt very disconnected from my home and even myself, so this song was that feeling in the most straightforward projection. I really wanted this song to be a short track that was extremely driving, but have a really big ending. This song has some of my favorite lyrics on the record.
2. “Lead to Gray”
This was one of those songs that captures our ties to Wilkes-Barre, PA pretty perfectly. I wrote the lyrics at a time when I was feeling trapped with no one but myself to blame for it. As much as I wanted to leave, I could never bring myself to. It’s strange how some places have that effect on you. This was the first song I ever tried doing clean vocals on, and I think this kind of set the course for the sound of the record.
3. “Leave Me Behind”
I remember writing the lyrics to this song on the way home from a show in Syracuse. I got some bad news that night about my grandmother and I just needed to get my thoughts down on paper. The lyrics are about the gradual decline of my grandmother’s life through her fight with cancer. It was very emotionally taxing time for my family and I—you can really feel that in this track.
4. “Home for the Night”
A song about touring a lot and having to come back to somewhere that just felt so awful to be at. With everything going on at the time, I wanted to be anywhere but Wilkes-Barre. We were touring a lot, and once it was taken away from us I realized how much I needed it. The ending half of this track is one of the coolest parts of the record, in my opinion.
5. “Pringle Street”
To sum this one up easily, it’s a quarantine song. I wrote this about my hour-long phone calls with our guitar player Grady. We would just complain about life and how we weren’t able to do anything. I was really missing my friends and normal life. We all thought this would be the perfect single to lead with because people can relate to it.
I wrote the lyrics about the day my grandmother passed away and the feelings I had that day. There were a lot of individual moments in time that I could see so vividly that day, and it was haunting me. I was absolutely broken. I had the whole song already written on guitar and originally it wasn’t going to have any vocals on it. The day before her funeral, I decided I needed to put lyrics over this song. No matter how it turned out, I just felt like I needed to do it. I recorded the vocals to this track in my grandmother’s basement, and I think it made everything come full circle. This song means the world to me, and it’s something that I’m very proud of.
7. “Time Spent, Too Long”
We only refer to this song as “Tommy’s Song.” Our drummer Tommy had this really great guitar riff for so long and we finally put it together into something. When I was writing lyrics for this, I realized that sometimes you need to experience hardship and grief in order to grow. It was something that people always said, and it took me a while to understand—but one day it made sense, finally. I love this song.
The fall is always a bad time of the year for me. This one’s pretty much just about seasonal depression and how it has affected me the past three years. I’ve had a lot of bad luck around that time of the year, and it seems to just carry through every year.
This is another one of my favorites on the record. I wrote the lyrics about finally being able to say goodbye and move on from bad memories. This song made me feel like I was almost starting anew again. The name comes from a flower that you give people when they’re grieving, so when we did the music video for it we kind of based it around that. This song hits very hard for me, and it has my favorite vocal performances on the record.
10. “As the City Sleeps”
This is a song about the opioid addiction in our area. Although OSC is a straightedge band, we’ve never written a “straightedge” track. This is my own version of a straightedge song. As soon as we got done writing it we knew it had to be the closing track for the record. It features one of my best friends that I’ve met through playing music, Russell from Magnitude. Having him on the track makes it even more special for me.