Near death experiences can be pretty revealing. Mortality seeks out the truth in a person, so an EP based on such an experience as you may imagine will be pretty damn honest. Such is the case for Running Young and their EP We Are The Sons, an EP inspired by frontman Joel Famularo’s near death experience whilst undergoing open heart surgery, an operation that had less than a 3% chance of success.
Running Young craft a refreshingly honest EP with We Are the Sons, and how it’s hopeful nature was inspired by frontman Joel Famularo’s near death experience.
Despite the Wuthering Heights level of grimness themes found on We Are The Sons hope prevails! Does that mean Famularo is wearing a red and yellow S shield under his shirt? Who knows, but after you give this little five track a listen the fact becomes quite obvious. There are no sludgy, chugging guitars or moody, brooding synths. It’s clear skies as Famularo’s vocals take joyous flight. This is a man who cherishes his life and the lives around him. He could easily fall into the pit of wallowing in self pity, or worse, self congratulations and begin spouting juvenile YOLO-isms. Instead he seeks to be honest, and he uses this EP as the platform to let these revelations out. This is a man who has stared down the barrel and against all the odds has come out the other side still swinging.
On the themes of hope on We Are The Sons he told us “I think we can all agree that life can be really hard at times and as much as I would love to tell you that after having a near death experience everything makes sense thanks to a new perspective and nothing bothers you anymore, it just isn’t true. So ultimately what do you do? Do you focus on how hard life can be? Or do you look for things that inspire you and give you hope? I think most people agree that hope is the way to go and we here at Running Young are no different.”
So let’s get into the thick of it. The EP is a fairly simple affair, even by indie rock standards. Don’t read simple for lacking in quality. There isn’t any grand life affirming vision, just an honest look at a young man’s life and his assessment of his life up to this point. Nothing we haven’t heard before sure, but context really gives the sentiment power. This isn’t just someone venting their frustrations or having a revelatory moment, it’s just a quiet reflection. A select few entries in a journal that we happen to hear set to some sunny melodies. That honesty translates into the music, which is so simple and shows you what the EP will sound like once played live.
Title track We Are The Sons is the highlight of the EP. There are plenty of pretty melodies, harmonies and arrangement strewn about on the EP but it all comes together on this track is brilliant. The way the guitars and vocals fade in and out intertwining with each other. The vocals may be a little hit or miss, but that pretty much comes down to the individual listener. To avoid coming across as a fence sitter and do my job properly as a reviewer the vocals are most effective when they are half crooned and taking the lead with gentle melodies. It’s when Famularo begins to get a bit, shall we say, yell-ier, the vocals become at odds with the cute melody they were once leading, particularly on opener Did You See. Conceptually it works given the raw nature, but it can be a little disarming at times.
The harmonies used throughout the EP play a big part in it’s success. Recorded in Famularo’s home studio, the harmony parts were thoroughly worked on and refined to arrive at the point they are now. On the recording process for the vocals the band revealed “Joel actually writes and records all the music and vocals at step 1 and then gets everyone in to re-record their vocal parts once the song is ready to be released or performed live. Because the vocals are usually quite tricky and complex, it’s a great time to get everyone together to go through all the vocal parts while making sure they are perfect for the recording. At the end of it, everyone really knows their particular vocal harmony back to front, making it able to be recreated live“.
There are plenty of “Oooh-oohing” going on in each track, but not so much that it becomes distracting from this confessional narrative. That live element is once again prominently featured. The closing gem on the EP Out of Time is a tender, quiet moment that wraps up We Are The Sons quite well. “I know the world keeps spinning/ But I’ll take my time with you” sings Famularo, this aforementioned “Ooooh-ooh’s” coming into their own here. It’s a gentle embrace of a song, a promise to be loving and caring in the face of a world that will continuously throw bad shit in your direction. It’s a fitting way to cap off the EP.
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