Brad, Amir, and Tynan are long-time friends and bandmates who have put their heads together on many creative projects, including Houses & Hotels. Their first professional album “Never Knows Best”, delves into the topics of unrequited love and mental health. They descend into raw emotion and the feelings of alienation that come with being in regrettable relationships; this emotional exploration is paired with a jamming post-punk/the aughts/shoegaze instrumental backdrop.
The members of this band are experts at the art of leaving space within the song. The points in which they choose to insert a musical comma are spot-on. They’ll leave you leaning forward, holding onto the steering wheel, asking “what’s next?. This 40-minute-long album will take you down love’s memory lane, no matter your age.
“I wrote Never Knows Best during a period of my life where I struggled with loneliness, unrequited love, and mental illness. Channeling this angst, I was really able to find my voice as a songwriter, and as a band, we created an album that I am truly proud of. Harkening back to 90’s shoegaze and pop-rock from the aughts, we created a collection of songs that are fun to listen to, but also have an emotional honesty that we hope will resonate with music listeners everywhere”
The first track launches off with echoey low guitar and a clattering drumset.“Shallow Ground” would easily fit into your favorite playlist, or in an epic moment in a dystopian film. Once we get to the end of this one, it’s almost as if the band Muse met the All American Rejects in the most monumental way. As we continue into the next tune, “End of the World” we hear lyrics that speak of fear and caged wolves. This one has gorgeous harmony stacks, paired with guitars with lots of drive and clean, pop-punk style drums. There is this wonderful contrast between clean vocals and spacious feeling instrumentation – thick guitars and vocal harmonies are stacked up like a crepe cake of sound. The very end of this song has near-classical composition, with the lead guitar going in an ascending scale pattern, and shocking us with a pleasant plagal cadence at the end.
The 3rd and 4th tracks, “Driver” and “Deranged” are imbued with more fast-paced energy. You’ll immediately start dancing a little when “Driver” comes on. At this point, we finally get a kind of love song, with the intimate words “I watch you put your hair behind your ear
I am the driver of this car.” Once we land at the bridge, we are given the sense that there’s trouble in paradise: “These days I won’t complain, I’ll take what I can get, can get, can get.” The closing section has impressively high vocal harmonies. It ends unresolved, setting us up for “Deranged”, which offers dynamic contrast to the more lighthearted “Driver”.This song speaks of waiting, hearts beating, and waiting: “Make a move, Want me to?”. This track is extremely consonant, but has such a punchy heaviness to it that it makes us feel disquieted. “Deranged” is relatable. After all, who hasn’t asked themselves “Am I deranged?” at some point in their love life?
By the time we get to “No Desire” we hear of unrequited love, but also about simply being done with it all. The dreary mantra, “I’m tired, no desire, I’m tired, no desire,” is woven in throughout the music. This song has an interesting change of heart towards the end of the tune, as we hear a stark lyrical and major to minor chordal shift. We get a sliver of hope before diving back into a chorus of despair. “Panic Attack” is heavy on the low end. The angst really gets cranked here, with chuggy bass and heavy drums. Everything seems to finally be catching up to the main character as he laments ‘There’s nothing left to lose now”. “Nodding Off” keeps the thread of dark energy going strong; “Nodding Off” is the feeling of dissociation sonically channeled.
The title track “Never Knows Best” has an extended instrumental intro that keeps us on our toes. This sprawling 7-minute track is a journey in and of itself. Rather than lamenting over a person, the character now wishes to be alone…That is, until the bridge, when most of the instruments drop out and our narrator speaks of a lover running to someone else’s arms. instead. The LP closes with “Honey”, a song that is assuring us that it’s alright. However, the tone of this one also gives us the sense that it’s bittersweet, and near-apologetic.
Overall, this is a stunning album with multi-genre influences. It speaks the truth of how convoluted love and entanglement can be. Love is a right of passage and Houses and Hotels takes on the voyage with the utmost artistry.
After much experience playing around Northeast Ohio, Houses & Hotels are finally planning their first national tour for this year.
Houses and Hotels: Q&A
What was it like working with Jim Wirt on this album? Did he do anything production-wise that surprised you?
It was really great working with Jim Wirt! Not only was he super funny but he was really supportive and took the time to make our album the best it could be. I learned so much from working with him about making a really great sounding guitar track and tone.
What is the meaning behind the title, “Never Knows Best”? Do you feel this version of you never knows what’s best for himself?
You nailed it on the head! The themes of the album are centered on my personal struggles with self-worth, mental illness, and getting caught in cycles of making poor decisions. It’s also a reference to “FLCL” which resonated with me a lot while growing up as a kid watching Adult Swim.
You say that you all have been friends for a long time. What’s the funniest story or inside joke that has formed from your time making music together?
We used to write joke songs and record them when we were in high school. One particular track that’s remained a well-loved inside joke was called, “Sasquatch”. It was a head banger detailing how Sasquatch is not a myth and featured 80’s hair metal screams. So we like to reference it by screaming “Sasquatch” at the top of our lungs.
Your song “Driver” feels like a love song when compared to the other tracks. What story inspired this one in particular?
The song was inspired by a few times I was with hanging out with someone who I had strong feelings for and was giving me mixed signals. I took the imagery of us driving around and tried to create that bittersweet nostalgic feeling that I was experiencing at the time.
You say that these songs are based on real-life experiences you have had. Were these events in the recent, or distant past?
A lot of these songs draw from somewhat heavy experiences from the past ten years. I wrote a lot about my mental health, unrequited love and losing people to the opioid epidemic.
What location are you most looking forward to playing in your nation tour and why?
I’m looking forward to playing some other Midwest cities that I haven’t played before like Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. I hear Chicago’s music scene is great in particular.
Images by Devon Keller.