Sometimes, the best artists hide a lot of themselves in order to create something universal. It’s easier to be honest with strangers every once and a while. By maintaining anonymity, Columbus City’s Superdestroyer is able to create music about the human condition that feels unhindered by a creator’s persona. All we know of Superdestroyer is the music, and what’s here on this newest record GOON should endear this artist to us forever.
Superdestroyer, like many of the other post-genre artists on Lonely Ghost Records, writes music that lends itself to the sound of the moment. Last year’s Things Are Made of Things and Those Things Are Made of More Things and Such Joy channeled chiptune and spacey electro-punk, respectively, into fluid and hard-hitting rock music. Earlier this year he dropped In Your Loneliness Your Holiness, a psychedelic amalgamation of downtempo and pop punk, and now he’s made something new again.
GOON is not only a collection of songs, but it’s the story of a family beach vacation gone wrong. The artist described the narrative of this album by saying, “It’s meant to capture the implosion of the family unit . . . I wanted the album to sound like sitting on a cosmic beach at night while reality crumbles around you–I wanted it to be surreal.” While Superdestroyer’s music may be all over the place, GOON is most definitely surreal. Synthesizers mimic the ocean waves. Grungy guitars give way to drum machines and spoken-word soliloquies. As Superdestroyer jolts listeners in and out of genres, every song feels distinct and yet adding to the entire picture. “Death Mask,” featuring Father of the Year and Oldphone, features spastic drums and beautiful vocal melodies tied together with these gorgeous, noodley guitar leads. “FKA Still Chill” moves from giant, stabbing guitar chords to chill, twinkly guitar breaks as if it were second nature. Superdestroyer manages to combine lyrical elements with musical exploration to create an engaging, emotional roller coaster of a record.
In “I Will Die Right Here On This Beach,” Superdestroyer sings, “Blood is thicker than water.” A friend reminded me that “our bonds are complex,” and never has that felt more true than on this record. Superdestroyer channels the complexities of family and human experience into a genre-defying collection of songs with GOON. After your first listen, you’ll have to get your sea-legs adjusted to solid ground again.
Stream GOON below, and stick around for an exclusive interview with the artist!
This record comes at a time where I am relearning how to relate to my immediate family, as I’m getting older and recent events have seen people choose different sides of issues. A family beach vacation gone awry feels like such a universal human experience. What prompted you to write about this?
It’s a mix of real life events and wanting to write something that isn’t so specific to my life that it becomes unrelatable. I grew up in an unconventional family and a lot of my immediate family is estranged. I see a lot of people in that same situation and they struggle with it. Media likes to create romantic portrayals of dysfunctional families and it’s always the same message– that Family is more important than anything. No matter how much you dislike each other, you should stay together–but the thing is, families break apart for good reasons.
They can be toxic and prohibitive and abusive. Sometimes it’s a good thing for those people to separate from each other and this album really explores that side of things. There’s this deep, complex emotional slush of guilt, shame, sadness, and failure that accompanies a family falling apart, but I think instead of treating the family unit as sacred, it should be looked at critically and realistically.
Sometimes you’re better off with the family you choose than the ones you’re born with. It’s ok to cut ties in some situations and it really comes down to how it makes you feel as an individual. I’m not saying people should dismantle their families over the normal squabbles, but sometimes ideologies, values, or experiences are so incompatible or awful it just isn’t possible. Sometimes you’re better off on your own. The beach trip felt like a great vehicle to discuss that.
Though the music sounds much different, the concept reminds me of Andy Shauf’s record The Party. Was there any particular inspiration for wanting to write and record a concept album?
I’ve wanted to write a concept album for a long time, though this probably only loosely fits the definition. There’s definitely a story in there, especially with the way that the songs are sequenced, but I probably don’t provide enough narrative connective tissue to call it that totally.
I wanted to keep the album open enough to interpretation that people could find an outlet about other relationships or experiences in their lives through these songs. So there’s a bit of a tradeoff where you’re getting these events and ideas that are connected, but you have to figure out how they’re connected for you. I also have a collaborative photo series with Lonny Starsky (Acid Flashback at Nightmare Beach) and I’m using those photos as covers for each song on the album that further add to the story.
Regarding the topic itself, I’ve been working through these things in my own life and felt like I wanted to do that out through the writing process and sometimes that’s easier through a narrative.
Was it a challenge to try to mimic the feel of the ocean on this record? It comes across so naturally.
Thank you! I grew up near water and I think it’s just built into my DNA. I’ve always been inspired by it. Water is simultaneously serene and aggressive, which is something I think I try to capture in my own sound. It’s also just really cool sounding. Growing up near a great lake, the summers were filled with going to the beach, swimming in the lake with friends, sneaking onto private beaches to have little hangouts next to beach fires, but then you also knew people who died in those same waters every year. It’s sort of this humbling aspect of your life where you’re constantly face-to-face with something so incomprehensibly powerful.
It’s literally the water you drink from your faucet. You need it to live. You learn to respect it and become comforted by it, and it’s a constant reminder that you aren’t as significant as you think you are. You aren’t in control. To me, that’s a comforting thought. I’m not that important in the grand scheme of things, and that’s sort of liberating. It can inspire a lot of different emotions and the literal fluidity of it fits well with the way I like to compose and structure songs.
You got to work with some cool artists on this album. I’ve known Gregory from Oldphone for a long time. I really love Hey, ILY, and so it’s awesome to hear Caleb on another artist’s record. What was it like to bring different people into your artistic process? Did you have parts written with people in mind, or were they open to explore the song and come up with something on their own?
I loved bringing more people into the process. There’s so much talent in this scene and having them involved just makes better songs. Like Caleb and Analogue Heart both totally change the energy of the songs with their vocals. Some of the features I planned for, like with Blake doing the verse on FKA. I basically got the idea for the verse from listening to New You last October so I knew his voice was exactly the sound I wanted. In other instances, I just knew I needed some outside help to bring it together.
For example, Gregory from oldphone is an amazing guitarist, and Death Mask has always needed a fleshed out guitar part, so it just made sense to ask them. Shane (Father of the Year) co-owns lonely ghost with me and we wrote the rest of that song together. I swap demos w the ppl featured on these songs so their input usually helps shape them one way or another anyways. As those relationships have evolved I find myself wanting them to take a bigger role. It’s way more fun that way. I hope people also check out the artists who collaborated with me on this album, they’re all making amazing music!
Thank you for listening to the album and for taking the time to talk about it. It means a lot!