After the tour cycle concluded in support of Sunlit Youth, the musicians decided to go back to square one in 2018. Rather than separately write, track, and contribute parts via email, they congregated in person at Shawn’s studio and warehouse, rekindling their chemistry and nodding to a tried-and-true tactic employed at the start of their career. “Writing and touring Sunlit Youth was pretty tumultuous for a lot of reasons,” admits Ryan. “We needed to come home and figure out how we relate to each other again. We talked about our relationships very candidly. Making new music together was a reset and a way to feel grounded in all the chaos around us.
That brings us to the album’s key question of “What keeps us grounded?” It comes to life in the swooning delivery, shimmering keys, and airy strumming of “Café Amarillo,” which speaks directly to the central theme of VIOLET STREET. “With all of the chaos in the world, where do you find your shelter?” asks Kelcey. “For me, it’s the shelter I share with my wife when we’re together. It’s our love.”
“Lyrically, the one thread between all ten tracks is shelter,” Taylor elaborates. “Of course, we have relationships with our significant others, but we also find shelter in community, friendships, and the band. They are at the heart of VIOLET STREET.”
Sonically, shelter assumes many different forms. Powered by a healthy helping of slide guitar courtesy of Ryan, “Someday Now” channels the energy of “a haunted Hawaiian film noir party.” Then, there’s “Shy,” which swings from “swampy jungle” drums into a danceable groove punctuated by a “wild Tusk-inspired horn section like a Marching band freaking out.” Threepart harmonies take flight on “Garden of Elysian,” while the finale “Tap Dancer” culminates on resounding piano waltzing towards a heavenly and hypnotic send- off punctuated by otherworldly voice transmissions. Lyrically, “It’s about tapping into those pure feelings and emotions, before the noise of the world distracts you,” says Ryan. “You’re getting back to a simpler place and having perspective and childlike joy.”
With Shawn as the “total genius mad scientist” at the helm, the musicians pushed themselves to refine their vision like never before. Widening the sonic palette, they played a series of avant garde and classic films in the background to draw inspiration, choosing ranging from Kurosawa samurai films, Drive, and Citizen Kane to Endless Summer and the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky. As a result, “it elevated the songwriting,” according to Kelcey. Ryan laughs, “We took some pages from the Brian Eno playbook”.
The music evokes an expansive scope introduced by the lush guitars, iridescent harmonies, and paranoiac pop vocals of the single “When Am I Gonna Lose You.”
“I got married last year, and ‘When Am I Gonna Lose You’ is the zig zagging, arduous journey for me to get there,” says Taylor. “I found myself in an amazing relationship, but I always felt like it was going to go away, fall apart, and crumble. A never-ending looping feeling in the back of my head that things can’t last, and the final leap it takes to get past that. It’s set in Big Sur on the coast, which was an important part of our story. I’m diving into murky emotions of anxiety and doubt in the middle of love and joy.”