A Game of Darts With Ceramic Animal

By Rhiannon Levengood
Photos by Rachel Meyers

A group of four men dressed in matching wine-colored, three-piece suits may seem like they’re the lost part of a wedding party to you, and usually you’d be correct. Even the immaculately slicked-back hairstyle would fool you. However Warren, Elliott, Erik, and Dallas actually make up an alternative pop band called Ceramic Animal.

Their carbon-copy fashion is not the only thing that catches the attention of their new fans because their sound is equally as, if not even more enticing. With their first single “So Familiar” from their upcoming sophomore album, Ceramic Animal brings forth a psychedelic vibe to take us on a trip back to the late 60s. The track is innovative and surreal, slow and relaxing, and extremely difficult to compare to any specific artist, which makes Ceramic Animal truly a distinctive band. The lyrics explain the familiar feeling of falling in love with someone for the first time, and how welcoming that feeling is. But this is all only a taste of what’s to come, which the group‒in very few words‒hints at their next record being unlike anything they’ve done before.

Luckily, I had the chance to speak one-on-one with these guys during an experimental interview. They showed me their darts skills while giving me an inside look at their goofy personalities and at their lives as up and coming musicians.

Please introduce the other band members and describe them in a single word.
Dallas: That’s Warren, that’s Elliott, and that’s Erik. And handsome, handsome, and handsome.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
Elliott: The wilderness. I listen to exclusively Celtic music. That’s it. Celtic music and Ceramic Animal to pad the stats on Spotify. I don’t need anything else. But inspiration? I pull that from my brothers. My friends. See, it’s really important to write good songs. To be inspired to write good songs. But getting the inspiration to keep on truckin? Woo boy, that’s the important thing. That comes from family, from fans, from friends, and from each other.

What are you most proud of in regards to Ceramic Animal?
Rik: Just a couple weeks ago we found out we got an official showcase at SXSW‒a week later we were featured as “Artist of the Day”. Totally out of the blue, but something we have had our eye on for a while‒and are thrilled to be a part of.

What have you discovered about yourself since joining Ceramic Animal?
Rik: Writing stuff down is powerful. Frequently when we are together we write things down that we want to do or accomplish. Some big things, some small things, but at the time it can feel intimidating‒you don’t know how you’ll be able to get all that done. It’s crazy to come across past lists we’ve made and see that we did everything on them. Luckily we keep making new lists.

Elliott: You look back on these once-daunting goals and you’re like…”really? That was keeping us up at night? We crushed that.” It’s like going to watch your younger brother play rec league intramural basketball when you’re 12 and he’s 9… You’re watching some real cracker jack athleticism. It’s bad ball. As a 12 year old, there’d be no contest for you out there. But when you’re 9 and in the moment, it’s scary. You don’t have the context. Gotta keep pushing.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Warren: No one is going to do it for you, and you shouldn’t want them to anyway.
Elliott: Right, because no one really knows what they’re doing. There’s a good Steve Jobs quote about how the frameworks that are set in stone for how all of us live our lives were created by people that weren’t any smarter than we are…I’d Google it. It’s a real barrier breaker.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see the band?
Elliott: At some point I’ll probably sell out, cash it all in, and start a puppy farm.
Rik: I see what is going on in automation, and it’s thrilling. I’m hoping to save up enough money and invest in some sort of high-tech “Key-Machine” or “Board-Bot” to take over for Elliott. That way he can chase down that puppy farm dream he is always talking about.

What is a typical day like for you?
Elliott: I wake up around 6 without an alarm. I make the bed. Then I drink at least 16 oz of room temp water. Sometimes I throw a pinch of Himalayan salt and a squirt of lime in there‒early morning for me is all about the alkalinity; flush the body, get the system lubricated. If you’re having a tough day, then you’re just not hydrated. Sometimes I’ll have some coffee with some butter, but not until close to 9. I love taking my time in the morning‒that’s what they’re for. I’ll look at the band email, check some social media accounts‒see if there’s anything we can respond to. I don’t eat breakfast until 12 or 1. I’ll get some kind of physical activity in. The band gets together sometime late afternoon. We let it rip until about 9 pm. Whatever we need to do‒rehearse, record, rehash. If we know people playing that night we’ll snake some big delicious beers and bop out for some live music. The rest is private.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your musical career so far?
Dallas: Gettin’ that paper.

How did you get into music?
Elliott: I was pressured into it by my parents and brothers.
Rik: I took up the snare drum in 4th grade because my friend said, “drummers get chicks” [It] took a few month to realize this rule for whatever reason didn’t really apply if you are only playing a snare drum‒but I had just bought a 12 pack of sticks so I kept with it.
Dallas: My dad is a guitar player. He is the one that really got me into it. I play bass and my twin brother is a drummer, we have played together most of our lives. We have been in bands together off and on, too. I actually met these guys while I was playing in one of those bands.

What instruments can you play?
Dallas: Bass, Guitar, Keys, some drums and hand percussion. I can get by on a lot of things after just playing around for a bit.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your musical career so far?
Warren: Hearing from people who find our music, and how it impacts them positively. When we hear that something we made has helped someone get through a tough time, or it’s a song they share with someone they care about, it’s an awesome feeling.

Besides the release of your second record and mini summer tour, what are you looking forward to most this year?
Elliott: SXSW‒that’s gonna’ be a good time. I’m excited to see what this year brings. Every day there’s some kind of nugget worth appreciating. Want to make sure I’m staying in the moment.

What’s the earliest memory involving music that you can remember?
Warren: An early memory involving music for me that got me to start playing guitar was watching a Led Zeppelin live DVD that I got as a gift when I was 10 or 11. It might have just been called “Led Zeppelin DVD” or something generic like that but it had a few shows from different venues they played through the years‒all of which were pretty incredible.

Where is your favorite venue?
Dallas: To see a show in Philly, World Cafe Live, Johnny Brenda’s, and Union Transfer are great spots.

How would you describe your next album in 5 words?
Warren: Three words: Cowboy Sneaker Boot.

Would you change anything about your journey so far?
Elliott: Nope. Wouldn’t even consider it. If things didn’t go the way they went, we wouldn’t be where we are now. I love where we are right now…I loving knowing what I know. I appreciate the mistakes we’ve made‒and I’m glad we made them. I also appreciate the things we (sometimes accidentally) got right. The grass is only greener on the other side if you aren’t cultivating your own yard. You never know what (or how) decisions will impact your trajectory down the road. If you don’t learn to be happy where you are now, nothing can change that for you, not permanently.

How do you deal with a creative block?
Warren: Gotta power through. Power through the tough days and take advantage of the easy ones.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Rik: Don’t expect anyone to do it for you. Create as much of your own opportunity as you can. When people are willing to genuinely help you along the way, it is a wonderful thing, cherish those people. We have been lucky to run into some people like that, but you can’t rely on it as the rule. Learn to enjoy figuring out stuff on your own, surround yourself with good people. Have some fun.

What is your dream venue to play?
Warren: A sold out Wembley always looks pretty fun. I’ve never been to Red Rocks but it is supposed to be great, so playing it would be a great excuse to go.

What’s an instrument you’d like to learn?
Dallas: Trumpet.

Waffles or pancakes?
Warren: Ahh this question always has me wafflin’.

Who is your most played artist on Spotify?
Rik: T. Rex or The Kinks

Which artist would you most like to tour with, dead or alive?
Dallas: Otis Redding or Queens of the Stone Age

What is on your tour rider?
Warren: Baby wipes
Elliott: Hair Tonic
Rik: Saltwater Taffy
Dallas: Mayonnaise

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
Rik: Don’t worry so much‒take action quickly rather than delaying.

What would your spirit animal be?
Rik: Dolphin.

What was the last tv show you binge-watched?
Elliott: One Punch Man
Rik: The End of the F****ing World on Netflix

How do you take your coffee?
Warren: Black
Elliott: Scoop uh’ butta’, scoop uh’ coconut oil
Rik: Black, sometimes a splash of cream.
Dallas: Wawa 12-ouncer

What’s your go-to drink?
Elliott: My sleeper choice is an ice cold can of Hamm’s Special Light Beer.
Rik: Magic Hat #9

Favorite sweet?
Rik: Tootsies and Necco Wafers

If you were stranded on a deserted island, which fast food place would you crave the most?

Favorite kind of pizza?
Elliott: Momma’s homemade pizza pie‒made from scratch

If you missed their last show in Philadelphia, PA, you can catch their next show on May 17 at Union Transfer with Low Cut Connie. Tickets available here.

Fall Out Boy’s “M A N I A” Proves That Music Is A Universal Language

By Rhiannon Levengood

I write a lot about music because music is what has shaped me into who I am today, and who I’ll be tomorrow, and a year from now. I grew up with music always playing in my home, and if my mother wasn’t blasting Fleetwood Mac with the living room windows wide open for the entire neighborhood to hear, I was screeching my way through a new piece on the violin accompanied by my sister on a Yamaha keyboard. She was my musical accomplice. As kids, we raced through chore lists by listening to *NSYNC and the Spice Girls; bonded over lyrics by Demi Lovato as we grew older; and in October 2016 when we drove from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Atlanta, Georgia and back, music was what kept us sane for 120 miles down I-95.

Music doesn’t stop there, though. It brings my sister and I closer together when we send one another YouTube videos of songs we want the other to hear, but it also brings together a world of people of all ages, nationalities, and identities. It unites us all in one way or another, reminds us we’re not the only ones struggling, gives us a sense of hope and certainty in each other, and if we’re lucky, brings us friendships that’ll last a lifetime.

Just last week, one of my favorite bands released their 7th studio album entitled M A N I A. Fall Out Boy has been around for over a decade defining the teenage years of millennials with their songs of angst, anguish, depression, love, hatred, heartbreak, apathy, and even joy. They have feel good songs, party songs, teenage anthems, and songs like “Uma Thurman” that might have a deeper meaning, but we really don’t know. Their songs fall on a spectrum of emotions, swinging from one extreme to another. And that’s what makes them so great. If you don’t find at least one of their songs relatable, are you even human?

I took to Twitter and a Facebook to find out exactly what M A N I A means to Fall Out Boy’s fans from all over the globe, and I’m here to report that music really does unify us. So, buckle your seatbelts, because we’re about to veer headfirst into a lane full of emo kids.

“Young and Menace” was the very first single to come out of M A N I A, and it truly set a tone for the upcoming record. It’s very different from the rest of the album, though, which I’m sure came as a surprise for fans. The song itself is extremely experimental and dabbles with a dubstep vibe that not many fans took a liking to. I actually really enjoy the song. My favorite lyric comes from the bridge: “I’m just here flying off the deep end. I’m just here to become the best yet.”

As a person that struggles with depression and anxiety, this lyric is actually really comforting for me because every single day is just trial and error until I figure it out, slowly morphing myself into a better person.

“I like ‘Young and Menace’, but what I love is the music video. I love how it tells a story like all Fall Out Boy videos do but I feel like it just has a much deeper meaning.”
‒ @spookxy_, 14, female, USA

‘We’ve gone way too fast for way too long and we were never supposed to make it quite this far.’ This is my favorite song from M A N I A. I have bipolar disorder, like Pete, and when I was younger I spent a lot of time suicidal and just generally depressed. And now when things get bad I just think, ‘wow, I never thought I’d make it this far and do this much with my life and still be alive.’ And sometimes I don’t really know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but this song makes me feel like it’s a good thing.”
‒ Anonymous, 24, female, USA

As M A N I A’s second single, “Champion” really became an anthem for anyone that identified as a person who was fighting life and coming out alive and on top daily. While I can easily relate it to my own battles, they are so miniscule compared to the battles I see others fight. The real champions in my life are the patients who come into my office, accept their cancer diagnoses, show up for their chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and fight tooth and nail for their lives. My champions are my friends that struggle with suicidal ideations, but never give in to them. They’re my parents that live paycheck to paycheck, but still keep a smile on their faces. Every human on this planet is a champion, and I truly believe that’s what this song represents.

“If I can live through this, I can do anything.”

“I dag gik jeg omkring seks måneder tilbage i min Instagram-feed og fandt et billede med den linje som caption. Jeg kan tydeligt huske at jeg tænkte ‘er det her for mørkt? Jeg elsker teksten, men jeg er så glad for tiden så det er måske lidt dramatisk.’ Det viste sig at være dage før hvad der skulle blive mit livs hårdeste semester startede og få måneder senere blev jeg kastet hovedkulds ud i en depressiv episode. Jeg brugte primært konstant selskab og musik for at holde mig ovenvande, og selvom det var helvede blev jeg hevet igennem nogenlunde sikkert. Denne weekend kørte jeg bil med min mor da sangen begyndte at spille, og det ramte mig virkelig hvor meget jeg pludselig fik brug for den sang. Det er bare hvad Fall out boy gør.”  (1)
‒ @_idahelene, 21, female, Denmark

“Dieser Satz hilft mir sehr und ermutigt mich.” (2)
‒ Anonymous, 15, female, Germany

“Well, I really just like this line overall. If you’re going through a hard time and you get through that, then you can get through anything. That’s what that line means to me.”
‒ @little_irish_po, 14, female, Ireland

“I was in a really bad headspace when they released this song. I won’t get too into it, but I was at a really low point‒lower than I’d been in years. I felt horrible and this song made me feel okay. I don’t want to be so dramatic as to say it saved my life, but it helped me get through things much better than I would have without it. Now I come back to it on bad days and it practically solves all my problems. I’m so thankful for this song.”
‒ @peteatspacecamp, 15, non-binary, USA

“A week before this song came out, I hit rock bottom. These lyrics especially were a beacon of hope and a reminder that good things were to come. That meant a lot from the band I look up to most.”
‒ @nychoodie, 17, female, USA

“Jag antar att det är flera andra som kan relatera till detta. Jag har haft problem med min mentala hälsa sedan jag var nästan 13 (jag fyller 18 i år) och de senaste 2,5 åren har varit riktigt jobbiga. Det har varit många gånger jag varit säker på att jag inte skulle se morgondagen, men ändå är jag fortfarande här på något sätt här och berättar detta för dig. Jag har inte kommit över det än, inte ens i närheten, och jag har fortfarande mina dåliga perioder men det går framåt. FOB har varit där för mig sedan jag var 14 och just denna låt har blivit väldigt viktig för mig, och jag lyssnar på den varje gång jag känner att jag är vilse eller att jag ska ge upp.” (3)
‒ @PENlSWlSE, 17, transgender male, Sweden

“It shows that no matter what you’re going through and no matter what hard times you’re facing or will face, you WILL get through it. It’s a reminder that tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
‒ Ashley P, 21, female, USA

“I know the song is probably not really about this, but I’ve been struggling with depression pretty much my whole life and lately it’s been much worse. It’s been so bad that I’ve quit my job, considered dropping out of college, and haven’t done much of anything for 2 or 3 months. One particularly day in the car ‘Champion’ started playing. I just broke down crying. It just made me feel better, made me feel like I really can make it through this.”
‒ Erica W, 21, female, USA

“Aquest és el meu tros preferit de cançó de tot l’àlbum. Pot ser molt estàndard, però em dona ànims quan em trobo alguna dificultat. Em recorda com vaig sortir d’una relació abusiva i com he anat lluitant contra una depressió.” (4)
‒ Laia I, 25, female, Spain

“It helped me rediscover the confidence in myself that I lost in high school. This will be my first tattoo.”
‒ Emma C, 24, female, USA

“My 12 year old son had brain surgery for his refractory epilepsy in November. We played ‘Champion’ pretty much nonstop while in the hospital because he is my champion and because he is the bravest person I know. The line “if I can live through this, I can do anything” doesn’t mean that if you can live through hard things it makes you stronger‒it means that once you’ve lived through the hardest most stressful situations, everything else seems like nothing. It makes you resilient.”
‒ Amber B, 42, female, USA

Two lyrics from “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” stick out to me immediately. The first is the most hilarious one on the entire record: “I’m about to go Tonya Harding on the whole world’s knee.” I have jokingly (and seriously) claimed this lyric as mine just because of my recent knee injury resulting in me having to stand on one leg and crutches at the last Fall Out Boy concert I attended.

This line directly relates to the second lyric: “The only thing that’s ever stopping me is me.” The lyric is blunt, but incredibly true. Every single person has the potential to become their greatest, and the only thing stopping you from achieving your dreams is yourself. Not Nancy Kerrigan. And even when it seems like it, the world and fate aren’t stopping you either.

‘The only thing that’s ever stopping me is me,’ because the song just means a lot to me overall. The lyrics are really empowering.”
‒ @heartcolleenb, 19, female, USA

‘Eau de résistance.’ It makes me feel like just taking life head on.”
‒Kayla M, 26, female, USA

‘The only thing that’s ever stopping me is me, I testify if I die in my sleep –Then know that my life was just a killer dream.’
I love that it says that my happiness is up to me and I need to live the best life I can so that I have no regrets.”
‒ Vicki S, 45, female, USA

This song is special to me because the band released it as a single on my birthday, but aside from that, it’s basically a song that directly compares being in love to being on drugs. Which isn’t a far-fetched comparison when you think about the chemical changes we undergo when influenced by love and drugs. To me, this song also feels like a break up song.

The lyric, “The distance between us, it sharpens me like a knife” literally contradicts the claim that distance makes the heart grow fonder. I never believed in that because when you lose touch with someone, you start to love them less and less until you forget about them. The oxytocin high you felt when you were head over heels in love eventually ends, and you come down from it and become smarter (or sharper) with your feelings.

I personally relate to the line, “We were lovers first. Confidants, but never friends. Were we ever friends?” My ex-boyfriend and I were set up by mutual friends, and as much as I adored him, we weren’t ever really friends. We skipped that part of our relationship, and dove right into the honeymoon romance stage. The rest of the song describes how I felt in the relationship and how I felt when we broke up.

’I took too many hits off this memory. I need to come down.’ My mind spends too much time lingering on a specific memory of someone instead of accepting the fact that some things just don’t work out. I know I need to stop, think, and move on but that is much more difficult than reliving the same series of memories with them over and over again. Up until I heard this moment, I was unable to put this into words and thought I was the only one.”
‒ Anonymous, 18, female, USA

This song is a love song that takes its couple to the very end of the world. The lyrics create a promise of eternal love and protection. I actually don’t really relate to this song, but I can definitely see how I would if I had someone to love this deeply, aside from the platonic relationships I have. I do, however, have a favorite lyric.

“I’m done with having dreams, the thing that I believe, you drain all the fear from me.”

“The lyrics along with the beat makes it a perfect song to jam out to or cry to.”
‒ @lovelyforestx, 17, female, USA

I think out of all ten tracks, I relate to “Wilson” the most because of its laissez-faire attitude on life. The words describe the narrator’s desire to just leave their current situation and start off fresh. There are aspects of heartbreak or loss, introvertedness, self-destructive tendencies, and simply a feeling of depression all wrapped up into one song and tied off with a black bow. My favorite lyric is, “and when I say, ‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ I wasn’t showing up at all. I really mean I didn’t plan on showing up at all.” Most days, it takes the promise of a nice cup of coffee to get me out of bed, so me showing up to anything, even work? Very relatable.

“I became such a strange shape from trying to fit in.”

“As someone who has been bullied for being ‘different’, this speaks to me. I relate so heavily to this lyric. I spent years trying to fit in with the crowd. It took a toll on my self esteem. I eventually learned that it’s okay to stand out, but trying to change for other people made me a new person.”
‒ @amanda_sheezy, 18, female, USA

“I’ve always been a bit of a loner/not accepted and for years, I tried to change myself to fit in, but it just wasn’t me and made me feel even more unhappy. Now I know that being me is so much more fun than changing myself for others!”
‒ @timetod4nce, 21, female, Wales

“Church” is definitely one of the band’s most beautiful love ballads. It compares the importance of the song’s love interest to that of religion, holding them as high, if not higher than a God that one may worship. Again, for me right now, this song doesn’t touch home as much as the others, but there is a single lyric that does. “I love the world, but I just don’t love the way it makes me feel,” is without a doubt exactly how I feel regarding the world we live in today. I’m so happy to be alive and part of this era, but there are some aspects that rub me the wrong way.

“I love the world, but I just don’t love the way it makes me feel.”

“I really love this lyric because it just reminds me I’m not the only one who has been torn down by the world and still somehow knows it isn’t the world’s fault and tries to treat it right, it’s just such a relatable lyric, ya know?”
‒ @heavennsgate, 15, female, USA

“’Sums up how I feel perfectly. With all the sadness in the world and all the horrible things going on, I’ve never felt more love for my fellow humans. I want to support and build up those who need it, but god does the world make me feel sad sometimes.”
‒ Hollie C, 28, female, UK

“Simply for the reason I’ve never really fit in with the ‘in crowd’ or have always seemed to be a bit different, but there are things in this world that I do love, but I don’t always feel great about like I haven’t gone down the conventional life path as yet. I’m 30 and still single without children and doing things on my own terms.”
‒ Sarah D, 30, female, UK

‘If death is the last appointment then we’re all just sitting in the waiting room.’ This lyric speaks volumes about how just living can sometimes feel overwhelming when we are all just steadily moving towards the end. It gives a perspective that I can deeply relate to on how I divide my time each day. Especially given the political climate here, and the childish contest of who’s more equipped to blow the world up.”
‒ Kayla S, 26, female, USA

The religious theme from “Church” carries over into “Heaven’s Gate”, which is the record’s best song in my opinion. It’s another love song that ties in the themes from not only “Church” but also “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” and “The Last Of The Real Ones.” I’ve seen many people declare it the song they’re going to dance to at their wedding, whenever that may be.

I think the most beautiful line from this song is, “And in the end, if I don’t make it on the list, would you sneak me a wristband?” In context, the wristband would get the narrator into Heaven, but for me, and I know for a lot of others, I relate it to getting into concerts. If the afterlife is anything like a concert, then I hope I get on the list, too.

“It’s not like what they usually do. It shows their diversity and how they can do many different types of music.”
‒ @lovelyforestx, 17, female, USA

“My favorite song is definitely ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ I think it’s not only because it’s just freaking beautiful, but also because of the intricate message. It’s like he’s telling someone he knows for sure they’re going to make it to Heaven, but he isn’t very confident in himself. I’ve always had a lot of trouble with comparing myself to other people and finding everything wrong with me versus everything good about them. The line ‘everything else is a substitute for your love’ just hits me right in the heart, because I’ve recently lost someone very close to me. It feels like everyone and everything is trying to compensate for the loss, but they just can’t.”
‒ @slrandomperson, 22, female, USA

“It feels a lot like a metaphor for asking help overcoming impossible challenges to be a better place (asking for a boost over heaven’s gate). This could be for the love of their life, like a lot of the lyrics suggest, or even for themselves. Patrick’s vocals in this are so raw and beautiful, I get chills. I specifically love ‘if there were any more left of me, I’d give it to you,’ because I feel like it continues this album’s theme of devotion and helplessness in the face of such a consuming love.”
‒ @sonflowors, 17, female, USA

’Out in the world, start over again, as many times as you can. And in the end if I don’t make it on the list, would you sneak me a wristband?’ Okay, so this entire song is just magic. The first verse is what drew me to the song the most. It made me feel happiness and love, such a strong love that seemed to surpass so many obstacles. Until that line I shared. Then I realized this song was about a lost love, a love that you want more than anything, a love that doesn’t seem to work out for you. The singer loves this person so much, and would give anything to be with them, even if it’s just for a fleeting second. The love of this person is paradise to the singer. They want to sneak into this paradise, they know they can’t stay, but they want to try. The singer loves the person so much, they are waiting for them, willing to drop everything to be with them. It seems no matter what the singer does, he will always be drawn to this love, and there is nothing that can give the singer what they need the way this person’s love can. I want to be loved in this way. It’s the reason I’m considering walking down the aisle to it.”
‒ Kayla D, 27, female, USA

’You’re the one habit I just can’t kick.’ This reminds me of my first love and when we broke up April 12, 2015, it just destroyed me on the inside and every time I wanted to just end it all, she would message me and she was somehow my drug that kept me going. Since then, all I’ve ever wanted was for her to just come back because she’s that one drug I want in my life forever.”
‒ Jakob A, 24, male, USA

“Motivál. Nem vicc, ez a dal egy segítség a mennyből. A segítség, ami kell napi szinten, hogy  haladni tudjak tovább. Patrick hangja valami teljesen más abban a dalban.” (5)
‒ Anonymous, 17, female, Hungary

For me, “Sunshine Riptide” is definitely not what I would have expected out of Fall Out Boy. It reminds me of Patrick Stump’s [frontman] solo album Soul Punk. It took me a few listens to finally like the song and even after a week, I still don’t know how I fully feel about it. I do know that Burna Boy’s verse transforms the song completely, taking it from just another atypical Fall Out Boy song and turning it into a summer jam you’d hear on the radio.

One lyric that stuck out to me is, “The world tried to burn all the mercy out of me, but you know I wouldn’t let it.” It just reminds me that I’m still human and I still have a heart, even after all the crap the world has put me through.

‘You say, ‘please don’t ever change’ but you don’t like the way I am.” Monesti olen kuullut ihmisiltä (enimmäkseen kavereilta ja ex-tyttöystävältä) että oon hyvä just tälläsenä ku oon mutta silti huomaan ettei ne pidä jostain piirteestä mussa tai asioista mitä teen. He eivät sitä kuitenkaan ole koskaan suoraan sanoneet joten tämä fobin lause kosketti syvältä.” (6)
‒ Anonymous, 21, female, Finland

‘The pills are kicking in.’ Four years ago, I overdosed. I still struggle with the aftermath today. Afterwards, I would constantly sneak pills when my mother wasn’t looking just to feel the same trance I felt at the hospital. It took forever to get over that. This lyric hits close to home. It’s a reminder of everything I’ve been through, and how music has continued to ground me.”
‒ @bishopsknifetrk, 19, female, USA

“It reminds me of summer. Burna Boy’s part on the song is also very enjoyable.”
‒ @expiredkinney, 18, non-binary, USA

M A N I A ends with a slower track that quickly became one of my favorites. ‘Bishops Knife Trick’ represents growth and healing, and adds a perfect conclusion to a record named for an ill mental state. The lyrics, “These are the last blues we’re ever gonna have” allude to an older Fall Out Boy song ‘Hum Hallelujah’, whose lyrics are, “I sing the blues and swallow them, too.” The whole idea of getting in a car and driving home, away from the blues and into the glow of the cities, proves that no matter what you’re going through, it always gets better. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

‘The glow of the cities below lead us back to the places that we never should have left.’ I just relate because even though I love to travel, I always have this special connection to Chicago and I know it’s my home and I belong here.”
‒ @heavennsgate, 15, female, USA

‘These are the last blues we’re ever gonna have.’ It just seems to promise that things will get better once you hit rock bottom.”
‒ @YngBloodRusher, 14, female, USA

“When I listen to this song, I’m just relaxed‒no rhyme or reason, it just makes me fuzzy inside.”
‒ @PATDKathleen, 19, female, USA

’Trying to get it all back, put it back together. As if the time had never passed.’ and ‘I can’t seem to get a grip, no matter how I live with it.’ I’ve struggled with severe situational depression for nearly three years now, and upon hearing this lyric…everything just sort of clicked in my brain. No matter how many different pills I’m put on, no matter what methods I’m taught to cope with… I can’t be happy where I am.”
‒ @myeighthwonder, 18, female, USA

‘I’m struggling to exist with you and without you.’ Ich leide an Depressionen und habe ziemlich Probleme mit Körpernähe, generell menschen, führe aber seit 3 Jahren eine Beziehung. Und ich habe Probleme meine Gefühle gegenüber meinem freund zu zeigen und es gibt oft Momente in denen ich alles hin werfen will und mich trennen will, aber gleichzeitig habe ich auch unglaubliche angst davor ihn zu verlieren und ohne ihn zu sein. Und genau dieses komische innere hin und her sind in dieser Zeile perfekt zusammen gefasst. Sie ist mir beim ersten hören direkt aufgefallen und hängt seit dem in meinem Kopf fest.” (7)
‒ @Pyromania_xx, 21, female, Germany

’I’m just a full tank away from freedom‒a spitfire.’ I’m one of those people who drives for miles and miles late at night when I can’t sleep. I’ll just drive for a couple hours, blasting music and trying not to think about my stressors. I picked up the habit from my dad. He’s also a night owl and has a passion for cars, especially British sport racing. He owns a Triumph Spitfire, a British two-seater convertible, that’s older than me. As soon as I heard that line with the word “spitfire,” I knew ‘Bishops Knife Trick’ was my song from M A N I A. The song also appeals to that feeling within me (‘a feeling that I can’t domesticate’) of needing to escape, of wanting to drive away from everything and start over. I love road trips because they let me indulge in that emotion for a few days. I feel like this album gets me. I get it, the band gets it. It’s so right. I can’t wait to take this album on the road with me, especially my road trips to see Fall Out Boy in September and October!”
‒ Alison G, 28, female, USA

Altogether, M A N I A feels exactly how it’s described. As we all listen, it feels like Fall Out Boy takes us into their personal whirlwinds of emotions and thoughts, and spits us back out at the end with a hint of hope. There is another lyric from “Hum Hallelujah” that I think flawlessly defines M A N I A as a whole and that’s, “And one day we’ll get nostalgic for disaster.”


  1. “Today I went back about six months in my Instagram feed and found a photo where I used the caption. I remember very clearly thinking back then “is this caption too dark? I love the lyric but I’m happy so maybe this is too dramatic”. Anyway that was days before what proved to be the toughest months of my life began and a few months later I was thrown headfirst into a depressive episode. I primarily used constant company and then music to cope with feeling like pure shit, and it has been hell but it pulled me through somewhat gracefully. I was driving with my mum this weekend when Champion started playing and man, it hit me hard how much I desperately came to need this song, and that’s the power of Fall out Boy, I guess.”
  2. “This sentence helps me a lot and encourages me.”
  3. “I guess that there are several other people who can really feel this as well. I have struggled with mental health related issues since I was 13 (I’m turning 18 this year) and the past 2.5 years have been very rough. There has been times when I have been sure of not seeing the next day, but somehow I still am here telling you this. I am not over it yet, not even close, and I still have my low periods but I am making progress. FOB has been there for me since I was 14 and this specific song has grown to be very important to me, and I do listen to the song in case I feel lost or like giving up.”
  4. “This is my favorite piece of song from the entire album. It can be very standard, but it gives me encouragement when I encounter any difficulty. It reminds me of how I got out of an abusive relationship and how I’ve been battling a depression.”
  5. “It keeps me going. No kidding, this song is like a help from heaven. The kind of help that I need on a daily basis to keep me going. Patrick’s voice is something else on that track.”
  6. “Many times I have heard from people (mostly from friends and ex-girlfriend) that I’m good just [how I am] but still I notice that they do not like some trait or the things I do. However, they have never directly said so this [lyric] touched me deeply.”
  7. “I suffer from depression and have a lot of physical problems, generally people, but have had a relationship for 3 years. And I’m having trouble showing my feelings to my boyfriend, and there are often moments when I want to throw everything away and split up, but at the same time, I’m incredibly scared to lose him and be without him. And it’s exactly this funny inner back and forth that are perfectly combined in this line. [This lyric] caught my eye the first time and has been stuck in my head ever since.”

Don’t Be “Too Late” to Listen to Parkwild

By Rhiannon Levengood

There are roughly 1,200 miles between New York City and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It would take a little over 18 hours to make the drive without breaks, and about $350 for a nonstop, three hour flight from LaGuardia to Minneapolis International. You could always take a train, and for $200 with Amtrak, you’d reach the other city in 28 hours. It’s a lot of planning, but if you’re anything like the tech-savvy Austin Zudeck and Justin Thunstrom, collaborating on music can happen over the internet. For them, there was simply a one hour time difference between their two cities, and an occasional visit to one another. Until now.

Together, Austin and Justin make up the alternative rock band PARKWILD, which is now based entirely in New York City. The two met at GRAMMY Camp LA in 2011 and after some back and forth collaborating in the months following their meeting, they realized that working together was actually inevitable. Fast forward six or so years and we have a duo that’s ready to release their official debut single “Too Late.”

The track starts out slow and quiet, laying out a vibe very reminiscent of “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. It builds gradually with the pre-chorus as a brisk beat is brought in, and crescendos smoothly throughout the chorus before coming back down for the second verse. To put it simply, “Too Late” is a bop that not only slaps, but is smart and intricate to musicians’ ears. If you’re in need of a new driving jam, we found it for you.


Lucky for us, there’s a second single coming in March, so definitely keep PARKWILD on your radar! Check out our interview with the guys below and follow them on twitter @parkwildmusic and on Instagram @parkwild.

Do you think your hometown and childhood has influenced the music you create today? Can you recall your earliest memory involving music?
Austin Zudeck: I was born in New Jersey and raised in New Jersey and New York City. The fast pace of NYC and the edge and spirit that the city possesses definitely had an influence on the music we make today. I grew up playing gigs all over NYC and its left a mark on my creativity for sure. I remember being two or three years old and I would carry a half-size acoustic guitar with me everywhere I went, and I would try to sing and “play” for everyone I could, despite not knowing how.

Justin Thunstrom: I was born and raised in Minnesota. I think it has had an influence on my music, not necessarily due to location, but by the people around me. My earliest musical memory is playing my grandma’s piano at a very young age and doing so every time I was at her house growing up.

Where does “Parkwild” come from?
Austin: During a drive back to my girlfriend’s hometown I got Justin on speaker phone and decided that we were not hanging up until we’ve got the name. After throwing out names for nearly an hour and coming up empty, or having them being taken, I was so frustrated that I read off the next highway sign for “Dorney Park Wild Water”, and put the words together PARK-WILD as a joke. Then there was some silence on Justin’s end and we both realized that was a pretty cool and fitting name and PARKWILD we became.

Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom is an amusement park I grew up with in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Just a little childhood nostalgia insight for you all. Carry on!

What are your roles in the band?
Austin: We are both songwriters and producers, especially when it comes to the music for PARKWILD. We both kind of play every instrument when it comes to recording in the studio, and I sing the vocals. [For live performances] I take care of the lead vocals and second/rhythm electric/acoustic guitar. And Justin takes care of all of the keyboards and synths, triggering/sampling on the computer, and backup vocals.

What was the most challenging thing about working in a long-distance situation?
Austin: I would have to say scheduling because when you are in different cities and time zones, personal life and work life don’t really align with each other. Now that we are in the same place, we are able to set distinct times to work and our schedules are in phase.

Justin: The challenge is not having that in-person connection which is so important when creating. We had all the tools to collaborate over the internet but it was very limiting, which is why we began traveling to each other’s studios.

Who are your biggest influences musically?
Austin: Musically, my biggest influences range from Otis Redding, Carole King, Ryan Tedder (of OneRepublic), 30 Seconds to Mars, P!nk as well as Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Craig Wiseman (all amazing country songwriters). However, on a day to day basis I am inspired by all the collaborators we work with, that are constantly pushing me to hone my craft and strive for the best.

Justin: I’ve always been influenced by my friends and all the people around me who are involved in music. It’s inspiring to develop your skills alongside great people doing the same.

Who has been your favorite person to work with so far?
Austin: Aside from each other, we have had so many amazing collaborators that it hard to pinpoint just one person. The majority of our collaborators end up becoming our friends as well, which makes naming one even more difficult. Definitely love the songs we’ve done with Nick Seeley, Andrew Tinker, and Emily Vaughn — one of which is our single “Too Late!”

Do you have any advice for other songwriters when it comes to curing a creative block? Do you have other hobbies you turn to?
Austin:I don’t really believe in writer’s block, I think you just need to find your mental release from what I think really stems from overthinking. For us, that’s throwing a football or playing pingpong in the short term, or taking a day to go snowboarding or taking a vacation.

Justin: Creative blocks can be very frustrating but they don’t have to be. A lot of times when we get stuck on something, we’ll go do something else outside of the studio. We try not to force our way through creative blocks and are patient until the right idea comes to us.

Do you have any advice you would give to yourself five years ago?
Austin: Be patient, and stress a little less, life’s got a way of working itself out, and it may not be how it initially seems, but retrospectively it’s usually for the better.

Justin: Everything I was doing five years ago led me to where I am today and I wouldn’t change anything about that.

Where do you see yourselves in five years? Do you have any long term goals as a group? Individually?
Austin: As long as I am still having the privilege of making music, and making it with people I really enjoy spending my time with, I will be super happy. I would love to sell out arenas and have multiple number one records of course, but as long as I can make music for a living, then life’s good!

Justin: I see myself continuing to do what I love everyday. We have long term goals and aspirations to the highest degree as a group which also includes the ability to create and perform music for a living.

What have you discovered about yourselves through the process of creating music?
Austin: I discover things about myself through the writing process on a regular basis that otherwise, I would have left buried down deep. Music is very cathartic in that sense.

Justin: I have discovered my ultimate passion. Creating music is something I can’t live without.

What are you most looking forward to this year? Personally and in regards to Parkwild.
Austin: I’m super excited to make the move to LA in June. New York will always be my home, and I definitely see myself ultimately ending up on the east coast, but a change of pace is something that I am ready for. As for PARKWILD, just getting the music out there is what I’m excited about for 2018.

Justin: I’m so excited to finally release music as PARKWILD. It is something we’ve been working toward since we first met in 2011!

What do you want fans to take away from your music?
Austin: I think that the songs come from such a deep place, and for fans to be able to connect with us and discover things about themselves in the process, that’s what I want fans to be able to take away.

Justin: I would love for fans to connect with the realness of our music. In writing about experiences we’ve had, we hope that fans can relate and find meaning in our songs.

Would you do anything differently?
Austin: I think we can both say that we wouldn’t change anything. We love where were at and the journey!

If you could tour with any band, who would it be and why?
Austin: I think it would be amazing to tour with OneRepublic or Imagine Dragons. I also think it would be awesome to tour with our good friend LAUV. I went to NYU with him and we’ve collaborated a lot as well, and even though our music doesn’t fully make sense to tour with his, it would be too fun of a hang to pass up.

Do you have a favorite venue you love to perform in? Dream venue to play?
Austin: I loved performing at Webster Hall while it was still open. Such an energetic place. My dream venues would have to be Terminal 5 in NYC, then of course Madison Square Garden.

Justin: One of my favorite venues was a simple stage setup on a beach for a small show that Austin and I played as a backing band for another artist. We played during sunset and it was one of the most memorable shows thus far. Being from Minnesota I would love to play First Avenue and eventually US Bank Stadium.

Waffles or pancakes? This is a really important question to Moments.
Austin “Canceled” Zudeck: PANCAKES…
Justin “Angel” Thunstrom: WAFFLES.

If you could describe the other in 3 words, what would they be?
Austin: Intelligent, Honest, Easygoing.
Justin: Diligent, intuitive, passionate.

What are you currently binge watching on Netflix? Do you relate to any of the characters?
Austin: I just finished watching both seasons of Wet Hot American Summer “First day of Camp” and “Ten Years Later”. You have to watch the movie first “Wet Hot American Summer”. I can thank my buddy Jake Price for getting me into it. I went to sleepaway camp as kid, so I think back in the day I related to the experience, not necessarily the characters themselves.

Justin: I currently don’t have a show because I just finished binging The 100. I’m anxiously awaiting season five! Until then I’m open to suggestions for a new show. I don’t know if I can relate to one character in particular, but I can relate to their determination and relentless persistence.

Have you ever had any music-related injuries? For example, when I was in 8th grade, I stepped on a violin case in the band room, it slid out from underneath me, and I dislocated my knee.
Austin: I sometimes dance around as a joke during rehearsal. There was one instance, I was going a bit too intensely and landed on a guitar pedal. I would have been fine, except I was barefoot, so that hurt a bit. It was temporary though, but very painful, like stepping on a Lego.

Justin: Thus far I have not be injured musically (crossing fingers).

If you could learn any new instrument, what would it be?
Austin: I’ve always had a fascination with country music, and thanks to my dad I grew up listening to it.. So I think it would be great to learn the mandolin.

Justin: I think it would be awesome to learn to play the cello or viola. I have always been fascinated by orchestral music and would love to score a film someday.  

What’s your go-to drink order?
Austin: A rum and coke.
Justin: Mojito, always.

Do you have a special coffee order at Starbucks?
Austin: I don’t drink coffee, but oddly enough I love coffee ice cream. If I find myself in Starbucks, I go with a Caramel Hot Chocolate.

Justin: I’m not a coffee drinker so I’d have to go with a peach black tea. Unless it’s winter then I’m all about a caramel apple spice hot cider.