The four-piece have been making considerable waves in the UK’s post-hardcore scene over the course of the last year. Following up on their debut album, released in July, Anouska Liat taps into the unguarded emotional spectrum of the band.
“At first I’ll think, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad’, and then after I’ve written about it, I’m like, ‘Oh, shit’.”
DECAY’S frontman Danny Reposar is currently recalling the colourful self-assessment and repeated ritual he puts himself through in order to come to terms with the more disconcerting areas of life. Although a hard-hitting moment of realisation, it also provides a higher sense of understanding on how musical appreciation is a platform for so much more than just audio pleasure. Rather, it’s a pivotal moment in time to comprehend the complexities you may not initially acknowledge – something that Danny is more than happy to revisit during a pleasantly down to earth bus-ride chat over the phone.
The post-hardcore band’s full-length debut album, Staring At The Sun, is the pinnacle of these reflective moments. Each song weaves together stories of self-loathing, loss and love. Although obvious themes of melancholy protrude throughout, a parallel theme takes shape. The album illustrates how with each unfortunate card dealt throughout life, there comes a time where things become easier via a sense of feeling “uncomfortably comfortable” in your own skin. Be this an honourable inner strength or a chink in the mental health support chain, the album overall presents the bare bones of human emotion; both reactive and reflective. This in turn provides a sense of common ground with their audience, in hope that speaking their bluntest truths may be something of a beacon, as Danny confirms: “I just want people to connect with it, and I think that’s what this album was really about – trying to help people.”
This attitude of help-get-a-leg-up is common among the Liverpudlian community, enhanced further by Decay’s modest beginnings before rising to become one of the most exciting movers in the post-hardcore scene. “We all grew up on council estates or just not in the richest of areas,” Danny notes. “There are a lot of bands who act bigger than what they are. I know you have to do that to a certain extent, but we’ve always been humble and honest from the beginning which is a good portrayal of our background.”
Growing up with shared streets and stories, the members of Decay – Nathan Peloe (rhythm guitarist), Toby Hacking (drummer) and Matthew Pickford (bassist) – are a refreshing breakaway from your laddish traditions of bottling your emotions up and turning a blind eye to the more pressing issues ‘at large’. Instead, they speak about them in an upfront and personal manner – both through lyricism and achingly expressive riffs and crashing drum fills. Danny explains this approach. “I always thought that when comparing our songs to others, I don’t feel like we’re a real band because we’re so on the nose lyrically – I just say what I’m thinking instead of just chatting shit about metaphorical stories.”
Crediting the likes of the emotionally-charged Welsh rock band Casey for their straight-talking lyrics, it’s explained how this overarching honesty and openness is what they wish to portray to listeners – demonstrating their solidarity towards the problems of the average fan.
“The type of music we make resonates with listeners, and for me it struck a chord and helped understand that not everyone has that perfect generic life that you see on TV,” says Danny. Digging further into the roots of Decay’s philosophy, Danny notes how much more unflinching music has become in the past 10 years. “It’s blunt and the storytelling is so honest,” he says, “there are a lot of artists coming out with their hearts on their sleeves now.”
Mental health awareness is talked about a lot these days, progressively getting on with it is a debatable area of discussion. Where promotion of further aid falls somewhat flat in some circumstances, other means of self-help present themselves; a creative umbrella facilitating the healing, understanding and growth of each individual. For Decay, and many others, this comes through the form of music. Whether you find yourself on the creative or the simply appreciative side of the fence, the two often intersect to make music the unifier for ways to help deal with your mental struggles. Similarities begin to surface that bring to mind how the making of an album can be viewed as metaphorically parallel to the process of improving your mental well-being.
Keeping your head active and creative is key for continual positive growth, however it may not appear instantaneously, and that’s OK. “I saw a lot of people getting really creative during lockdown,” replies Danny, “and I’m just not that sort of person – when I force creativity, it just causes stress.
“I like to keep myself busy by creating things,” he adds, “whether that be writing, drawing or creating artwork on Photoshop – I need to keep creatively busy to keep my head on straight and stay sane!”
Things become easier once the ideas begin to flow, a goal difficult to reach by those deterred by the intimidation of time and persistence. Despite fear of the unknown, new experiences are usually the ones that push us out of our comfort zones and into a higher state of understanding; a place where we can see what works for us, and what is in fact hindering our progression. Off the back of releasing their first EP in the summer of 2019, the idea of Decay immediately creating an entire full-length album was quite a shock to the system. “With the album you have to structure it narratively and find out how it ebbs and flows into each song, and just overall tell a story with it. It was hard,” Danny admits. “We’d never really done something like that”.
Creative growth is an ongoing discovery; whether subconscious or intentional, both are integral to success and should therefore be embraced. “I’m always writing lyrics,” Danny recites when discussing his creative process, “especially definitions of words, which I’ll then write down along with certain phrases. Writing is like closure, in a way.”
Closure is a word that many refer to, devoting their faith to the ideal, in hope that, once they peak the mountain, closure is there waiting to relieve them of their dismays. A journey towards this desired sense of closure comes in many forms. “I’m quite an emotional person and I’m not afraid to cry, but I don’t really dwell on things long enough, so I tend to disregard my life situations,” Danny continues. “So then I tell stories from my childhood or current life in order to gain that sense of closure.”
The old mantra of ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’ sometimes may be looked over by those striving for greatness with their blinkers on. Taking the time to pause and ground oneself can lead to a better understanding of feelings, and therefore how to better help others via our experiences. “Feel Better is an emotionally-driven song that deals with a whole host of things, from love to loss to love again,” says Danny. “It’s an honest and naive representation of our story telling that I hope a lot of people can resonate with and take comfort in.”
While there have been some positive movement towards shattering the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses, the support for male mental health in particular is still fighting an uphill battle, as Danny asserts. “It’s never hard to talk about it, I just don’t want to feel like I’m burdening others or trying to gain pity.”
Be it pride or shame, it’s no secret; more must be done to reinforce the valuable awareness recently brought to light. Thankfully, there are those who are more than aware of the impact those around them can achieve. “I do feel as if the emotional openness of a lot of males is rejected, I’m just blessed to be surrounded by so many people who embrace being emotionally open because it gives me a good sense of security,” Danny says. “A lack of openness is a toxic masculinity trait that I absolutely hate because I’m quite an open person emotionally,” he continues. “I was always told at a young age to not express negative emotion and to bottle it up – so, since then, I’ve done everything in my power to be emotionally transparent.”
As drained of Covid-19 as we all are, it is only fitting to emphasise the impact such a high-risk global hazard has had on a fast-rising band like Decay. With their debut album released in July this year, it’s an obvious assumption that social distancing will come to hinder touring. “I’m dying to get back to gigs,” Danny confirms coolly, “but, obviously, we’re not going to try and get back out there until it’s safe to do so. I’m happy to let the album speak for itself – it’s done well so far, so no harm in waiting a little longer. I think we’re doing a full UK and possible EU tour when this is all over.
“I’m definitely more excited than nervous, although I do have to relearn everything,” he adds, with a jovial sense of trepidation.
While some may take music at face value – dance to it, sing along with it, learn how to play it – it is the moments in-between that are equally as valuable. Those pauses to acknowledge the laughter, the tears, the reflection, and then how gratitude, understanding and growth follow. Danny conveys this thankfulness towards Decay’s music in just a few simple words. “It helped me embrace all the negativity in my life and turn that into positivity.” And that is what life is all about.
Staring At The Sun is available now via Fox Records.