Track By Track: Surroundings pull back the curtain on ‘Glass Heart’

‘Glass Heart’ has been a long time coming for Perth heavy outfit, Surroundings. After a string of solid singles over the last couple of years, like the banging ‘Paper Cranes’ and the soaring ‘Chronesthesia’, this new full-length is now releasing this Friday, March 1st. And much like the ‘Of Bane, Burden & Change’ LP before it in 2014, this is another tight, refined and emotive melodic metalcore effort from the talented yet sorely underrated WA group. Kindly giving us the inside scoop about the musical creation and lyrical themes of these 11 new tracks, vocalist Nick Roberts takes us through the riffy yet crystalline world of ‘Glass Heart’. From close-to-home losses and intimate sharings of relationships between lovers and family members alike, to even some social-commentary and personal catharsis, allow Nick and the band to reveal the inspirations and journey behind their latest body of work. 

1. Clarity, Decay:

“We chose to open the album strong with a drum and bass intro,  that segues into some intense riffs. Lyrically, the song is about losing a loved one, reminiscing on their final moments and also confessing that you feel like you haven’t quite lived up to their expectation of you, mostly just fuelled by the grief attached to the loss of someone. Inspiration for the hook of this song came from a line in a Kurt Vonnegut story.”

2. Paper Cranes:

“I think we chose to release this one first, with the exception of Elizabeth and Jane, as it bridges the two records sonically. Musically it could be from our first album, vocally Matt and I pushed ourselves to create the catchy melodies we touched on slightly on the first record and in the two following singles, Elizabeth and Jane.

Lyrically, it’s a social commentary on my view of the state of the world, how we are pushed together by our social interactions, folded, moulded and taught how to think of other people, countries and other people’s belief systems and ultimately, for us to progress as a whole, we need to stop taking sides against one another and group together toward common goals.

The working title for this song was HG, or “Heavy Groove”. Lindsay started calling it HR, “Human Resources”, so I snuck in a reference to the working title into the final song: “Dividing us as no more than human resources.“”

3. Chronesthesia:

“With this song, we tried something we hadn’t done before, having mainly clean sung vocals over the verse and a huge anthemic chorus, with trading vocal lines straight into a strange off-beat breakdown. The lyrics reflect a line Drew said to me: “biding your time, the clouds turn grey“, which set the idea of the song. This song is about waiting for things to come to you, instead of seizing them for yourself, and just going for it.”

4. The River’s Edge:

“This song was almost scrapped from the album, believe it or not. It was one of the first tracks I laid vocals down for. With a very ambitious amount of clean singing, we all ultimately weren’t happy with the first attempt. We put it aside for a while, I took nearly a year worth of singing lessons, and we gave this another shot. The meaning has been touched on before, but it’s ultimately about feeling stuck where you are and not the person you want to be.”

5. End As Ashes

“Our bassist Matt [Templeman] really took the reigns on this one. I believe the main riff was his idea. It had a wacky working title to do with an injury he sustained while riding a moped (The Foot). This was his track. Lyrically, I wanted to challenge myself slightly, whilst keeping a tight narrative together. I wanted to infuse the names of bosses from one of my favourite games, in order in which they appear. Can anyone figure out what game? Meaning is directly affiliated with the sense of anxiety I felt whilst trying to record these songs. They are the most challenging things I have ever done vocally, and there were some extremely dark and trying times. Just like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun with ambition.”

6. Jane:

“The idea for Jane was originally an ambient, clean song, more in the rock territory. Where as Elizabeth was the heavy, more-Surroundings style sister song. The more we jammed it in the rehearsal space, the more we realised it needed the same punch as Elizabeth and that’s where the massive verse riff and the rest of the heavier parts came from. We toyed with the idea of doing a two track release, but we kept writing songs and it eventually became the album, Glass Heart. Jane is my mother’s middle name and its lyrical themes are inspired by our relationship.”

7. Slaves:

“I believe this is Lindsay’s favourite track. We wanted another heavy and fun track with a chant-able chorus in our arsenal. It’s an inverse look at social desires and expectations that are placed upon everyone. You’re expected to buy a house, get married have children, if you do things differently you’re treated different. Therefore we are all slaves to the same social expectations that society inherently apply to us.”

8. Burnt Pages:

“Drew approached me with the idea that this song is almost Bi-Polar. It has really pretty clean parts grounded in the rock realm, which then flips to really heavy and chaotic, then back to the quieter style as it builds into the final epic crescendo. He said it reminded him of like a serial killer or some sort of villain in a movie or TV show. So I took that inspiration and worked the lyrics to fit a narrative of a writer, who’s relationship sours and it follows their decent into the downward spiral caused by the fall out of a breakup. Eventually coming to terms and declaring that they return to them, but only as a memory. All they lyrics I have written previously for Surroundings have been directly related to a specific event in my life and while that is cathartic in the moment, I find it hard sometimes to re-visit those certain songs and moments in my past. This song is extremely loosely based on a past relationship, but ultimately, it is a story I had fun exploring while writing.”

9. March:

“You know how I said The River’s Edge was ambitious? Well, once we had finished tracking that, we decided it wasn’t enough. Enter “March”.
Whilst writing the album, our guitarists, Drew and Leigh’s Grandfather passed away. Drew and Leigh then channelled the melancholy into writing this song with its rising and falling verses and choruses, opening out into a massive crescendo at the end. The lyrical content however comes from a poem I wrote after hearing the story of Hachikō. It follows the same rise and fall structure of the song, which is my interpretation of what he was thinking and feeling, ultimately until his demise. Vocally, this was the most challenging song to track. There are so many different feelings and emotions we wanted to portray, for Drew and Leigh’s Grandfather, and Hachikō. Given its inspiration comes from quite a sombre and sad place, I feel it is more of a celebration of both of their lives.”

10. Elizabeth:

“Elizabeth is the sister track to Jane, as mentioned before. We set out to write a track that would bridge the gap between our first album and where we were aiming for next. When we wrote both Elizabeth and Jane, Matt had joined us on bass and ushered in a new creative energy, in which we penned both songs quite quickly. Drew put together ideas for music videos for both tracks, but shortly after filming Elizabeth, our original drummer decided it was time he stepped down. Lyrically it is about my relationship with my then girlfriend, now wife. Elisabeth is one of her middle names.”

11. Glass Heart:

“Drew and I had the idea for the final track on the album. We wanted something with crushing guitar riffs that lead all the way to an astonishingly epic outro (we have a few on this album, if you haven’t noticed). We took it in turns at Drew’s house passing the guitar back and forth until we came up with riffs and idea we were happy with. Showing the skeleton of a song to the rest of the band, we knew it was it.

These are the most personal lyrics on the album for me. Dealing with rumours, hearsay and just how all of the negative things you can hear about yourself can build and manifest inside you. Until you just want to shut off from the outside world. This song is about the birth of my Glass Heart. Strong enough most of the time, but if the right sticks, stones and words are thrown, I know how fragile we can all become. Be kind to people, we are all, always going through things we might not broadcast to the world. Check in on your friends and family. And never be too proud to ask for help. If “I am not alone”, you aren’t either.

‘Glass Heart’ is out this Friday, March 1st. Get keen!

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