We have so much love for Carousel Kings and their unique approach when it comes to making music. We’ve been (obsessively) hooked on “Grey Goose”, a single from their punk rock/pop punk flavoured album, Charm City (released 10th February).
We also learned of the Pennsylvanian four piece’s love for floatation therapy and meditation, and how they use these approaches to help them creatively. We wanted to go deeper, so Depth Magazine’s Kel Burch had a conversation with Carousel Kings’ frontman, David Alexander about the songs of Charm City as well as the way in which these methods of awareness have contributed to their music.
Kel Burch: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us, David. I’d already had taken a liking to Charm City, but the more I read about it and your approach, the more intrigued I am!
Beyond appreciating the music, I wanted to go deeper, just as it sounds like you guys have gone deeper with your music and creativity. I have read a bit about the band’s approach to using techniques like meditation and floatation therapy in the process of making your music. Having some experience myself with holistic approaches, I feel that it goes beyond a hobby or an activity and becomes a way of life. Your perspective changes. Would you say that’s happened for you with floatation and meditation?
David Alexander: “I would definitely say that happened with me. Floating helped me realize the “Now” moment and how to truly appreciate it and bask in it.”
KB: I’m wondering what differences you notice in yourselves and your music compared to when you’re not using floatation?
DA: “Being on the road on tour can be pretty rough on the human body and also overwhelming at times, the number of people we’re constantly interacting with gets pretty wild. I’m usually pretty good with meditating while on tour, but only for so long. Sooner or later just hits a point where I just am itching to get back in there and deprive my senses and just shut down. Helps with back pain and any type of head-bang-over-doing too.”
KB: As someone who has also taken her own awareness approaches, “Grey Goose” felt like it captured that experience of feeling different once ‘awake’, and also being stuck within situations and relationships with others that don’t get it or can’t relate to that change in you. Given that the album is seeming to be about this other plane of awareness, is that kind of what the song is about for you also?
DA: “Yeah I guess you could say It definitely is sort of foreshadowing on those ideas. All throughout Charm City really. “Grey Goose” would be like realizing the self I suppose.”
KB: I only just now put two and two together about the video, with you guys suspended in the air. Was this a way to capture that difference, and a poke at lightness? Or maybe it’s just not that deep.. 😉
DA: “Haha. A true magician never tells all his tricks 😉 The video idea was all intuition based and seemed meant to be as far as ease of getting such a wild idea to actually happen.”
KB: “Grey Goose”‘s bridge “I’m not saying sorry anymore” feels like a ‘coming out’ as who you are, even if that’s not necessarily what others would be happy with. In this way it feels like a great start to the album.
DA: “Yeah we definitely as a group just felt that “Grey Goose” was the best first track as far as truly embodying the message of the album.
“I’m not saying sorry anymore” was written from a perspective of someone who was being forced to apologize constantly, over and over again in an abusive relationship, to someone who could be termed a fire starter or energy vampire. Kind of like a triumphant, taking a stand moment where they can finally see what their path should be and break free of the pattern.”
KB: “Glory Daze” feels like relating and finding feet in supporting the other. Does this come into this whole awareness experience? Wanting the same for someone who ‘doesn’t even know’?
DA: “Yeah it sort of like waiting around for someone to realize something so simple and all the meanwhile just loving them as much as you can despite conditions and without attachments . Kind of bittersweet type of feeling.”
KB: Both Glory Daze and Grey Goose are upbeat despite being angsty in their topics. What inspires you as a band to take this light approach?
DA: “We always have radiated towards music that makes us feel happy or carefree at times. Just enjoy spreading the good vibes if we can.”
KB: I really love “Here, Now, Forever” and it feels otherworldly at times; taking a higher perspective on the realities of life. I love that blend of imagery of being together in a car or in bed and then more energy-inspired images such as ‘two hearts open for love’ but only yours being open, and ‘energy is red, now you’re in my head’. Is that what inspired this one?
DA: “This song was all over the place as far as inspiration. Verses are definitely about a relationship. The main thought that I had about the chorus was wondering… so many unknowns. Do I still love you? Do I still have a soul? Did I ever? What is it can you see?”
KB: “Here, Now, Forever” is also really powerful musically. It feels like very little is held back and that it’s very congruent. What was the process like in creating this?
DA: “The guitarist William had written a variation of the song musically for his ex high school girlfriend/sweetheart. It was a gift for her. So it was written 5-7 years ago probably but out of pure love. Once it resurfaced and I heard it I knew it was something amazing.
We recorded it musically.. I would float and listen to it.. for a solid weekend I did this. I listened to the song until I started feeling a lot of my own buried emotions resurface and it was like I emotionally exploded the vocal melody.. It was almost as if I heard the guitars singing it to me, and I was basically crying out this jibberish and only some words “how do I know if i still do”. So I demoed out the few lines I could make out and the remainder of the melody in weird sounds. Once the melody was recorded our other guitarist filled in the verse lines with some lines he wrote to his lover. It was truly a beautiful way to create a song and great fusion.”
KB: Wow! Beautiful indeed!
“Bad Habit” feels like this tense ‘ode to overthinking’. It’s awesomely heavy too. Could you share a little about how this one came to be?
DA: “This song was written by myself and producer Grant McFarland some years ago. Another old song we decided to rework and glad we did. “Bad Habit” was sort of from the view of dealing with an insane person, realizing there is no real way to truly understand the mind of someone on such a twisted level.”
KB: “Something Isn’t Right” is so intense emotionally to me, it’s really quite raw and real. It seems to be about loss of a parent, and using this ‘other awareness’ to create change and a more positive future instead of being stuck in how badly things went.
DA: ““Something Isn’t Right” is basically a memoir from my personal life. I was with my father when he passed away from cancer in the home where I grew up. He left everything in his will to my schizophrenic step mother, who then made me leave the house while she destroyed it over the course of about a year I guess. I had to leave most of my stuff there due to a legality, since I lived there in the house she owned, technically she could claim she just outright owned my stuff, and she did. So that’s that.
I think maybe a lot of the songs have inspiration from these events I’ve described, probably trickled throughout. The subconscious way of allowing oneself to heal. I felt super uncomfortable when I first started recording those lines. I almost didn’t allow the song to continue because it felt so raw, and close to me, I felt very judgmental of it in the early stages. But the rest of the group thought it was cool how true it was and pushed me to continue. I’m glad it was written and I’m grateful for the experiences in this life, I feel lucky to be able to have a way to transcend my emotions outward and get them off my chest through music.”
KB: “Hate Me, Love Me” lyrically has this feel of time being more fluid than it is. Even the words used show this changing perspective of present, past and future. Where’s this one coming from?
DA: “This one is definitely all about the Now and realizing the only box you have to fit into is your own body, which you’re already in, so now forget about whatever attachments or ideals you have. Zen out and literally spend your days thinking about nothing. Then, everything will begin to happen for you, that is, whatever it is you truly need or desire.”
KB: “Charm City” is so introspective. It seems like a quest to inspire change from a place that’s lighter and less fearful?
DA: “Yeah its definitely about not giving in to fear or allowing it to dictate your decisions, minus the fight or flight responses. Sometimes it can be very easy to fall in with the crowd/group mentality of opinions and listen to what people say and just buy into it, blindly believing news, false internet stories or tweets, like its fact and it has some sort of effect on our every day lives when in actuality, reality is not at all what we’ve been led to believe it is and the only things that matter are the thoughts going on in your head and the daily interactions you yourself make.”
KB: Does “Charm City” also speak about a relationship with another or is it more of this ‘inner relationship’?
DA: “It can definitely be interpreted as both.”
KB: “Dynamite” is the coolest. It’s great how you guys have captured a sound that has a lightness to it as well as this in-your-face-ness. This seems to talk about coming from inner motivations more than ‘braining it’ or following what you’re told.
DA: “Yeah similar theme here for “Dynamite”, pretty in your face with the third eye references. This song was an expression of just wanting to write as true to oneself as possible and not fit into some genre box if you will. No one is stuck on any certain path and although I believe there can be “fate” and “destiny”, I also believe only by using our own free will can we attain such desired paths.”
KB: A lyric that stands out to me is “You don’t have to deal the cards you’re handed / It’s getting harder to explain and I can’t stand it”. Does some of that frustration come from what you’ve seen and experienced, feeling like you have tools or wisdom to help you break free of things that would keep you stuck or held back, and seeing other people continuing to suffer or go through things ‘blindly’?
DA: “I think I can be very frustrated especially given certain circumstances, even now. I think it would be blind of me, to consider myself any better or any less stuck than any one else. I believe we, you, I, are all in the same struggle together. And the rest of what “I think ” I believe I can’t even prove or begin to explain with great words.
I believe we’re reflections of stars in some way, that we come here for a blip, mashed down into human form, then back up to stars depending on what kinda life we lived. We’re here to experience emotion, pain, hurt, and then choose to love without limits or attachments. We control the whole entire world with each other, constantly co-creating the world we wish to see, by the thoughts we’re projecting, about ourselves and others. I think the goal is to just try to be more self-aware and that’s what that line was a call for.”
KB: On that topic of explaining, I do also get an impression in some of these songs that there could be more that is said, but that it seems people may not yet be ready for it, so it’s withheld or shared cautiously?
DA: “I think the mind is great at creating and it feels great to leave out things, or allow songs to feel so broad, yet very specific, so can be interrupted in multiple ways by multiple people, so then the listeners are possibly also now thinking themselves.. and possibly creating their own scenarios or thoughts on what they think the songs might be about. Only when looking inward can some messages be picked up on and I think its beautiful how it so many different people could connect with music.”
KB: “Unconditionally” has such a grounded sound, feeling like it’s tapping into instinctual things, as well as due to the heaviness of the drums. This feels like a beautiful love song to me. What does this one mean to Carousel Kings?
DA: “Love, in the Moment, for yourself and the world.”
KB: There are a lot of songs on Charm City about relationships. Do you feel like this kind of thing is benefited by taking the meditative approaches that you’ve described?
DA: “Definitely. I am a quiet person. The way I am able to share any emotion is using by allowing it to fester inward until it strikes me enough to release it, or write it down, whenever the thought should so arise or the emotion. I find that by meditating it allows me to access my subconscious mind on a deeper level and truly allow myself to further heal by getting rid of any excess data not required.”
KB: “Fractals” is also about a relationship but sounds like getting clearer about a person and who they really are. And maybe what is actually sought in a partner. This lyric stands out:
“You used to be everything I dreamt of in my sleep
Now that I’m awake, I can see you’re fake
I wanna know how it was for you all of those years with me gone
Did you even care?”
I have to assume that ‘in my sleep’ and ‘awake’ relates to consciousness and awareness? And how what the person wanted in the past shifted, as they grew within themselves. I could be completely wrong..
DA: “A lot of lines when referring to “you” can be interesting when thought of as “me” or “I” or when one realizes that “we” are the “I”, and “you” are “me.” A lot of the songs were about one person in particular whom I cared for the deepest, the bad habit, whom I’ve seen all the true colors of, yet love unconditionally still. “In my sleep” – zombie state , “awake” consciousness awareness. “Fake”- interesting thing is everything is fake. There are most definitely multiple ways to interrupt these lines for sure.”
KB: Also in Fractals I love the section where it’s musically open and feels floaty – ‘Fractals in my head’ – before building back up into the chorus again.
KB: “Punch Drunk” seems like volatility in the relationship where one partner is disconnected, and the other has been swept away by them. Is this song commenting on society’s tendency to close up from one another?
DA: “It’s definitely poking at society’s tendency to numb out on alcohol and technology in zombie world where we consume commercials, propaganda and constant media tampering. It can be rough to still love and relate to those people in our lives so sucked in to hype and so engulfed by it it consumes their every waking thought.”
KB: “Fool’s Gold” feels heavy with apology, but “I’m back now”, using faith to support you forward.
DA: “Yeah it’s kind of like an optimistic defeat, where you see how shitty the wreck is going to be right before it happens, yet find peace just then even still knowing it won’t be an “easy ride”.”
KB: It’s really quite beautiful lyrically. Were you aiming to have this track feel as massive as possible? It seems like something that deserves that kind of sound.
DA: “Aww thank you 🙂 We just followed our hearts, we wanted to pursue it because it had more of its own feel as opposed to the rest of the songs.”
KB: “You Never Will” is the last of the album and it seems like it has a lot in common with “Grey Goose” by way of what it’s talking about: this difference in understanding and it not necessarily working.
This is such a huge lyric: “I’ve been living a lie, hiding all of my life”, especially in the way it’s sung. Was this something that Charm City was used to process?
DA: “Yeah I would say that by writing/creating Charm City it helped iron out some inner dialogue and process some things I had been thinking on, and some buried emotions as well. Just want to be as true to ourselves as we can while writing and it took some time to realize exactly how to do that.”
KB: Will future releases continue to explore the experience of finding yourself, do you think?
DA: “I know we will go as deep into the mind as we can and continue evolving as a band and progressing with our songs. I’m excited to say that we even will continue working with the same artist from India who completed the cover art and design, Archan Nair. He is an amazing person with an incredible mind, far more deep thinker than I even. We met via the means of meditation and he wants to continue on our future releases . Couldn’t be more thrilled at the direction we are heading with our future creations, only our minds are the limits!”
KB: Thanks for sharing about the process of creating Charm City. I find it fascinating the way you’re combining music with unique methods of understanding yourselves instead of pushing at the creative process in a purely mental way. Thanks so much for your time, David, and putting out something great that’s inspiring people to think more widely.
DA: “Thank you so much for taking the time to ask such interesting questions Kel! It means so much when one has such thoughtful questions. Very humbling and intriguing to think about and have such good conversation. It has been such a pleasure reading this and responding to them.”