From the moment California’s Movements burst onto the scene in early 2015, an undeniable buzz has surrounded the group’s every action. Signed to Fearless Records after playing one show and having only released three singles, the band’s rise to popularity has been well documented. After releasing their debut EP Outgrown Things in early 2016 and peaking at 42 on the Billboard Independent Albums, the four-piece released their debut album Feel Something in 2017, charting at 21 on the US Alternative Albums chart and cracking the Billboard 200 at 190.
Yet for the band’s vocalist Patrick Miranda, the band’s long-found successes throughout their career hasn’t made the prospect of releasing their sophomore LP No Good Left To Give any easier. “It’s exciting, it’s nerve-wracking, I have a significant amount of anxiety about it,” he admits, with the pressure of expectation from fans constantly weighing on his mind. “I know it’s a good thing that we’re putting out new music, but there’s always a lingering dread of me thinking ‘Oh man, what are people going to say about the album? Are people going to like it?’” he continues.
Adding to his stresses, being in the middle of a global pandemic has done nothing to ease his mind as release plans continue to shift, with it anyone’s guess when shows might be a possibility again. Speaking on the band’s position, Miranda says “I’m definitely grateful we have something new and we’re not completely screwed this year. If we didn’t have any new music to put out and we were in a state of stagnation, it would be a huge hit on our band.”
Yet despite the silver lining, he recognises that the worldwide situation still might limit the album’s success, adding “Just imagine how much bigger and how much better we could’ve done this album if things were normal, if we were able to tour on it, if we were able to do all the things we had planned. I’m thankful we have what we have but I really, really wish things were different and we could have some sort of normalcy.”
Even with the uncertainty around the release, there’s a conviction within Miranda’s voice when he talks about his own efforts as a writer on the upcoming release. Found from challenging himself to develop his own skills he explains, “As a whole as I’ve grown my writing style, my lyricism has become much more mature and polished. Something that was really important to me on this record was to really think about everything that I’m saying, how I’m saying it, and how it comes across. I wanted to be writing about simple topics but making them come across creatively and really making sure that my creative writing is very much in order.”
For fans of Movements, there’s no doubt that Miranda’s lyricism continues to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the listening experience. The band’s debut Feel Something used such vivid imagery and metaphor as a vessel for meaning. However on No Good Left To Give, it often feels like Miranda has found the courage to be more direct in his writing, with Miranda caught by surprise by my admission that I felt it more accessible as a listener compared to previous efforts.
“It’s really interesting that you say Feel Something was more steeped in metaphor because I almost feel like it was more direct than this one,” he says, with surprise in his voice. Laughing into the phone, he continued to explain his thought process, “There were many times on this record where I questioned ‘Fuck, I hope people understand what I’m saying’, because it all seemed very convoluted in symbolism. So it’s good to know its easy to digest and understandable.”
Yet for how easy the album was to understand, we began to talk about the album’s only mysterious song, “Seneca”, which remained enigmatic despite repeated listens. “You know what’s interesting about that song is that it’s actually so literal you would never even know that it’s literal,” he chuckled into the phone.
Explaining the song’s meaning he continued, “So that song “Seneca”, essentially the idea behind it is just the one that got away. Everybody has that one person who it just never worked out with and you’re always going to wonder about the ‘what if’s. In America, and I don’t know how well this translates to Australia, oftentimes you call your one that got away, the slang term is your ‘white buffalo’ because they’re super rare. Obviously that was the idea that I was trying to portray but saying ‘white buffalo’ in a song sounds really stupid. So I did a little bit of research, looked up some really rare animals because I was just thinking ‘How can I make these lyrics cooler?’
“I was just wondering what I could do and if there was some sort of symbolism I could use, and I found a deer that is very specific to one section of the north-east part of the United States, and it’s called the Seneca White Deer. They’re super endangered, there’s only about 200 left alive and you can’t hunt them because that is a very big area for sport hunting, but the white deer in particular, you’re not allowed to kill because they’re protected. So me saying “You were a seneca in the crosshairs” is like saying I had you in my sights, you were tangible, you were there but I had to let you go.”
Similarly to how he has grown in stature as a writer, Miranda’s confidence to write about new things has continued to expand. Continuing to speak on “Seneca” he said “I think there are many wildcards on the album in terms of what I write about, especially with that song being so specifically about one person. That’s not something I usually do. I try to keep my lyricism a little bit more general and vague. But on that song, I was describing a very specific moment in my life and a very specific experience.”
Listening to No Good Left To Give, it’s clear to see just how his endeavours as a lyricist have grown, especially as he explores relationships and intimacy more than ever before. “There’s songs on this record that are definitely me stepping out of my comfort zone and talking about things that I haven’t necessarily talked about before,” he says, before going into depth about the change that hasn’t just come in the things he found himself writing about. He says, “There are multiple songs on this record that aren’t necessarily about me, and even though I’m in these lyrics or I’m using possessive pronouns, I’m not actually talking about myself. I’m writing the song from the perspective of somebody else.
“I’m writing about the mind and the thought processes of people around me, or people that I know that I’m close with, and I’m sort of telling their story through my own voice. That was something that I haven’t tried before. I’ve always written songs that were very much about my personal life experiences, never so much about telling something else through someone else’s eyes, so that was a new realm for me. I think there’s also a lot of the same; there’s the mental illness, the depression, the anxiety… that kind of thing, and then there’s just the random ones I haven’t written about before.”
Although No Good Left To Give marks a darker and more menacing chapter for the band, it’s not all doom and gloom throughout its entire run time. Like a pink cloud summer amongst a skyline wrought with tragedy, “Santiago Peak” stands out amongst the tracks of album as a glimmering source of hope. Written about Miranda’s relationship with home, it’s an homage to the place he grew up, and it champions a positivity rarely seen from the four-piece.
“That’s exactly what I mean by there are some wildcards on the record that are unlike any other songs that I’ve written before,” he remarks. Continuing on what inspired the song, he says, “The song in particular is mostly just an appreciation that I’ve grown to have for the place where I grew up. I think for every kid who is 17/18/19 and has lived in the same place their whole life, there’s a degree of wanting to leave, you know?”
Poking fun at the genre that the band initially found success in, he laughs, “You hear it in all the generic fucking pop-punk songs, like ‘Oh my town this and that, it sucks blah blah blah.’ There was a point in my life where I felt that way, but after we started touring and after we saw so much of the country and so much of the world, it gave me such a new appreciation for the place that I’m from.”
Yet for Miranda, just recognising that he’s found love for his hometown later in life isn’t enough, revealing that his intentions for the song dig much deeper. “I grew up extremely privileged. I had a much better upbringing than so many people get to have so for me to complain about it felt so wrong. And it was me not acknowledging my privilege which was something I wanted to change about myself,” says Miranda.
Reflecting on the shift in attitude, he was insistent in his point, continuing, “The thing is it really has changed; I absolutely love the place I grew up now because I realise how good I had it, and I realise how thankful I am to have had a positive upbringing in a positive place where I didn’t have to struggle and I didn’t have to worry about a lot of the things that many people in the world have to worry about. I wrote that song to try and instill in myself and the people around me that it’s not always about fucking getting out and never looking back. Sometimes it’s actually really good to stay where you are because you might have it better than a lot of people.”
While there’s an optimistic note to some of No Good Left To Give, it feels like an old flickering street light fighting to stay alive as the darkness surrounds. “Honestly it wasn’t the intention, it just ended up that way,” he admits. “We had like 17 or 18 songs ready to go and we had to trim down the ones that we felt weren’t strong so the best would end up on the record. About six songs were cut, and of those songs there were multiple that were very uplifting, happy, and better feeling songs. It’s interesting the way that worked out, because it ended up making the album feel much darker but that was never the intention.”
Taking a serious tone, he continued to express what else went into his own writing saying “My only intention writing music is to be honest and talk about the different things that I go through on a day-to-day basis, and the things that go through my head, and most of the time they are just dark things. I have very intense depression and my mental illness is a very huge defining factor of myself, so those songs are prevalent and they’re part of what makes Movements, Movements.”
And like “Santiago Peak” does on No Good Left To Give, there’s still a fleeting breath of hopefulness as Miranda resigns himself to his mental illness; “At the same time I don’t feel that way 100% of the time and I do write songs that oftentimes are a little bit more uplifting, but for whatever reason they didn’t feel right for this particular album and maybe they’ll feel better in the future. If I’m ever magically not suffering from mental illness and feeling great, I will write nothing but happy songs, but I just don’t ever really see that happening and that’s okay.”
As our conversation shifted towards the album as a whole, I posed the theory that its title isn’t just a self assessment of Miranda himself, but the relationships that he explores throughout it. You could hear the smile creep across his face, realising that his writing was clear and understandable for listeners as he commented his agreeance, “You hit the nail on the head. That is very much what the overall theme is. It’s something we’ve tried to accomplish in naming and titling our records. We want the title of the record to be a lyric from the album in some way, but one that fits an overall theme that can be interpreted in many ways.”
Not willing to close the door to any other interpretations though he continued, “It’s something we like to leave open to interpretation, but I think for the most part your assessment of what ‘No Good Left To Give’ means is spot on. That’s exactly it. It’s this idea that there’s this emptiness that there’s nothing left to gain from. Whatever it be, whether it’s a relationship, a personal feeling, or any number of things, it’s just that emptiness and that willingness to let go of that because it’s just done.”
As the conversation came to a close, it turned to the album’s artwork, which pictures a combination of faces blended together to make one singular face. In a declaration that collage was his favourite art style at the moment, he proclaimed, “I’m really just into fucking ripping up paper and putting it into in a way that it wasn’t supposed to be and making art that way. There’s just something cool that you can do where you can take different images and different things that all have different moods and put them together and create an entirely different mood based just on that.”
Explaining how it made sense for the album, he explained, “There’s so many songs on this record that have to do with relationships and the feeling of not being yourself, or talking through the perspective of someone else, or not knowing who you are as a person, or not knowing who your partner is, or all these different things. The idea of meshing faces together to make one face that is neither male or female or one singular person – it’s just all of these feelings all together – that to me just felt perfect and I thought that’s what we have to do.”
No Good Left To Give is out September 18 through Fearless Records.