Nothing worth having comes easy. A cliché perhaps, but nonetheless a utilitarian one – and one that applies in many ways to Misery Signals.
From the gut-wrenching fatal tour bus crash that prompted their origin story, to the numerous line-up changes which would have broken lesser bands, Misery Signals define in many ways the concept of ‘hard-fought’. Their forthcoming album, Ultraviolet, scheduled for a Friday, 7th August release was no walk in the park, and thus, as we would learn speaking with guitarist Ryan Morgan, something the band are incredibly proud to finally have.
Ultraviolet sees the return of original vocalist Jesse Zaraska, whose guttural cadence powered 2004’s Of Malice & The Magnum Heart – his last outing with the band until Ultraviolet.
His return in a studio capacity was foreshadowed in the 2017 documentary Yesterday Was Everything, which saw Zaraska front the band once more for the Of Malice anniversary tour. The final moments feature him opening up to the idea of returning to the studio with his band mates.
Between the final scenes of Yesterday Was Everything and now, much of the specific timeline for Ultraviolet is fuzzy, even to the people who created it.
One thing Ryan recalls clearly was the process being somewhat truncated. “There were a lot of fixes and starts in the writing process,” he remembers.
“With this record, we’ve got people coming back to the fray from previous generations. It took us a while to honestly find what was going to be the path that pleased everyone and made sense for where we were as a band.”
On paper, reuniting the line-up for a new record is a brilliant idea, and to many fans a no-brainer, though in practice, the reality of balancing so many sensibilities and personalities was far more challenging. “We knew it was a big move,” Ryan says, “It didn’t seem like a small gesture, but everyone was excited about the prospect of a reconciliation.”
“We’ve all developed as musicians and we have keener opinions about what’s going to work and what’s not going to work.”
“We were just excited about everything,” Ryan recalls of writing Of Malice many years ago. “There was a lot less filtering going on for a couple of reasons. One, the band didn’t have an identity we were worried about, it was still something new. And so everything kind of worked because we didn’t have to keep it in line with anything prior to it, right? But also, we’ve all matured and made quite a few albums since then. And we all have an idea about what satisfies us artistically and what gets us excited.”
The end result is a record compiled of moments – beats, riffs, lyrics – that had to fight for their place on the final edits, in lieu of any fleeting distractions: “We wanted it to feel legit and inspired and not rehashed in any way.”
The considerable amount of time spent creating away from one another presented another challenge for Ultraviolet – the lyrics. Having become a far more centred person since his outing on Of Malice, Zaraska was concerned that without his erstwhile internal rage, the energy would be lacking. “He knew he wasn’t going to be able to write something that was as dark”
“He’s described himself as ‘less angry’ than he used to be. He’s in a better place. He was worried that he was going to either be in a place where he had to write something that was disingenuous because he was forcing it to be angrier than he feels, or he was going to be writing something that was too flowery or didn’t fit with the kind of aesthetic of the band.”
“We thought it was going to be a problem, but it ended up being something that we could write towards, and I’m really glad we did, too, because it ends up giving the album a more hopeful and uplifting feel.”
Ryan offers a stark contrast between the final edit of Ultraviolet and the band’s previous record, the far darker and existentially depressed Absent Light.
“I think it was cool that we were able to swing it sort of back the other direction.” It was a notion that stuck out so much for Misery Signals, that it informed the album name: Ultraviolet, AKA, so much light it’s beyond visible.
“That was in our minds when we were picking the title, almost in response to [Absent Light].”
Another stark difference between Ultraviolet and any previous Misery Signals album is the climate in which it’s being released. With just about all the traditional systems involved with facilitating an album release failing under the pressure of a global pandemic (and showing no signs of returning), Ryan spoke to the challenge that Misery Signals faced with their roll out. “We were aware that it was going to be difficult to get the vinyl albums pressed. And we were worried about getting those delivered to people in time because a lot of the way that the band is supported now is by people that collect vinyl.”
“So, God bless all those people. They’re wonderful. We had to push the release date back, just to make sure we were going to be able to deliver the records to people. There might not have been as long of a run up time between releasing the songs and the actual drop date of the album and people getting the album if it weren’t for us worrying that delivery wasn’t going to happen.”
“I kind of love what you said where the traditional systems that we’re used to supporting us are failing. That just could be applied to so many things, man.”
With Ultraviolet now wrapped and ready for release, Ryan confirms that the new and improved and reconciled Misery Signals are planning – or at least theorising with the current limitations – when to get the show on the road. Australia has some prime real estate on that wish list.
“We love coming down there and it’s been too long. So that’s definitely on the docket. Touring is definitely something that needs to happen after all this digestion of the new material.”