The new single from the NYC soulPsycle band is a catchy track about a tricky “what if”—and now officially my favorite song
It’s not the type of thing you’re supposed to advertise these days, but as I write this, I’m flying from Seattle to NYC.
I’m heading home after a weird whirlwind month of emotional ups and downs (hence why this is reading as a delirious diary entry, SRY), and ahead of this flight, I had a big plan for processing: queue up some sad-gurl music and marinate in my feelings ’til touchdown at JFK—then take an overpriced uber home, toss my soggy, snotty mask in the trash and move on with my life.
However, after flopping down in 32F, Purell-ing the shit out of all my surfaces and pulling out my phone to embark on my emo journey, I made a depressing discovery: after a recent tech issue, I’d forgotten to re-download my music—a mistake that would mean a cross-country journey in silence (without, on this old-ass plane, even the soothing sounds of Mama Mia 2 to save me).
After resigning myself to working instead of weeping, I yanked my laptop out from underneath the seat in front of me, and there on my desktop I was thrilled to discover exactly one song—a true silver lining in mp3 form.
Introducing “Julia”: a totally irresistible single // the (un)official soundrack of Alaska Airlines flight 426 from wonderful NYC “SoulPsycle” (brilliant) band Wildly, which I’m incredibly thrilled to premiere here!
At this point, I’ve been listening to “Julia” on loop for, um, three hours now.
Cruising over the Cascades:
“I’ve been dreaming of the life where you and I will be together // That’s not in the cards tonight // But not everything is now or never…”
Soaring over whatever’s in the middle (uh, Montana?):
“I’m running out of time to tell you that I’m yours forever // But you know that I don’t like to make promises I can’t deliver…”
Closing in on the East Coast:
“I need you to believe me, Ju-li-a // Either you have to stay or leave me today // This never could be easy, Ju-li-a // I need you here with me or half a world away…”
Maybe I’m projecting—maybe it’s the album art?—but funny enough, the song almost plays out like the experience of flying: a long, slow build before an exciting take-off, culminating in a seriously groovy cruising altitude that would def have me dancing in the aisles right now if the fasten-seatbelt light wasn’t on. (There’s also a bit of a crashing conclusion, but I don’t want to put that out in the universe at this particular moment.)
Anyway, that’s way (way) more than enough context. Now let’s get to the good stuff, courtesy of the expert himself—Darren O’Brien of Wildly—who over email was kind enough to offer some in-depth info on the song, the writing process and what else he’s been up to recently:
On Julia as an idea rather than an individual…
“When you have a song with a name in it so prominently, everybody wants to know ‘who’s Julia?!’ I tend to write more about feelings and ideas than specific people, and I bet most songwriters would say the same. Or you try to find something universal in the specific. There may be an actual person that inspires the feeling, but then you take it and run with it and it has a life independent of them. I recently read something about the Russian Symbolists “fanning” emotions to maximize their artistic significance. So Julia is the feeling that the song is about: If you’re in a relationship long enough, no matter how much you love the other person, you’re likely to meet one or more people who shake the foundations a bit and get you thinking ‘what if?’ And then you have decisions to make, among which are to upend your life or just make art about it.”
On the song’s inception…
“Ultimately the origin of the song is that I was listening to White Fence and trying to write as good a ‘60s psych song as Tim Presley’s. Until very recently I haven’t been a prolific songwriter, so I have to follow the muse from wherever it arrives to wherever it leads. My old band had a song called ‘Linda’ simply because a friend asked me to write a song about a fictional person named Linda, and it was one of our catchiest. I once wrote a song that was about both Jay Reatard and George W Bush. And I just wrote a sick jingle for the concept of fruitcake cupcakes that most likely only my siblings will ever hear.”
On the “Julia” live experience—and attempting to capture that same energy (plus a pitch!):
“’Julia’ has been one of the go-to closers of our live show for a while now. I’ve seen people in the audience have the Maxell tape commercial reaction to it when we hit full power, and that’s not always easy to capture on record. We had one false start that we had to scrap. Now Leo [Madriz] and Travis [Hackett] and I have been playing together for a long time and, since the last release, our bass player, engineer, and co-producer have all been the same guy (Jeff Knutsen), so we all know the songs intimately and can really strategize before we record, because so far all of our basic tracking has been done live. As of this summer, Jeff and I are neighbors and have a basement space that is now an operational studio. We are working on some really fun stuff as Activity Partners (@activitypartners), will start mixing another Wildly song soon, and are open to clients. Hit us up.”
We’re approaching final descent, and with “Julia” on repeat—which it probably would’ve been even if it wasn’t the only song at my disposal—that means my brain has been bathing in sweet retro vibes + good feels for ~2400 miles and across three time zones.
As it turns out, “Julia” is not a great song for wallowing. On the contrary, I’m finding it pretty fucking impossible to be bummed. And that’s probably a good thing—not just for me, but for all of us.
No one needs a nudge to ~feel something~ in our current climate or some inspiration to be extra sad. Sometimes what we really require, and deserve, is some sonic escape. A tasty track we can imagine (eventually) listening to while crammed on top of our friends in a car with the windows down—not as a safety precaution, but because it feels good—or one day performing on a dirty little bar stage while a sweaty karaoke crowd sings along.
Whether you’re dealing with some less-than-ideal life shit at 32,000 feet in the air or below sea level in your Bushwick basement, there’s no arguing that music really has the power to transform your mood (at least for a few minutes at a time), and I can’t truly recommend this song enough—
Trust me, I’ve listened to it like 47 times. And, I promise you, I really do feel better already.
Feature image (provided by the band): Sarah K Craig