Bird Language is an indie rock band based out of Boston. New EP Chasing Echos finds the quintet in a summer state of mind, extending a personal invitation for human connection that pierces through layers of guitars, bass and drums. Across the record’s four soulful tracks, Bird Language explores themes of friendship, love, and longing against the warm backdrop of the casual season, crafting an engaging soundtrack to life’s better days. 

Still intact are the panoramic snapshots of modern life, as captured in the band’s 2022 debut album 625 Days, but on this EP, a chemistry amongst its members flourishes as the summer setting in the artwork, an Andrew Houle oil painting inspired by a photograph taken by bassist Pat Piasecki, allows the music to bloom in vivid detail. “Chasing Echos is about the nostalgia of warm summer nights, swimming with friends under starry skies,” says guitarist Andrew Doherty. “The good stuff we all miss when we are in traffic on I-93 South or sitting on the T en route to our day jobs.”

We caught up with the band to discuss their approach to songwriting, and how it shaped the new record. (Photo: Credit Pat Piasecki Photography) 

Q: In your opinion, what are the essential qualities that make a “good songwriter”?

Neil Simmons: One quality I always go back to is, never falling in love with one part… just because you think it's great, doesn't mean somebody wants to hear it over and over again. Sometimes the best parts are only played once. Less is more.

Another important thing is trying to stay original when you're making music, that is, let's be honest, pretty basic; we're still basically talking about guitars, bass drums, keys, vocals, and trying to do something that's slightly different than what's been heard before. For example, not using the same predictable chord progressions and not putting solos and lead parts in only predictable spots. 

And one little nugget, I heard Tom Petty say: “Don't bore us, get to the chorus!”

Andrew Doherty: Oh man. What I define as good could be total shit to someone else, but I like songwriters who know how to manage tension and resolution. Whether I am listening to JS Bach or Elliott Smith, it’s a standout aspect for me. Garreth Liddiard from Tropical Fuck Storm is an example of a songwriter who can slay in several different ways. Go check out his solo work, too. His song “Blondin Makes an Omelette” hovers between tension and release without ever resolving… and that is 100% intentional once you read into the lyrics. 

It also helps when you believe the song was written with honesty. By the time something makes it into the studio, it’s gone through the wringer… and not always for the better. It’s easy to lose a connection to the first spark of inspiration. Bird Language values maintaining a connection to the music throughout the process. We treat the studio almost like a group retreat. It’s as if we are all weird musical doulas working together helping to bring a song into the world.   

Q: What is the basis for writing attention-grabbing music in this day and age?

Simmons: That's kind of a tricky question because I only write things that I like, in other words, it only has to make me feel something. With that said, drawing from various influences and your fellow musicians skill sets really helps! For me, there's no reason to not have a song that could have Steve Winwood vocals and Iron Maiden guitars!

Doherty: We all have our different ideas and approaches in this band – which is partially why Bird Language works. My feeling is that we are dealing with homo sapiens here. We are the most emotional, cerebral and social mammal on the planet. We are all trying to make a connection somehow. Given how scatterbrained and cagey everyone is today, you need a hook -- but equally important -- you need to create some space for the listener to settle in. So, melody/harmony to lure the listener in and space/dynamics to give them a place to relax. It helps that Chip’s lyrics are highly relatable and honest and he sings like an angel. 


Q: Can you pinpoint some specific songs and songwriters that changed the way you write music?

Simmons: My favorite song of all time is “Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine, and it really just impressed on me that how the music makes you feel is the most important thing. Everything else getting there along the way is not important. You don't even have to play well. Sometimes it's better that you don't! Another one is Grouper, heavy on feel/vibe and sometimes it's barely music!

Doherty: I came up in the ‘90s with bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Swervdriver and Failure… so you’ll hear some of that in my playing.  But the biggest recent changes were for different reasons. Before COVID, I was living with this deep skepticism about the current state of art, film and music at large. Everything felt like a reboot of a reboot. Then Covid hit and I basically had to get out of that mode of thinking lest I lose my mind. I remember listening to St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home and being floored and inspired. It inspired me to keep writing and restored some of the faith I had in music.  

Q: Do you find it hard to be inspired by artists that are younger than you, or are you motivated by their energy? Can you name any new artists you find inspiring?

Simmons: I do my best to keep my ear on younger musicians, and it's absolutely a source of inspiration! People like Kurt Vile, Nathan Williams from Wavves, Beach House, Sylvan Esso, cloud nothings to name just a few… these folks are monsters of songwriting in my opinion

Doherty: It’s not a question of whether it is hard to be inspired… it’s a question of access. I am kind of a mess when it comes to tracking down new music. I am mostly tech illiterate, have a kid and work long hours, so I rely on other folks like Neil to feed me new music. Bands like Alvvays, Beach House, DIIV, Ovlov are all totally cool. I really appreciate that these kids aren’t afraid to use a bit of reverb, fuzz and studio acrobatics to make music fun. You can hear the influence the ‘90s had on these kids. Then you hear a band like Amyl & the Sniffers and they are probably better than most of the OG punk rawk bands from the ‘70’s. The kids are alright!

Q: For your new album, what inspired the lyrical content, album title, and overall vibe?

Jeff “Chip” Nicolai: Coincidently, all three songs with lyrics on the album have a theme of nostalgia. A longing for the past and memories about long lost loves and friends. The album cover art is a painting by Andrew Houle based on a photograph by our bass player Pat Piasecki. The painting also has a nostalgic feeling of carefree summer days. The album title was inspired by both the theme in the lyrics and the album art. Thinking back and chasing those echos from the past. 

Q: Do you find that you ruminate over writing songs and hold on to them for a long time before including them on a record? Or do you prefer to write them, release them, and be done with them? Do you ever re-visit old material to do a re-write or once it’s done it’s done?

Simmons: I prefer to strike while the iron is hot and keep that original idea fresh. Sometimes when you stray too far from the original thought, you really lose your way. Finish it and move on!

Nicolai: We’ve been getting back on a good writing streak. When we get in that groove our sound continues to progress. It would be interesting to revisit some old material especially some tunes we never got around to releasing but when the ideas are flowing it’s good to keep looking forward

Doherty: A song has to be pretty special for it to linger unfinished for months and months.  Given how we write together, there is usually another idea right around the bend. Up or out is the general rule, but there are exceptions and there should be. Some of the best stuff requires time to take form. There has to be a balance between being too emotionally attached and too impulsive. Not every finished song should be released.  

Q: Were there any lessons you learned in the writing and recording process for your current release that you will take with you into your next project?

Simmons: Engineers matter! Benny Grotto at Mad Oak is really a Renaissance man… such great suggestions and straight to the point feedback. Also having a gear genius like my fellow Bird Language fellow guitar player Andrew is a big help, listen to him and he will help you sound great!

Nicolai: My vocals felt a lot better on this new recording. We also experimented more with background vocals and layering different vocal tracks. I’m looking forward to expanding this more on the next record.

Doherty: Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself as a performer. Aim high! And have lots of fun.  And take care of each other. And, Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios is a treasure. He was truly the 6th member of the band. 

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