Cleveland, Ohio's Herzog have made an album about life's earlist and toughest transitions; about Midwest growing pains, the coming-of-age stories that everyone can relate to, power jams that compromise the banners of maturation and responsibility. These are the real-life anecdotes and chapters written by Tony Vorell, and delivered by Nick Tolar, Dan Price, Dave McHenry, and Brian Hill on Boys (available May 20 from Exit Stencil Records).
Even through the outpouring of honesty and confusion, Herzog keep everything on point. The lines between life and death, youth and wisdom, and immortality versus mortality are explored on the opener, “Full Stick”, where Nick and the band seize the night and more, “to dust we shall return, this night is endless, this night will not die.” Reinforcements arrive to back up the band with the ode to strength-in-numbers on, “Henchmen”, to the smart questioning of culture conformity pressures on, “Mad Men”. Cranking up the momentum is the shout-sung, “Bicycle Girls”, where the voices and guitars clash for dominance. “Saint Scrapyard” amends for previous trespasses by denouncing the burden with the chorus chant of, “It's not my fault!” The pains of growing up and growing older are expressed in one of Herzog's brilliant arrangement of chords in the mega-monster ballad, “It's Hard Getting Old”. Home-recorded interludes of the personal ponder creating the album and misgivings fill, “Boys Part 1”, while “Theme For Boys” does a generational time-twist on the Bowie/Mott the Hoople paradigm of, “All the Young Dudes”/”Hymn For the Dudes”.
Herzog constantly kick out one catchy rock pop cut after the other. Consider the shenanigans that are crafted around a hook that reads, “here come the cops again”, on the college/alternative radio gold of “Oh No”. Stories about Georgia and a distaste for death-metal thrash some good times around on, “Teenage Metalhead”, followed by the raging, hell-bent locomotive fun on the devil-fighting rager, “Satan Is Real”. Then with a closing bow, Herzog crescendo with “You Are Not the Villain”. The curtain closes as the squeeze box air of “Boys Part 2” strums out the mistakes of yesterday, with an inclusive message for the new rock guardians of today. Going through a range of feelings, style sketches, progressions, narratives and more, Herzog somehow makes the transition into adulthood a little bit better.
You can stream Boys in it's entirety below, and read further for an interview with the lyrcist Tony Vorell and vocalist/guitarist, Nick Tolar.
Where did the whole boys to men, “Henchmen”, and “Mad Men” framework of Boys come from?
Tony: Boys II Men came from Motownphilly. But seriously, most of the songs came from stuff I saw as I realized I'm now a grown up. “Henchmen” is about when I realized we now have somebody backing us up, Exit Stencil Records, and that we can't just fuck around, now that they've spent this money. A lot of the songs on this album deal with that transition, especially as it relates to boys.
How did you take autobiographical reflections and make songs from “Teenage Metalhead” to say “It's Hard Getting Old”?
Tony: All the kids in “Teenage Metalhead” are real. I met them when I was working at a Cleveland rock club, The Beachland Ballroom. These kids really did pull up on a marching band bus from Georgia, and a few of them the ones I related to, had metal and weed on the brain. Everything in that song really did happen to them on this trip, right down to me pestering them about Lou Reed. I hope it changed them. All it takes is one push, and suddenly you're a different person.
What wisdom do you feel resonates in through these passages of time?
Tony: You are not the villain. We get into this us versus them, heroes and villains mentality, this guy did me wrong, etc. It's not true. Most people are just living their own lives, and aren't trying to hurt you, so you might as well forgive them.
Favorite memories ripped straight out of the old family albums?
Tony: My favorite memories from my childhood are of my grandfather. He fell ill when I was 14 so I definitely cherish the times I had with him. To this day we have pictures of him playing baseball or basketball with me in my front yard. And a few great pictures of him dancing the polka with cousins. Also a fun one would be a picture of me receiving my first acoustic guitar in sixth grade for Christmas. I also got The White Album for Christmas that same year so I guess that started me on my way.
That “Satan Is Real” track rips, are you guys a fan of that old school Louvin Brothers record with those big cartoon-y devil cut-outs? That album is even kinda cool too ina weird way.
Tony: Good catch! Yeah, The Louvin Brothers are cool. Obviously, our song and theirs have very little in common musically and ideologically. I hope people take it tongue in cheek. I really do love country music. Sometimes, I just latch on to certain words and phrases and turn them around in my head until they fit into a song.
You might resent this question, but do you consider this a concept album and do you have another epic narrative recordings that are being rocked out in the rehearsal rooms?
Tony: We definitely hit certain buttons again and again as things happen to us, and we feel the need to write about them. Growing up was definitely something that happened, so we wrote a song, and then we wrote another song, and the two were related. Couple months later, we had an album. I hope we don't do it again that way, because then we'd have the same album twice.
Herzog manages to turn almost everything into a guitar hook to ring in your eardrum's endless shrill cavern for forever. How the hell do you guys do it? Share some gear set-up tricks, approximations, anything.
Nick: The lead guitar player in the band Dave is just a brilliant dude. He's one of those guys that can just play anything. On my end I would say melodic hooks are the most important thing to me in music. Either vocally or instrumentally. I've always been drawn to pop music for that reason. Again the Beatles were really the first band I loved and that's my template for what good music is. As far as set up I play a jazz master through a VOX ac30 and Dave plays a reverend through a twin reverb. Kevin McMahon from Marcata studios really helped shape the tones on the record though. That guy's just incredible at getting tones. The pedals we used on the record were primarily a Pro Co Rat and a rocket distortion pedal for the heavier sections on the basic tracks, and just amp distortion for the lighter distortion. On the overdubs we used a wooly mammoth and about four or five other pedals I can't even remember that were Kevin's. I used the green line six delay echo pedal for my overdubs and Dave mostly used Ibanez delay and Boss tremolo for the leads. We aren't big gear-head dudes.
Herzog's album Boys will be availablbe May 20 from Exit Stencil Recordings