Life gets in the way. That phrase is frequently used as a nicer way of saying, “The dream is dead and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
But in the case of Bay Area punk quintet Get Dead, it’s the exact opposite: Had life not repeatedly gotten in the way, they never could have made their eclectic new album Honesty Lives Elsewhere.
“Everyone works and has spouses and kids,” says singer Sam King, who paints houses for a living. “[Overall] we spent a month recording this album, but it was in spurts, because our bosses or our
wives would call us and need us to come do something.”
Such is the challenge of recording close to home—sure, you get to sleep in your bed every night, but it’s a lot harder to disconnect from your day-to-day responsibilities to focus on your art. However, King says it worked in the band’s favor, as it gave them more time to spend with the songs, allowing them to be fleshed out in new and different directions.
“We ended up writing about 18 songs for the album; immediately after doing the demos, we scrapped three of them,” King recalls. “We listened to them and were like, ‘Fuck that! We must’ve been drunk.’”
Recorded at San Francisco’s Motor Studios by Josh Garcia (himself a former member of Get Dead), Honesty Lives Elsewhere found itself the benefactor of many of Get Dead’s talented friends and labelmates who stopped by to contribute to the album, including members of Lagwagon, toyGuitar and Old Man Markley. Plus, as with their previous album, 2013’s Bad News, the band enlisted NOFX’s Fat Mike to assist with production and songwriting.
“With lyrics, I’ve always been somebody that sits down and writes a song in a couple hours or else it gets scrapped,” King says. “I’ve never been a journal guy. I don’t have pages and pages of ideas. But Fat Mike came in a couple times and pushed me, like, ‘Hey, maybe you should develop that idea a little more.’ It worked.”
The process of creating Honesty Lives Elsewhere was one with a sudden dark cloud put over it, when one of King’s best friends committed suicide just as the singer was embarking on writing lyrics. “I tried to distance myself from the incident as I was writing the album because I didn’t want it to come across as some morbid ode to him,” he says. “But when the album was done, I listen to it now and it’s all I hear. There was no escaping it. There was no way I was going to write all these songs and nothing was going to be about it, whether I wanted to or not. I don’t want this to be a bummer fuckin’ record, but when I listen to it, I hear a bummer fuckin’ record.”
However, King is of the mindset that songs evolve and lyrics change meaning and intent over time. “It comes from the first time we put out an album and my mom wanted to hear it, and she thought the choruses said something completely different. Her take on it was a completely different thing than what I meant. So I’ve never wanted to post lyrics because [the song’s meaning] should be up to the listener.”
Ever since, King has been focused on pushing Get Dead forward, no matter which direction—amped up or acoustic, poppy or thrashy. In his mind, complacency equals failure.
“Every album, we want to do something different,” the singer explains. “It doesn’t work out that well for us in terms of being put into a genre or niche, but I think in the end, we enjoy the process of making music. If we can come up with something we haven’t done before? Fuck it, let’s do it. If you can tweak it that much where you’re standing out a little bit and making new stuff every time, then you’re winning.