Revolver teamed with Dying Wish for an exclusive vinyl variant of their debut album Fragments of a Bitter Memory, which sold out immediately. Head over to the store now to see our remaining selection of extremely limited vinyl.
"Hyper-political hardcore." "Activist punk." "Y2k metalcore." Dying Wish expect that journalists will inevitability employ some hot-button labels to describe their sound. The rising Portland, Oregon crew aren't into boxes or limits, but they're not sweating it too much. Dying Wish are confident enough to know that no single descriptor can capture or contain their creative vision. But there is one tiresome classification that they won't abide.
"It's important to be recognized outside of this gender perception," says singer Emma Boster. "A lot of people naturally lump us in with other bands or name a whole tour package that's just bands full of girls, and it doesn't make sense for any reason other than that. You can smell that token bullshit from a mile away."
Dying Wish confront this type of sexism — among other social issues that plague the modern age — on their incendiary debut full-length, Fragments of a Bitter Memory. The new record is unapologetic in its ferocity: its riffs hit hard, the breakdowns are damn near disrespectful to the ears and Boster's complex, stirring lyrics are delivered with maximum force and crowd-sing-along potential.
The band's evocative sound and unwavering mission have already earned them a passionate grassroots fan base and respect from leaders in the scene, including Knocked Loose singer Bryan Garris (who added a vocal assist on their shattering single "Enemies in Red.")
As heard on Fragments of a Bitter Memory, Dying Wish are clearly passionate about using their platform to address issues that matter to them. But their approach isn't rooted in abstract theories or academic conjecture — the fervor driving Dying Wish is directly fueled by its members' own individual life experiences.
Both Boster and bassist Andrew Le grew up in areas of Oregon where discrimination in gender, sexual and racial identity were an unfortunate part of life. They both sought out music as a refuge but were disillusioned when they found some of the very same intolerance in their local scene.
"It's tough because it's supposed to be an antithesis," says Boster. "In a way, it's a subculture and you'd like to think it's going to be different, but there are a lot of parallels. The thing that I like about listening to queer artists or people of color is that they're angry about something that matters. I feel like there's a lot of hatred in metal, but it's not necessarily directed at anything important."
Fragments of a Bitter Memory covers these issues and more, and features some particularly harrowing personal moments — including the pummeling title track on which Boster delves into some painful times from her own childhood.
Ahead of the album's release (on October 1st via Sharptone Records), we caught up with Boster, Le and guitarist Sam Reynolds. Dying Wish were about to hit the road for their current U.S. tour, but the band members graciously took some time to dive into the mechanics of creating Fragments of a Bitter Memory, explain why their activist beliefs are "not their identity," reveal how they process trauma through music and much more.
I'M WONDERING WHY THE TITLE TRACK AND "UNTIL MOURNING COMES" WERE CHOSEN AS THE FIRST RELEASES FROM THE RECORD.
EMMA BOSTER We have "Enemies in Red" and "Innate Thirst" on the record, and those songs were already out and definitely on the heavier side. But when we were in the studio, we wrote some more melodic songs with big choruses and clean vocals. And there is both the elements of these heavier, violent songs on the record — like "Enemies" and "Innate" — and then there's also the dynamic of, you know, something a little bit more melodic and not quite as heavy. So we wanted to put out those two songs to kind of, you know, show the dynamic of what the album is going to sound like as a whole. And also, they're two of the best songs on the record. So they had to be, you know, out to promote.
WHAT ABOUT THEM MAKES THEM THE BEST, IN YOUR OPINION?
ANDREW LE All of us collectively thought the title track was it. With "Mourning" — having a song that opens with a breakdown is just way too cool. With those two, there wasn't too much conversation around having them as singles.
SAM REYNOLDS In the writing process we all just had this gut feeling with "Fragments." There were talks of other songs, but we wanted to save them for last. In my opinion, the whole record's good, but we just wanted to show a completely different side of Dying Wish that people don't know and haven't heard yet.
WHAT DOES THE DYING WISH WRITING PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
REYNOLDS For this record, I think I wrote about half of it before we even got signed to Sharptone. I basically just write all the riffs at home and then I'll send them to everyone and they'll send in their notes. But then we got the Sharptone deal, went to New Jersey, and then we thought of a few more songs to write. So it was kind of like [producer] Randy [LeBoeuf] getting his hands on it too. And just being like, This can go here, or, What if you did this instead of this? Still, I write most of the riffs at home, Andrew will come over and come up with basslines that I can't think of because I'm not a bass player. And then at the studio Jeff [Yambra], our drummer, and then Randy and I sat down to really figure out what we wanted the drums to sound like … what kind of drum beat he wanted, and really honed it in.
WHAT ABOUT LYRICALLY? IS THAT SOMETHING YOU ALL CONTRIBUTE TO, OR DO YOU WRITE ALL OF THE LYRICS, EMMA?
BOSTER I don't write all of it myself. There is a song on the record Andrew wrote the lyrics for, but [guitarist] Pedro [Carrillo's] effort with me is a little more collaborative. He'll send me lines and then I'll write around them, just because the way he writes is very different than how I do. I've come up with all of my vocal patterns and stuff like that, but you can kind of tell what songs Pedro writes and what songs I write. He wrote parts of "Enemies." I believe he wrote the breakdown, the "No patiences left/I've come to grips with your neck/My enemies in red." He writes really hard shit like that, and I'm a little more emotional when it comes to writing my lyrics. It works. It's a good contrast for sure.
There's only one song on the record that I already had lyrics that I knew I wanted to use. The rest of it I pretty much wrote in studio. I'll like journal or have thoughts down, but I'll look to those, use them as inspiration and then rewrite to the song. The way my brain works is I sit down and I have the song and it's done. It just comes to me naturally with the vibe of the song for what I want to write about. For "Fragments" — that song was so big and so emotional. I had this experience I'd been waiting years and years to write a song about and it finally clicked that this was my moment to be able to say the things I wanted to say. A lot of the time it comes pretty naturally as far as how the music is going to connect with the lyrics and what it means.
WHAT SITUATION WAS THAT?
BOSTER It's my story of growing up in a household with an abusive stepparent. A lot of the abuse I experienced as a young child still affects me and my current mental health as an adult. I notice that a lot of my daily anxiety is a product of the feeling of needing to protect my inner child. The song takes a violent turn because as I work to heal these trauma wounds, other coping mechanisms often seem easier and more comforting. I named the song "Fragments of a Bitter Memory" because I've learned how trauma effects your memory and I am very forgetful of things both past and present.
THAT'S A VERY PERSONAL SONG, AND I THANK YOU FOR TELLING ME THE BACKGROUND OF IT. I AM CURIOUS ABOUT SOME OF THE ALBUM'S OTHER THEMES AS WELL. ARE THERE SPECIFIC SOCIAL JUSTICE OR PROTEST ASPECTS TO THE RECORD?
LE No, I don't think there is. I think it's interesting because people think we're a really political band but we're not. I mean, all of us are leftist to varying degrees and we do talk about that stuff, but I wouldn't necessarily say we're like a hyper-political band. On the album, there are two or three songs that kind of address that. I think most of it is more personal stuff like about Emma. It feels more personal than it does social. Not to say we won't tap more into that in the future, but I think there were other things we wanted to say on this album.
BOSTER The overall theme is more about all of this pain and suffering from all different aspects of our current socioeconomic and political climate. It affects everything. Lots of uncertainty and sadness, I guess. I don't know if previous generations have felt like this, but it feels like all of this bullshit is coming to a head so intensely right now. Like all of these really dysfunctional systems we live in are responsible for so much pain and suffering.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS DESCRIPTOR OF THE BAND BEING ACTIVISTS AND HYPER-POLITICAL IS BECAUSE OF WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON IN PORTLAND LATELY?
LE I totally feel that, and I don't necessarily mind it. I think it's important to talk about and we do talk about it. Before this album, we had a song calling out police brutality. Then, we did the "Our Enemies in Blue" collab shirt with Knocked Loose and we raised a shit ton of money to bail people out for protesting. And all of us have been to protests, several times. When publications starting paying attention to us we were doing that collab with Knocked Loose and Portland was in the shits, so we were being tagged as this Portland band doing activist stuff and that's all that we're about. But, there are other things we want to talk about, too.
BOSTER It's an important part of our band, our beliefs and our message for sure, but it isn't our identity.
RIGHT. THOSE IDENTIFIERS, LIKE THE "FEMALE-FRONTED" DESCRIPTOR, ARE OFTEN JUST MORE DISTRACTIONS FROM OF THE POINT: EVERYONE SHOULD FUCKING HATE THE SYSTEM.
IS THERE ONE SONG EACH OF YOU WOULD SAY YOU'RE MOST EXCITED TO PLAY LIVE?
REYNOLDS "Cowards Feed, Cowards Bleed." It's insane. It has no business going that hard. I can't believe it's a real song.
HOW DARE IT HAVE THE AUDACITY?
LE It really does. I'm excited to see the crowds react to that one, but I have a lot of fun playing "Severing the Senses." And we actually changed a little bit of "Enemies" so I'm excited to play that one, too.
LIKE THE OLD VERSIONS ARE ON THE ALBUM BUT YOU'RE PLAYING THE NEW VERSIONS LIVE?
LE We rerecorded "Enemies" and "Innate Thirst" for the album because we wanted the album to be completely cohesive. "Enemies" has the more drastic, noticeable change, and I think that's the one I'm actually the most excited to play. People already know the words so they'll be singing along and when that spots hits they'll be like, "Oh shit!"
BOSTER I am definitely most excited to play "Fragments," besides the first one we mentioned because that song is super hard. It's a quick song, but there's a breakdown within a breakdown. But "Fragments" is just a really important song to me, and I can see that it's going to be a big sing-along song. That's probably my favorite part as a vocalist, having people sing your songs back to you.