Left of the Dial Exclusive: The Tisburys Share Single “Shattered” Off Forthcoming EP Pictures of Fireworks
Following their 2020 LP Sun Goes Down, Philadelphia indie-rock group The Tisburys are already working on an upcoming EP, Pictures of Fireworks, which will be released later this year via Sacks Of Phones/Tisbury Inc. Earlier this summer, they debuted the first song off the EP, the new-wave influenced, “Tear Us Apart.” A departure from the straight forward guitar-driven rock that we’re used to from the Tisburys, “Tear Us Apart” is reminiscent of 80’s British new wave bands such as New Order and Eurythmics, while simultaneously referencing modern bands such as The Killers and Modest Mouse.
Today, only on Left of the Dial, The Tisburys share their newest single, “Shattered,” featuring a dreamy duet with August Greenberg from Riverby (another great Philly band, and friend of the Left of the Dial family, that shares all but one member of The Tisburys) along with additional performances from Katie Hackett of The Lunar Year and drummer Adam Shumski. The song also features an absolutely ethereal saxophone solo from the band’s own John Domenico.
“Shattered” continues the 80’s feel of “Tear Us Apart”, but leans more heavily into Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers territory (think “Don’t Come Around Here No More”), with harmonies suggestive of Supertramp. And while this list of comparisons may be long, “Shattered” still manages to remain wholly original to The Tisburys’ sound. As singer/guitarist Tyler Asay told Left of the Dial, “Its heart is pure Tisburys.”
Co-produced and mixed by The Describers’ Jason McGovern and mastered by Ryan Schwabe, “Shattered” will be released officially tomorrow, but we’ve got the song for you to hear, exclusively from Left of the Dial, right now.
In anticipation of “Shattered”s release, we spoke with Tyler Asay about “Shattered” and The Tisburys’ upcoming EP Pictures of Fireworks. Listen to “Shattered,” check out our conversation with Asay, and pre-save the single below.
These most recent songs off of Pictures of Fireworks are in some ways a departure from the more guitar-driven rock that we’ve come to expect from The Tisburys. What inspired the stylistic change?
The pandemic definitely inspired this specific stylistic change. We were almost done recording Sun Goes Down when everything shut down in March of 2020, so once that happened we were forced to email recordings to each other to finish the remaining mixes. I had not stopped writing either, so these songs (specifically “Better Than Before” and “Tear Us Apart”) were written when we were finishing up that last record. So when it came time to record them, the process was now 100% manufactured by us recording separately in our homes and emailing the tracks to Jason McGovern, who mixed “Tear Us Apart” & “Shattered.” Also, it helped that Jason’s key influences on the music he makes with his band, The Describers, are Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, more electronic and strange dance-oriented music. While these songs have shifted away from the guitar-oriented rock of past Tisbury recordings, the themes, melodies, and lyrical content is still pure Tisburys: nostalgia, coping with insecurities, and catchy hooks with darker undertones.
What else can we expect from the upcoming EP?
It was really fun to put this batch of songs together in a way that felt like a coda to Sun Goes Down; my thought process was “What happens after the sun goes down?” which became a fun exercise to write music and lyrics for. The original title was Moon Comes Up, but I figured that might be too on the nose. I settled on the title Pictures Of Fireworks, a lyric from “Better Than Before,” which is about that funny thing people do when trying to capture something alive that can’t be recreated through a screen. All the songs, like “Tear Us Apart,” have this nighttime dance groove to them, and they are all anchored by the sections of the songs that drift into minor keys with an eventual resolution. The EP includes the first song Doug (Keller, who plays bass) wrote for The Tisburys, “Sonoma (Hanging On),” an R.E.M./The Police-inspired song which feels like the evil version of “Back To California” from our last record. Since “Tear Us Apart” was the focal point of this EP, I asked Will Brown (who performs under the moniker XIXIX) to remix it, which was inspired by bands I loved from the late 2000s (such as LCD Soundsystem & Vampire Weekend) who would release remix b-sides of their singles and thought it would be an interesting and different way to round out Pictures Of Fireworks.
In addition to “Tear Us Apart” and now “Shattered,” folks who’ve watched your Left of the Dial Live session from earlier this summer will have gotten a taste of “Better Than Before” which will also be on the upcoming EP. Of course, we’ve only heard the live band version of that song. Does the studio recording have more in common with these two singles than was maybe obvious from your Left of the Dial performance of the song?
That’s the one that feels closest to classic Tisburys, which we recorded at Justin Nazario’s Sound Splitter Studio (where we recorded Sun Goes Down). “Better Than Before” and “Sonoma” were recorded mostly live with Doug, Dan (Nazario), and I set up in the room playing together, which I’ve been trying to get back to. It’s been a really fun dynamic to strip these songs back to the bare basics and then add crazy overdubs, which is where John comes in. He lives in Brooklyn, so all of his parts are done remotely, which would probably be the case pandemic or not. Once “Tear Us Apart” and “Shattered” were almost done and we had a different sound we were working on, I encouraged John to add more keyboards and synthesizers to “Better Than Before,” so there is something happening that varies from our live version on Left Of The Dial. However, the version we do on Left Of The Dial will remain the way we do it live, because I find there to be a charm when bands mix things up live; if I wanted to see a band replicate something exactly the way it sounds on the album, I would just stay home and listen to the album.
Not only is “Shattered” a duet with your Riverby bandmate August Greenberg, but it also features drummer Adam Shumski and The Lunar Year’s Katie Hackett. Can you tell us a little bit about what led to “Shattered” being such a collaborative project and how it all came together?
“Shattered” was the biggest surprise to come together over the past couple months. It started with just a keyboard vamp that John sent to me on a whim, really not expecting anything from it. I loved it so much; the syncopation of the beat, the way the chords bounce off each other, and I knew we had to use it for a Tisburys song. So I copy and pasted that vamp a bunch of times, added a middle/bridge section, and started writing a melody and lyrics on top of it. Then John and I sent it back and forth to each other a bunch of times, adding more and more elements until the original demo was unrecognizable. August (of Riverby) had already sung on “Tear Us Apart,” and I knew I wanted them to sing on “Shattered” too, but once I had the theme of the song locked in (killing off your ego), it made sense to have more than one narrator on the song. That’s how it became a duet/feature, and August absolutely killed it.
Originally, the song was built off of an electronic drum loop but once we realized it’s actual potential, we had to put real drums on the song but I wanted to keep it a little plastic. We had been sending the song to some close friends, and it made sense for Adam to drum on it; he has a really great home recording set up, and his playing style lends itself perfectly to the song with its electronic/80s-inspired vibe. He then had Katie (who fronts an incredible band The Lunar Year) add some extra percussion (including the “oohs” and “aahs” throughout the song). Once the recording was basically done, we needed that one final element to really hammer home the 80s bit, and Jason had the perfect idea: saxophone solo. So John actually performed that solo in a different key (“Shattered” is in B, but an E flat alto sax would have had to play it in A flat, which is really difficult) but pitch shifted it to line it up with the song and it works insanely well. Perfect amount of cheese.
While we’re talking about your Riverby bandmate, August, we know Riverby was recently in the studio recording your follow up to Smart Mouth. Other than missing your Tisburys guitarist (and train whistle-ist) Johnny, how does the Riverby recording process differ from recording The Tisburys?
This time around, the recording process was a little different since we just got back from recording the latest Riverby record in Cleveland with Jim Wirt (who has produced and worked on albums for Jack’s Mannequin, Incubus, Fiona Apple, and more), but it always comes down to us playing together in a room. Our little overlapping group has become really locked in when playing together, we read each other well. Because we have these two bands (that are essentially the same members) but we are playing these different styles of music, it makes us all better musicians.
Anything else you want to plug? Yes! From now until late October we are in full Wilco-mode because we will be performing downstairs at World Cafe Live on 10/29 for WXPN The Key’s 25th anniversary tribute to Wilco’s 2nd album Being There. We’ll be performing the album in full with Joey Sweeney. We’ve got a couple more gigs with both Tisburys and Riverby that should be announced soon, but other than that keep your ears open for Pictures Of Fireworks!