“’Sway’ is an empowering record. It’s a record that I always wanted to make but didn’t know how.” – Blue October’s Justin Furstenfeld
BLUE OCTOBER, the San Marcos, TX-based band known for shimmering rock songs and haunting lyrics on albums such as 2009’s Billboard Top 15 debut, Approaching Normal, 2011’s Billboard Top Ten debut Any Man In America and the Platinum-selling Foiled, makes a triumphant return with Sway (Up/Down Records), the band’s first album in two years.
With lush, atmospheric songs such as “Bleed Out,” “Angels In Everything” and “Fear,” and the edgy rocker “Put It In,” the Texas four-piece comes back strong with a revitalized energy and a positive outlook. As singer Justin Furstenfeld puts it: “This album is about why life is so beautiful. It’s about facing fears and recognizing miracles every day. It’s about enjoying yourself and realizing that life is not something you can half-ass.”
The band began writing the album after coming off a series of tour dates in 2012. Drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld echoes his brother’s attitude. “, “The band is in a really great space now, everyone is healthy, happy, and doing well. That’s changed our point of view, and you can hear that new perspective on the album.”
Produced by Justin Furstenfeld and David Castell (who also produced the band’s History for Sale and co-produced the Platinum Foiled) and recorded at Fire Station Studios in San Marcus, TX, the writing for the new album began with Justin. “I had about 60 songs...we recorded fifteen, and then decided on thirteen of those for the album. I usually write all the songs and then we get together.” But the singer is quick to point out that Blue October’s music is a band effort. “I’ve got all these songs, songs that would be good with a piano and acoustic guitar; then Ryan comes in and he laces them together with beautiful harmonies and cellos and violins and that gives the songs that sensitive side. Matt is about structure: he makes sure the songs are tight and the sounds are good – he’s also a producer so he knows when to take something out, if a verse is going too long or a part needs to be cut. He’s a genius. And my brother, Jeremy, our drummer, is really good at locking down what works for the song.”
With so many songs to choose from, Blue October focused on their favorites and channeled the band’s renewed optimism into creating one standout after the next. From the exciting and contagious “Bleed Out” to the wistful “Fear,” the upbeat “Angels In Everything,” and the beautiful “Not Broken Anymore,” Matt drives it home: “I don’t think there’s a weak song on the record.”
“Bleed Out’ is one of my favorites,” says Justin. “There was a guy named Jeremy Raby who sent me some music, and when I was writing the lyrics it really inspired me to finish the song. I was pretty nailed down by addiction for a while and the song comes from my wife’s point-of-view from watching someone self-destruct. I’m always honest about the pain I’ve gone through in the past: and this album is not about that anymore. It’s recognizing the people who I might have hurt: and ‘Bleed Out’ is definitely that.”
Matt agrees, “It’s definitely one of my favorites. The music was co-written by one of my very close friends and Justin heard it and turned it into a complete song. Lyrically he came in with something so strong, it reminded me of what a really special, talented guy I work with. And I think as a band, everybody shines…it’s one of those rare songs where every single instrument has a moment.” The song, with its aching melody and beautiful crescendos, surges upward to the poignant chorus, “Don’t let me bleed out here alone.” Ryan adds, “It’s a really powerful song with a great message.”
Miracles and beauty abound on Sway. Justin points out the song “Angels In Everything.” “It was inspired by my wife, who showed me that that there are angels in everything you do. You don’t have to be alone; and that the heart that’s beating when we’re together is so special and something to be cherished. I think that’s one song that I love so much because it reminds me of a guy just taking his wife out to a river, under the moon, and telling her that “you’ve changed my life and thank you so much…’”
After Justin formed Up/Down Records, the band elected to try a Pledge Music campaign to help fund the new album. The response overwhelmed them (to date, they’ve raised 180% of their goal). As Matt points out, “I couldn’t be more sincere when I say that our lifeblood and our fuel, flows from our fans. We’ve had concert promoters and even other bands comment about how loyal and how rabid our fans are and there’s never been a moment in our career when we’ve taken that for granted.”
Justin describes the process of how the band took up this new challenge. “Our manager suggested it; he found Pledge Music where we could have 5% of the proceeds go to MusicCares, which provides financial aid for musicians without insurance who are in need of help. The platform has allowed us to get closer with our fans, and allows them to become part of the fabric of the making of the new album. We love them for it and we’re very blessed that they would do that for us. We hit our goal in a week!”
For Jeremy, making music is a passion. “We’re just a bunch of guys who like to stay true and are blessed to be able to make music for so many years, even through the rough times. We’re a band of brothers who stick by each other and help each other out when we need it whether it’s music or not. As long as I can walk and as long as my hands will allow me to keep playing, and as long as we’re honest with each other, which we are, I want to keep playing and we will keep playing.”
The members of Blue October are unanimous in their enthusiasm for the new record and its new direction. As Ryan puts it: “We are absolutely very much a band: we were a performing band before we ever made any records and that’s what we are today. We’re four guys who are humbled and blessed to be able to do what we dream about.”
Matt is effusive. “The wonderful thing about playing in the band, for a long time, the message has always stayed the same. Which is to put out music that has a message and substance. Every single song has a purpose or a reason, even if the themes change, we always have something to say. I think that’s really special and that’s really special to be a part of.”
Sway authenticates the strength of Blue October. The songs are moving, emotional and dynamic; the lyrics are poignant and the sound is breathtaking. As Justin puts it, “We’re tighter than we’ve ever been, as a band and as a family. We’ve been through so much together and it comes through in the music. We’re stronger, and I think people will hear that, because the music truly shines.”
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