Longevity in music comes through pushing yourself and expanding the possibilities of your sound. This has never been more true for Copeland on their latest effort Blushing, a collection of 11 new tracks that advance and evolve everything the trio of musicians has done up until now. The band, which originally formed in Lakeland, Florida in 2001, has unveiled six albums, spanning from their 2003’s debut Beneath Medicine Tree to 2016’s Ixora. While they began as a rock band, Copeland’s music has explored multiple genres and pulled in various stylistic influences like electronic and symphonic. In the past the musicians have aptly melded these styles, creating a unique amalgam of sounds. This time they wanted to take each sound and style and push it to its logical extreme.
“We wanted to take all of the elements that made up our sound in the past and push those elements farther,” Aaron says. “So rock becomes more rock than we’ve been in the past. If we’ve taken elements of symphonic tones, let’s now be very symphonic. When we’re being electronic, be very electronic. We wanted to emphasize each element of sound harder, like an exaggerated version of Copeland’s sound. We could be each thing individually by pushing each facet of our art in a more focused way.”
After touring for two years on Ixora, Copeland’s first album since reuniting in 2014 after five years apart, the musicians took their time to write new music. Aaron remained in Florida, where he has his own studio Vanguard Room, and Bryan and Stephen were spending time in Nashville. Over the course of nearly two years, the musicians met several times in Florida for two to three week spans trying to develop this new version of their sound. It was a challenging process and occasionally life got in the way. Ultimately, it was essentially not to overthink anything even as the time passed.
“There’s a danger when something takes a long time that you might overcook the idea,” Aaron says. “You work all the unique things out of them trying to make them perfect. Instead of overthinking we would just strip it back to the original idea and start fresh. We wanted to go back to the first demo and just start again, and that made it better. These songs feel like they made it to a good place.”
Aaron, who has helmed albums for Anberlin, Anchor & Braille and Emarosa, produced Blushing, which draws its name from a lyric in “Colorless.” There was an added benefit of Bryan and Stephen’s production and mixing experience as well. “We think about the record from a producer’s angle, which is unique from most bands,” Aaron notes. “Everyone had a holistic view of the record. It’s cool to work with people who think that way.”
There is a sense of overall cohesion in terms of the tone and emotional quality, but the songs veer in different directions musically. “On Your Worst Day” best exemplifies the band’s sonic goals for the album, opening as a perfectly orchestrated song led by Aaron’s voice and strings before transforming into a melancholy electronic number. “Skywriter,” which features guest vocals from singer Young Summer, is introspective and moody, building layers of ambience with its hushed beats. “Night Figures” is an intimate love song, a theme that threads through the album, while “Lay Here” brings in synth elements to create an atmospheric bed of sound. It all bridges back to Ixora with “Pope,” the album’s rock opener that reminds the listener of where Copeland came from. The lyrics, overall, are purposefully abstract. “I try to keep things a little cloudy,” Aaron says. “I don’t like to be extremely literal in my lyrics. I want people to attach their own meanings and let the lyrics meet them where they are.”
The album is a strong step forward for Copeland, who plans to continue writing and releasing music together for the foreseeable future. The band, who have toured with the likes of Brand New, Goo Goo Dolls, Bob Mould, Switchfoot, Motion City Soundtrack and Guster, will also tour on the new material. In many ways, Blushing encapsulates the band’s impressive career, while also showcasing their evolution into mature songwriters and producers. It reveals how the strength of each individual component that makes up Copeland’s sound.
“We already knew these elements complimented each other,” Aaron says. “We have a lot of records under our belt so we knew that none of these sounds would be uncharacteristic of us. That let us be free to really push ourselves in that way and this album represents that.”