Mean Creek’s previous record, 2012’s Youth Companion (released via Old Flame Records just like Local Losers), was a melancholic look at growing up in Eastern Massachusetts, skillfully playing on the chemistry between Keene and co-singer-/guitarist Aurore Ounjian. This new effort, however, takes on the 20-somethings’ reality of living in it. From loves lost and found and lost again, to understanding that family can be redefined for those with which you share a tour van (and augmented by new members, like fresh-faced bassist Kevin Macdonald), Local Losers wears its fragile heart on its dirty sleeve.
On the eve of the band’s record release show, we asked Keene and Holland to give insight into each track, and what went on in the years that shaped the songwriting and sound.
1. “Cool Town”
Chris Keene: We had been out on tour supporting Counting Crows for a month-and-a-half. After six weeks, the tour was ending in California. We spent about a week in San Francisco over Thanksgiving. I loved the city, and I was in love with a girl who I had known for a long time who had recently moved out there. When it was time to leave and come back to Boston, I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay in San Francisco permanently. I had just spent six weeks on tour doing what means the most to me in the world, and I was in love with this girl and this city. I knew I had nothing back at home at the time. No job, no money, no girl.
The plane ride home was beyond depressing, turbulence the whole way. Felt like I was leaving heaven on a one way trip back to hell. This song came about shortly after returning. Musically, it was inspired by listening to my friend Colleen Green’s album Sock It To Me, and songs like “Big Bad Mean Motherfucker” off the first Girls album. That California punk sound was hitting home to me at the time. It reminded me of that pretty girl and big bright sun.
2. “My Madeline”
Chris Keene: This song was written around the same time as “Cool Town,” and in many ways is sort of an answer to that song. I ended up staying in Boston, not moving to San Francisco or anywhere else. I realized that I couldn’t leave the people here who mattered to me the most, and what we had spent the better half of a decade building. Aurore, Mikey, (former bassist) Erik (Wormwood), my bandmates. They were my world. I have known Aurore for 16 years, Mikey for 11, Erik for six. “My Madeline” was written with Aurore in mind, but really all these people. I won’t let the two of us down, I’m coming home right now. That was me realizing what Aurore meant to me, what Mikey and Erik meant to me, what this band meant to me. It was family, and as Springsteen says “Man turns his back on his family, well he just ain’t no good”. As long as I had these people in my life, I could never leave.
3. “Anxiety Girl”
Mikey Holland: I remember working on this song on an extremely bleak and grey Sunday. I’ll never forget the day in part to how fitting it was to my actual mood. But I remember staring out to the city of Boston and strumming my acoustic and saying the words “I can’t keep you satisfied.” At the time it was the worst and most honest feeling I had in a while. The song is written about someone I love very much and spent the last four years of my life with. Our relationship was coming to an end and I couldn’t help but feel 100-percent responsible. I’m writing this sitting in the same spot I did when I wrote the song and I still feel pretty raw and broken up about it. I can never say goodbye and this is one of those songs that gets me every time we play it.
4. “Night Running”
Chris Keene: This is very much a road song that was inspired by being on that tour. Driving all day on tour you’ve got a hell of a lot of time to reflect. I had spent a lot of time thinking about a girl back in Boston who I had a falling out with. Before that, we had been close friends for a year. It turned into a really messy situation that stuck with me for a very long time. I had never totally lost someone from my life like that who I cared so much for. I spent a lot of time wondering if it bothered her as much as it was bothering me, and along came this song.
5. “Johnny Allen”
Mikey Holland: A similar vibe, thematically speaking, as “Anxiety Girl.” This is a song about confronting who you are and how you really feel. Sometimes for myself at least, this is one of the hardest things to do. I tend to destroy my own feelings for everyone else. I feel really proud of this song as I do our entire record. I just feel like lyrically and musically I captured my most honest moment. I’m a fuck-up, a Grade-A one at that. I’m an old photograph, but you’re always on my mind. And she is.
6. “Mass. Border”
Chris Keene: A lot of songs about girls on this album. This was one of the last songs written for the album. I drove the entire length of Massachusetts down the pike to see a friends band. She really blew my mind and I was a big fan of her music, really connected to it and to her. This was a song for her, and for the feeling I had that night after seeing her band, driving back down I-90 back home to Boston.
7. “Hangover Mind”
Mikey Holland: There’s this great song off the She’s The One soundtrack by Tom Petty. He sings this line: “We’re over due for a dream come true.” Whenever I hear that line I get a little choked up. I always think of Chris, Aurore and Erik. This is a song in many ways for the three of them. My soul mates who I would cross fire for and who I’d feel empty without. When I was writing this, I had this strange comforting sense that I had nothing left to lose but them. We’ve been through so much as a band and as people. Our lives are so intermingled with the band that it’s not uncommon to come to practice and just talk, maybe not even play.
“Hangover Mind” is about the glorious kind of zen moment where everything seems to be falling apart and at the same time coming together. This is also my favorite song to play lately. I imagine one day Chris and Michael Stipe singing this one. I’m a dreaming Local Loser!
8. “Teenage Feeling”
Chris Keene: There’s something special about discovery. About first times. About naivety. You are so much more open to things when you’re young. Everything is a wonder, and has a sense of adventure and magic because you’ve never experienced a lot of things before. There’s something very special and inspirational about that mindset, and a lot of people lose it the older they get. The more bored they get with things, the more beat down they get by life, and disillusioned to its magic.
It’s very important to me to try my hardest to never lose that sense of hope you have when you’re young, that idea that anything is possible. I never wanna lose that passion for life that you have when you’re young, no matter how old I get, and no matter how many of life’s sad realities I come into contact with. To quote Springsteen again, “Someday these childish dreams must end, to become a man and grow up to dream again.”
MEAN CREEK + OVLOV + PILE + HELIOTROPES + YOUNG LEAVES :: Friday, April 25 @ the Middle East downstairs, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA :: 8 p.m., $8 advance / $10 doors, 18-plus :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page