“The Future Is Now” is the best song on the New Up’s most recent record, and a crowd favorite. The song, a fusion of electronic music, rock and goth sensibilities, has a strong pop accessibility, but yet almost didn’t make it on the San Francisco band’s album Tiny Mirrors.
Last year, a friend of a friend asked the band if they’d write a jingle for an environmentally conscious laundry detergent. Noah Reid, one half of the group, says “The Future Is Now” just poured out of him.
“It was talking about the future and the destruction of the planet,” Reid says, describing what may very well be the strangest lyrics ever for a jingle. The product ended up not launching, and Reid decided to use the song for the New Up.
At that point, with last year’s crazy election campaign in full force, Reid re-evaluated the lyrics of the song. (“Careful what you wish for/Once you open the door/There’s no turning back/Pack your bags/It’s time to go.”)
“I didn’t even know what I meant,” Reid says. “I thought I was talking about dictators and autocrats and horrible leaders of other countries. Then I realized, ‘oh my God, I’m talking about us.’”
ES Pitcher, the other half of the group, says that the album was scheduled for release the weekend after the election. With everyone in such despair about the unexpected results of Trump’s victory, they delayed the release for early 2018.
As they processed what had happened, they looked at the concept album that they’d written, and realized it was speaking to the Trump era we were now living in.
“We were like, ‘this album is so absolutely significant. This wouldn’t be nearly as significant if Hillary won the election,’” Pitcher says. “That was our only silver lining.”
The album, like “The Future is Now” finds that delicate line between heavy rock and electronic music. The analog and digital elements are tossed together like a dinner salad, and have an overall dark ambience. It’s also a layered record, with multiple soundscapes giving the songs various dimensions.
The arc of the record begins with different stories of people feeling lost and disconnected, and acting out in self-destructive ways. As it progresses, these extreme behaviors became normalized by society, and are reflected most heinously in the leaders.
“The real challenge for us is always to love ourselves and to try and come at things through love and not fear,” Reid says. “The emotional tone of the music is not anything about a specific person, but the power structure that’s in place in our society, which is based on people wanting power, not on us progressing as a species.”
Not only were the members not aware of the timely significance of the music they were writing as they wrote it, but they didn’t even realize it was going to be a concept album. That came near the end of the process, when they were selecting songs and putting them in order.
“Concept albums have totally changed my life. They tell a story. They take you on a journey. There’s a point of reflection,” Pitcher says. “Because certain concept albums had such an impact on my life, I wanted to do the same, even though it’s not the thing to do in the music industry right now.”
But the record, their second, has done well. It even sparked interest from Rough Trade Records, who liked the tracks that the group’s manager sent them. A few months ago, the New Up signed a publishing deal with Rough Trade.
Going forward, the group hopes to blur the line between instruments and computers further, and to continue to write deep, impactful music. In the meantime, they are continuing to promote Tiny Mirrors, as well as to further discover it’s meaning. As dark as the album’s concept might seem, they insist that it’s very much an optimistic album.
“We all have work to do in order to be able to help other people,” Pitcher says. “It’s kind of like the idea of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on someone else when you’re in the airplane. It does sort of evolve where it’s like, now I feel a little bit more awake and able to stand up and connect on a greater level.”
The New Up play at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10. 429-6994.