Jeremy Stith wasn’t sure if his hardcore band Fury had anything left to say. This wasn’t an unusual thought—every time the group released something, he and guitarist Madison Woodward talked about how they’d be fine if it was the band’s last. Their prior record Paramount was an intense and well-received album, but they didn’t know what—if anything—was next.
But then in 2016, inspiration struck unexpectedly. A friend emailed Stith a poem while Fury was on tour in Europe, and he read it on his phone over and over again.
“It was like a bomb went off in my head,” Stith says. “The poem was so simple and succinct. It brought up so many different parts of the human condition. I got my pad and pen. I couldn’t stop writing, like I was throwing up.”
Last year, Fury released Failed Entertainment to wide acclaim, even reaching beyond the limits of the hardcore crowd that so eagerly adored their previous record. Failed Entertainment manages to retain the screaming intensity of classic hardcore while infusing the nuance of mid-tempo ’90s alt-rock, the groove of Fugazi, and the guttural power of doom metal. As the group broadened its sound beyond hardcore music, it never veered from the genre’s energy.
“We all love hardcore. We are students of it. We’re also students of other things,” Stith says. “We don’t like doing the same thing twice. We’re going into it with the ideals of ‘let’s do something new.’”
It’s hard for Stith to say what was so impactful to him about that poem, other than it felt like the antithesis to the complacency he was feeling. Stith’s words are furious, confused and raw, and never explicit in their meaning. Yet, you can feel him try to make sense of the world around him. On “Goodtime,” he sings: “Sun comes up/What of it but another dying season/All for what/We see ourselves how the whole world sees us/All the same.”
The musicality of the record is mostly the work of Woodward. His dynamic songwriting includes more peaks and valleys than a traditional hardcore album, which gives Stith’s sense of searching greater emotional impact. It was a collaboration between them, but in a sense, they were on their own journeys that happened to align beautifully.
“It’s a testament to Maddie and I’s friendship,” Stith says. “It would blow me away every time he would show me a song because it was like he was speaking to me in the way that he could communicate. It was unbelievable.”
But Stith sworried that the record’s meaning was too transparent.
“I felt butt naked the day the record came out, because I felt it’s so obvious. I had to take a step back to realize that I really am hiding in plain sight,” Stith says. “I wanted it to be open to interpretation. This record is me at this time of my life. It’s the only way I could have been honest and genuine about what I was dealing with right then and there.”
The second to last song on the record, “New Year’s Eve,” is just a spoken track of the poem that created the record, with friends reading different lines. Like the album it inspired, it’s open for interpretation and elicits deep, unexplainable emotions.
Stith still gets goosebumps from the poem. He imagines its author a kindred spirit.
“Sometimes you come across a human who’s really feeling what you’re feeling, and they’re able to communicate it in a way that sounds like it came right out of your head,” Stith says. “It’s so real. It really turned everything from black and white to color.”
Fury plays at 9 pm on Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $12. 423-1338.