Premiere: Sean McVerry’s “So Certain” Captures ’80s Nostalgia without the Glitter

Sean McVerry © Kristen Dorata
Sean McVerry experiments with deeper moments masked by dance-pop melodies and immediate joy in his new single, “So Certain.”

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Snowed-in in a cabin with seven friends, Sean McVerry opened his detailed notebook to reveal something abnormal. In its pages, he’d created an album, part by part handwritten. From lyrics to synthesizers, in front of him lay a two-dimensional record ready for creation, and after a few days and a whole lot of local beers, McVerry and his friends had the audio to prove it. They had crafted an entire ’80s-inspired album ready for the ears of dancing adults and indie fanatics everywhere.

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “So Certain,” the first track birthed in the process and the latest single from Sean McVerry’s forthcoming EP Private Lives, out this April via Sleep Well Records. Private Lives is the follow up to his previous EPs Hourglass Switchboard 1 and Hourglass Switchboard 2, both of which reside in a more soothing, coffeehouse genre than the ’80s dance space of Private Lives.

You asked if I was alone
I asked you “in what sense?”
You rolled your eyes in defense
I said “ Darling we’re all just embers
burning out into the ground”
Then you frowned
Listen: “So Certain” -Sean McVerry

“So Certain” is a magnetic dance-pop track with a summer festival groove. It’s easy to put the song in a variety of environments: from late-night afterparty to driving on a summer afternoon, the track is fresh and bright, yet can be sultry and dim. It’s versatile in a masked way while feeling honest and celebratory in every note.

A contagious, simple, yet unique, synthesizer frames the track and takes center stage at the chorus. It’s a bubbly, retro sound which McVerry stumbled upon in a less-than-classic way.

So Certain - Sean McVerry

So Certain – Sean McVerry (art by Zac Lux)

You cut me off in the middle of my monologue
Where I was trying to be
Some kind of man you’d read
On pages deep in Hemingway
And you walked away

“I had bought this archaic synthesizer and I accidentally programmed that riff,” said McVerry.

The accidental discovery was something he chose to run with for the air of leniency it gave what he sees to be a rather thought-heavy genre. “Especially with electronic music, everything seems so planned. There’s no element of chance to it, so it was nice to throw a bunch of things at [the synthesizer] and I didn’t know what would come back at me. It’s very bouncy and groovy and I like it. It became the genus of the song.”

Private Lives EP - Sean McVerry

Private Lives EP – Sean McVerry

And even when I try to tell you
I feel foolish , my words are useless
I would like to change your mind
Just like the movies, but you move right through me
(but I don’t mindddddd)

The track is an incredible opener to what is bound to be an impressive, yet personal album. McVerry described Private Lives as a dance-quise, a dance-fueled album with heavier, more personal topics hiding behind the beats and party-ability of the songs.

“So Certain” embodies this directly, placing dark phrasing and less-than-happy topics into a party environment, not only in context but in sound. Lyrics like “Darling, we’re all just embers burning out into the ground,” and “I’m just a boy who wants to be someone.” Without paying full attention to the lyrics, the songs is uplifting. Yet, internally, the track shows a narrator who is trying desperately trying to grab the attention of another individual, a defeating topic that’s less energetic than the peppy, 80s groove that makes “So Certain” so alluring.

Sean McVerry © Kristen Dorata

Sean McVerry © Kristen Dorata

And with a sip of a drink
I felt it fall away
I could feel it, the air, I could feel the
Ground just move out, walls and windows
Everyone is watching
And for a moment the strength
was in the palm of my hand

I could change the feel
I could change the feel of
everything you ever wanted

Now, just give me a chance baby (but)
Sean McVerry © Jesse Mcfadden

Sean McVerry © Jesse Mcfadden

It’s that sound McVerry wanted to capture on the album, allowing the melodies and interesting instrumentals to take center stage. “I wanted to make a dance record that had that hark back to inspired songs from the 1980s without it sounding shiny or shimmery or glittery,” said McVerry. “I wanted it to have this feeling of watching home movies, I’m a ’90s kid anyway, but ’80s music: I’m still obsessed with it.”

And even when we come together
In your eyes I think I see god

If “So Certain” is a true embodiment of Private Lives in its entirety, the album is certain to be just that: a collection of depth and inspired joy, filled with a bit of nostalgia and positivity from the sounds McVerry wrote down long ago, just to make those sounds come true. Stream “So Certain” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

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So Certain - Sean McVerry

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📸 © Kristen Dorata

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:: “So Certain” credits ::

Written/Performed by Sean McVerry
Co-Produced by Sean McVerry and Elite
Additional Engineering by Jeff Alderman at Big Blue North
Live Drums by Brendon Caroselli
Mixed and Mastered by Mike Irish at Shifted
Cover art by Zac Lux