BREAK(ING) THE CURSE: Arlie’s Dreamy, Dramatic, Dynamic & Vulnerable Debut Album

Arlie's Nathaniel Banks © Gabe Drechsler
Arlie's Nathaniel Banks © Gabe Drechsler
Cinematic and seductive, catchy and cathartic, Arlie’s debut album ‘BREAK THE CURSE’ churns through traumas inside and out as the Nashville band invite us to join them in a feverish, anthemic, and often therapeutic reckoning.
Stream: “break the curse” – Arlie




I was itching to express the core of myself, and find something that inspires me in a new way… I wanted to capture the magic that we created with the low-fidelity music and paradoxically make it more hi-fi.

Dynamic, catchy, and honest music has always been key to Arlie’s artistry, but these past two years have seen the Nashville outfit come into their own with a remarkable sense of confidence, boldness, creativity, and raw passion. Single after single saw the major label signed indie pop band trailblazing their own path and carving out a unique space where lo-fi and hi-fi music can not merely coexist, but truly thrive side-by-side; this series of successes recently culminated in the band’s long-awaited debut album. Cinematic and seductive, catchy and cathartic, BREAK THE CURSE churns through traumas inside and out as Arlie invite all to join them in a feverish, anthemic, and often therapeutic reckoning.

It’s sweet alternative music ready to rile the ears and cleanse the soul, all at the very same time.

BREAK THE CURSE - Arlie
BREAK THE CURSE – Arlie
Weekend, wasn’t quite myself
Sink in, maybe you’re just smart
Somehow able to control
Somehow, driving your own car
Don’t doubt, everything could change
Right now, but there’s only one
Way out, honest with myself
Somehow, managed to go wrong
Do you really wanna know what’s in my head?
‘Cause once I drop my pen
The hand of God is writing on its own
But maybe we could make it work
Maybe we could break the curse

Released June 3, 2022 via Atlantic Records, BREAK THE CURSE is a long time coming for Arlie, and an especially important milestone for the band’s founding member, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Nathaniel Banks. Since debuting in early 2018, Arlie has undergone a significant transformation. While Banks was initially the sole producer, BREAK THE CURSE found him working with production collaborators Ryan Savage and Adam Lochemes. (The two also play bass and drums, respectively, on the album, with Carson Lystad on guitar.)



“From the very beginning, I started Arlie because I wanted to depart from the music that I was previously making in which I felt I was making compromises in order to please other people,” Banks tells Atwood Magazine. “Instead, I wanted to make a project where I followed my instincts – to result in something that I am so excited and passionate about. That was the only way I could see myself having a career in music. It was frustrating at the beginning doing it by myself, because I had limitations as a producer and a player but at the same time, the ways I learned to compensate for my limitations turned into my signature style. Part of that style was composing music for a full band. I was then really encouraged to find a band that aligned with the goal of wanting to play the music that we really believe in. I was very fortunate to find people who believed in the music I was making. Then my role shifted to bandleader/frontman role (from my previous composer/artist role).”

“Arlie then became a really nice hybrid of the vision of a solo project with the communal energy of a band at live shows. Everyone contributed ideas to the live show and brought their personality to it. It was a bit difficult trying to figure out what was next after that. I had to fail a lot to get to what became this album. Having access to more experienced and established producers and songwriters was very exciting to me and I really wanted to learn as much as I could from all of them. Learned a ton from those sessions but it didn’t result in a lot of things that felt like Arlie. After all that, I learned there still is something about making decisions without anyone else present that allows me to get in touch with my intuition. That’s a people pleaser tendency that I’m working on.”

“Right as the pandemic was beginning, I was with Adam and Ryan, who have been wanting to be producers and we became a production team. My role changed a lot as a three-person team – guiding the vision, facilitating Ryan and Adam’s skills, and keeping things in the world of Arlie and it forced me to articulate things that we didn’t know how to talk about. Although our roles will keep on evolving, I think I’ve been able to continue to keep that initial mission which is to make that kind of music I want to listen to and that the 17-year-old me needed.”

Gonna reset my computer
I’m gonna restart everything
I’m gonna go back where I started from
To the default setting
I’m gonna rewrite over the hard drive
I’m gonna pull out all the cords
I’m gonna forget all about myself
Yeah, I don’t need it anymore
‘Cause I’m so sick
Of fight or flight (fight or flight)
All the time (all the time)
Fight or flight (fight or flight)
All the time (all the time)




BREAK THE CURSE arrives four long years after Arlie’s 2018 debut EP WAIT, and finds Banks and co. massively expanding the breadth, depth, and contours of the band’s sound. As he explains, beyond stretching into both more lo-fi and hi-fi territory, this set of songs sees the band taking more risks and trying new things.

“In the beginning, I was itching to express the core of myself and find something that inspires me in a new way,” Banks recalls. “I also wanted to expand on the world that I created with the WAIT EP. I wanted to capture the magic that we created with the low-fidelity music and paradoxically make it more hi-fi. Sometimes you can’t do that. I compare it to the way that when it gets dark and you go on a walk at twilight where there are trees and notice how active your imagination gets. When you give your brain less to work with and you can’t perceive as much detail, your imagination starts to get more active and see things that aren’t even there. I feel like sometimes that’s the only way to get that effect, is taking a more lo-fidelity approach to music. Surrealism, in a way.”

“So originally that was the goal and then I realized sometimes I can’t even do that. Then I tried to make each song the fullest version of itself. Also when we got to be about 2/3 of the way done, I asked myself how can we make choices from here to the finish line so it all felt like one record? Because there are so many sounds on this record. Calmness is key when it comes to decision-making for this project. We did the mixing for this project and I made everyone do a 10-minute meditation every day.”

“I think BREAK THE CURSE shows the range of influences and aesthetic preferences that define Arlie, which is sort of planted in indie and alternative but at the same time is always centered on singable melodies and trying to maximize the listeners’ experience in production that resembles pop music. I think it shows a lot of intention, musically, lyrically, sonically, and compositionally and shows the way my collaborators and I approach music. A high degree of care and attention to detail. Also, the range of emotions I am going through at this period of my life.”



In a word, BREAK THE CURSE is exhilarating: Eleven unique tracks come together for a captivating roller-coaster that rides high and swoops low, enveloping listeners in a whirlwind, chill and churning journey through coming-of-age questions of purpose, place, connection, and being. From opening with a literal hard reset on “sickk” to the ignorance-is-bliss denial and sense of doom looming over the album’s multi-layered finale “titanic” (“We’re all forever seventeen, time is frozen as we dart our eyes from screen to screen, because we’ve chosen to ignore the darkness in between“), Arlie ensure their debut delivers an adventure that listeners won’t soon forget.

Of particular note is the lo-fi title track “break the curse,” an intoxicatingly ethereal and moody upheaval of inner turmoil that sets Arlie apart on a sonic, lyrical, and melodic level. This is Banks at his creative peak: Subverting expectations to give his audience a truly cinematic, textured, multi-dimensional experience.

“Whether you interpret this one as an anthem sincerely celebrating freedom from being constantly reachable on a smartphone, or as an ironically celebratory social commentary that pokes fun at how one might unconsciously misapply ideas about freedom and self-care to justify avoidant behavior-either way, it’s an anthem and it’s fun,” Banks shares. The song’s visceral, emotive lyrics highlight this duality:

“Slow down”, you tell me as I pour
My soul out, “tell me when to stop”
So loud, in this thunderstorm
Somehow, keep on burning up
Don’t doubt, everything could change
Right now, but there’s only one
Way out, honest with ourselves
Somehow managed to go wrong
Do you really wanna know what’s in my head?
‘Cause once I drop my pen
The hand of God is writing on its own
Ever wonder what’s the point of all this shit?
If we can’t turn our heads
And eye to eye’s the only way to know

Additional highlights include the album’s undeniable high-energy singles “karma” and “poppin” – both of which previously featured on Atwood Magazine. “A poignant indie pop serenade, the heart-on-sleeve ‘poppin’ shines bright as the band embrace vulnerability, dwelling in the depths of longing while reveling in a playful, wondrous sound,” we wrote in a review back in 2021, likening the song to releases from The 1975, English indie rock band Pale Waves, and Toronto indie pop band Valley. “Arlie sound bigger and better than ever, utilizing the fullness of sonic “space” by giving their instruments room to breathe, while at the same time filling our world with colorful, expressive, and deeply emotional lyrics. “poppin” is an especially evocative release, with Banks spilling his soul about a personal connection with someone who, in his own words, starts “popping off and blowing up” just as they’re really hitting it off. Banks and his bandmates channel a torrent of angst and ache into a sonically sweet, emotionally raw chorus.”




The album’s very first single, “karma,” is easily one of its absolute best: A phenomenal pop song that is unapologetically dramatic, coming to life with buoyant, bubbly lines that thirst for release. “Cascading upwards, these streams of warm sound seem to eek their way higher and higher, until Banks and co ultimately flood the airwaves with a cinematic chorus full of tension. Only at the very end do they give us that sweet resolve we’ve been after,” I wrote earlier this year, adding Arlie to our 55th Editor’s Picks.

“The song tells the story of a pregnancy scare that brought an already tumultuous relationship to the breaking point,” Banks explains. “had just gone through a breakup right before putting out the “WAIT” EP, and then immediately launched into the heaviest season of touring of my whole life, and when I got back I realized I hadn’t processed the breakup at all and I was hurting pretty bad. Sometimes songwriting helps me understand and process that sort of thing, and that’s what writing “karma” was to me.” Without a doubt, “karma” is a diamond in the rough: A radiant, explosive outpouring ready to rock n’ roll all who listen, and a true standout on BREAK THE CURSE.

College hall’s no place for a study date
You couldn’t look yourself straight through the mirror
Wasn’t my fault to egg you on, I couldn’t wait
I should’ve known you, couldn’t hold your own liquor
It’s a shorefire but your daddy wouldn’t pay
He finds out, I’m going down undercover
You know the truth is loving you was not a mistake
But that’s a lotta bad karma
I wouldn’t make a bad father




“The thing about this album, is I don’t think there are any deep cuts,” Banks says. “I generally think it’s ‘all killer no filler.’ If anything is a deep cut, I guess it’s “icetrays“: It is for the people that it is for, and might not be for everybody. For the people that it is for – I hope it blows your mind.”

As a lyricist, banks highlights a few of his favorite lines on the album: “I’m between the line in “break the curse” that says, “do you really wanna know what’s in my head, cause once I drop my pen, the hand of God is writing on its own.” I also like, the way the second verse ends in “sickk” where I say, “I’m in a new house, I’m gonna get thin, I’m gonna work out every day, I’m gonna run hard ’til my legs give in, Gonna push you away.” I think the way push you away hits after all that for me is really special.”




“I always get a good feeling when people come up to me and say, ‘This song has got me through a hard time of my life,‘” Banks shares. “Even if it wasn’t a hard time, if these songs were the soundtrack for people for a period of their life, I think that’s all I could really hope for. I hope these songs are meaningful to people and I hope people can resonate and feel understood in their own experiences through these songs. I hope people have a catharsis if they need to have a catharsis. Maybe they just have a little mood lift. Hopefully, they dig into these songs and discover a whole genre of music from these songs. I just hope to be a portal into creative inspiration and personal development, the way that my favorite artists and bands have been for me.”

“I think I really learned how to prioritize better and how to not be a perfectionist. Working with other people pulled me out of crippling perfectionism. Keep taking steps forward and trusting that the final result will get to where it needs to go. I think those are huge takeaways.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Arlie’s BREAK THE CURSE with Atwood Magazine as Nathaniel Banks takes us through a special, selective track-by-track breakdown of the band’s debut album!

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:: stream/purchase BREAK THE CURSE here ::
Stream: ‘BREAK THE CURSE’ – Arlie



:: Inside BREAK THE CURSE ::

BREAK THE CURSE - Arlie

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sickk

I never like to say what a song is “about” because anything I say is going to be limiting and reductive compared to the expansive world of the music itself.
But if you held a gun to my head, I’d say it’s about being sick of being sick. Sick of being mentally ill. I would even say mentally ill of being mentally ill — because of the way psychological patterns perpetuate themselves in vicious cycles, making things worse when you’re trying desperately to get better. Especially when you are painfully aware of the patterns and have been trying to change these patterns and failing over and over again, and maybe the reason you keep failing is because you are mentally sick.



karma

Here’s some context: I had just gone through a breakup right before putting out the “WAIT” EP, and then immediately launched into the heaviest season of touring of my whole life, and when I got back I realized I hadn’t processed the breakup at all and I was hurting pretty bad. Sometimes songwriting helps me understand and process that sort of thing, and that’s what writing “karma” was to me.
I wrote it when someone had cancelled a session on me in LA and I had an AirBnb to myself – no instruments, just my laptop. I programmed midi guitars and ran them through tons of fuzz. I did voice memo vocals on my phone and texted them to my computer. Later, I got to a studio with my favorite audio engineer I’ve ever worked with, Logan Matheny, with whom I also recorded the original demo of “poppin.”
The demo was more of an organic / minimal production style. But a couple months later, I had the vision for a more maximalist and future-oriented version for the official release. I worked with collaborators JT Daly and Ryan Savage, Carson Lystad, and Adam Lochemes to bring the final version to fruition. Savage and Lystad helped me revise lyrics and we co-wrote the lyrics to the last buildup section. My frequent visual collaborator, Gabe “Ruckus” Drecshler, man of many talents, was filling in as my audio engineer when I was working out the ending — Gabe encouraged me to keep the hard-autotuned moment — a move I tried out initially to amuse myself — as an extra lightning bolt of excitement for the climax.



landline

I’m making fun of myself for avoiding communication and avoiding responsibility in the name of personal freedom and empowerment. But on the other hand, maybe going off the grid would actually solve a lot of our problems…



poppin

We used to talk and now you’re poppin off…” This sentiment was floating in the air when I wrote the song in spring 2019.
At first, I thought it was just the fact that I was newly surrounded with lots of ambitious musicians, and spending more time in LA, or maybe it was the advent of TikTok. Later, I realized it was more universal than that. But especially now, because of the way people use social media, it feels more and more common to meet someone and feel connected, then later find that they’re harder to reach – maybe because they got famous online and have a lot of high-status people blowing up their phone, or maybe because they just don’t like you that much… who knows? In smaller ways, I’ve been on the other end of this feeling too, and so I know to not take it personally, but it’s still hard to not take it personally! And I know it’s my silly ego – trying to feel important, making everything about me… But even if I know better, it still hurts.
“I could be your girlfriend if that’s what you need right now” — People sometimes ask me if that line is about being non-binary. I like that it could be interpreted in a few different ways. Personally, I was reckoning with my relationship to gender fluidity and discovering new aspects of myself, but also noticing the downsides of my fluid nature, my tendency to unconsciously mold myself to try to be more likable. But even in a state of feeling like the underdog, feeling slighted — something feels good about singing it out, letting yourself be vulnerable, letting yourself shout at the top of your lungs how vulnerable you are.



break the curse

Originally this one was called “take a break, the curse can wait.” But we shortened it to “break the curse” for graphic design reasons.
Just kidding. This one ties the album together for me. It also ties me to my friends. I liked being lyrically abstract and then being very direct and then being abstract again. I’m very proud of how it turned out musically. I hope you can see the light through the cracks.

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:: stream/purchase BREAK THE CURSE here ::



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BREAK THE CURSE - Arlie

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📸 © Gabe Drechsler

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