5 Seconds of Summer frontman Luke Hemmings dives into the depths of his breathtaking debut solo album ‘When Facing the Things We Turn Away From,’ opening up about loss, change, time’s fleeting nature and more in our intimate and candid interview.
for fans of 5 Seconds of Summer, Troye Sivan, Harry Styles
‘When Facing the Things We Turn Away From’ – Luke Hemmings
This album is quite a drama, and very grand, ethereal, big, and lush, and I just wanted those emotions to be running through this album and that feeling that you almost can’t quite put your finger on…
No, Luke Hemmings isn’t having a quarter-life crisis –
but he has had a lot of time to sit and think over the past year, and that’s taken him to some dark places and intimate spaces. The 5 Seconds of Summer frontman opens up like never before in his breathtaking debut solo album When Facing the Things We Turn Away From, wearing his heart and soul on his sleeve as he explores themes of loss, distance, longing, and more.
In and out of focus
Moments that I keep
Something for the pain
And something so I sleep
Won’t you comfort me?
Warm the air that I breathe
Visceral in doses
Hiding in the seams
Standing on the sun and I don’t feel a thing
Won’t you comfort me?
Take the fear I don’t need
I wake up every morning with the years ticking by
I’m missing all these memories
maybe they were never mine
I feel the walls are closing
I’m running out of the time
I think I missed the gun at the starting line
Released August 13, 2021 via Arista Records, When Facing the Things We Turn Away From is a beautifully vulnerable, visceral, and cinematic experience.
Luke Hemmings’ first full-length solo effort (produced by Sammy Witte) arrives a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, and a year and a half after his band 5 Seconds of Summer released their fourth studio album, CALM.
“I love that album, and I’m glad we put it out,” Hemmings says. “Obviously, it was under strange circumstances, but I think it more than anything is important that people heard it at a time where they probably needed some music to listen to… It was a bit of a scramble to figure it out, and there were a lot of people who delayed their albums, and we had already waited so long for it!”
The four-piece of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Hemmings, lead guitarist Michael Clifford, bassist Calum Hood, and drummer Ashton Irwin, 5 Seconds of Summer have emerged over the past decade as one of Australia’s most successful musical exports in history. With over 7 billion song streams and 10 million albums sold, the pop rock band have quite literally grown up in the public spotlight – they were 15 years old when they started – evolving as musicians along the way. Not only are all four active songwriters on their own, but they also all contribute to 5 Seconds of Summer’s creative process, sharing writing credits across the band’s catalog of songs.
The band members’ solo efforts are a natural extension of their personal and professional development – not to mention the expected result of extended time spent apart. Hemmings’ record follows drummer Ashton Irwin’s debut album Superbloom, which released back in October 2020. As Hemmings explains, while all four of the guys currently live only 15 minutes away from each other in Los Angeles (“It’s pretty adorable actually,” he laughs), they’ve used the pandemic as a chance to recharge and focus on new projects outside of 5SOS.
“I think it’s so cool and unique that we have a band that everyone could write a full album on their own, and it would sound different, but then if you mush them all together it would make the band!” Hemmings exclaims. “I’ve just started thinking about it in the last couple of weeks and it’s crazy… Not to toot our own horn or anything, but I think it’s just really cool that we can do that and still be a band, and I don’t know if the other guys are gonna do stuff or whatever – I’m not trying to give that away – but I just know they have that capability within them.”
Cool, baby blue
Drown in my eyes so it seems
But I don’t wanna dive too deep
Or I’m never comin’ back, never comin’ back
Lungs fill with smoke, letting my head fill with dreams
I’m hiding in a living sleep and I’m never comin’ back,
never comin’ back
I’m on my way to wonderland, take off my suit and wander in
For a moment or stay for a lifetime
I’m on my way to wonderland, take off my suit and wander in
For a moment or hide for a lifetime
– “Baby Blue,” Luke Hemmings
All this brings us to When Facing the Things We Turn Away From, a radiant and deeply expressive record whose psychedelic, rock, and pop influences call to mind the work of artists like David Bowie, MGMT, Troye Sivan, and Harry Styles. Hemmings comes to life with uncompromising honesty and unapologetic intensity; his lyrics are diary-like windows into his soul, and his catchy melodies ensure we remember each song long after the music has faded away.
You seem so damn familiar, but I just can’t place the name
You’re staring in a mirror, but your face won’t stay the same
Been waiting for so long but the moment never came
If life’s a game of inches, how’d you get miles away?
Hand to the bible, but my wrongs stay still in place
Lost in the rubble, but the house stands all the same
You bet on the sorrow, now your heart is overrun
You fear what you don’t know, tell me what have I become
– “Repeat,” Luke Hemmings
“This album is quite a drama,” Hemmings admits. “A lot of the album deals with the idea [that] time is slipping away from you… [It’s] very grand, ethereal, big, and lush, and I just wanted those emotions to be running through this album and that feeling that you almost can’t quite put your finger on… It’s like a tangible emotion that it evokes from people, like it does to me when I listen to it. It took a long time to get those layers and to get it feeling the way, exactly the way I wanted it to with the strings… It’s quite a big affair for a lot of it, but I think it’s balanced. I naturally will write on a guitar and a piano, and the lyrics are very introspective. They’re big topics, but they’re in relation to my very introspective thoughts and feelings on these big topics, if that makes sense.”
Hemmings introduced his solo artistry in late June with the song “Starting Line,” which also acts as his album opener. Dynamic, driving, and introspective, the intimate indie rock anthem roars with equal parts raw energy and pure, unfiltered emotion – setting a powerful tone for the songs to come:
Tell me, am I broken? I can never leave
Biting on my tongue and checking if it bleeds
Oh, is it lost on me?
All the things I believe
Something like an omen I can never keep
Moving on and on, so very bittersweet
Is it lost on me?
All the things I don’t need
I wake up every morning with the years ticking by
I’m missing all these memories, maybe they were never mine
I feel the walls are closin’, I’m running out of the time
I think I missed the gun at the starting line
– “Starting Line,” Luke Hemmings
“There’s something about that song that just sonically and lyrically captured the whole thing for me, like the way it starts and the way it takes you on this journey and ends really quite in a vastly different place than when it started. It was the feeling behind it, it got across all of that ethereal, emotional evocation. And lyrically, it just kind of sums up everything for me. A lot of the album is about dissecting memories and understanding myself more, and the idea of time and the things that are out of our control, and it just summed up everything for me. sonically, I think it’s really rad. Like I said, it sums up the highs and lows of the album.”
Subsequent singles “Motion” and “Place in Me” have further fleshed out his artistic vision, but nothing comes close to the full album-length experience. From the ramping-up electric energy of “Starting Line” to the sonic and emotional closure of the bittersweet “Comedown,” When Facing the Things We Turn Away From plunges into the caverns of an anxious and often troubled mind – one that can’t help but ponder on time’s fleeting nature, feelings of helplessness and insecurity, powerless, disconnect, and emotional distance.
Atwood Magazine caught up with Luke Hemmings for an intimate, candid conversation about all things music: Dive into the emotional and lyrical depths of When Facing the Things We Turn Away From below, and stream Hemmings’ stunning solo debut, out now!
They’re literally just a list of things I had to get through, to understand how to move forward.
It’s been a hell of a week, have I left this bedroom yet?
I’ll sleep this life away until I see a reflection I can speak to
With a cold breeze, maybe I can soon forget
I’ll wash away the bleach, and clear reflections I can see through
All my life, I’ve been beating this horse
Breaking these same old wishing bones
Hoping they’d bring me back to course
All my life, I’ve been passing this blame
And once you get on, you won’t ever get off
And won’t be the same
Let it come down on me
Let me see all the things that I was supposed to see
Light up a darkness I was never meant to
Climb out of like a bursting sunrise from the deepest sleep
A change of heart and a silver lining down on Camellia Street
Let it come down on me
– “Comedown,” Luke Hemmings
A CONVERSATION WITH LUKE HEMMINGS
Atwood Magazine: Luke, I'd love to start off by acknowledging that you and your bandmates have spent the past 10 years essentially growing up and evolving as musicians in the public spotlight. How do you balance the external discourse, pressure, and expectations of others with your, Calum, Michael, and Ashton's own personal tastes, drives, and desires?
Luke Hemmings: That’s a big question. I think it obviously changes over the years, like when… We started when I was 15, so when we started… The first album came out when I was like 16, maybe, maybe just 17, so it was like at that point in time, we were just on instincts and trying to get out of the hometown, I suppose. And I think obviously that’s… I’m trying to… The irony of that at 25, I can’t even go home at the moment, you know what I mean, like, and I’m trying to get back in the hometown now. Yeah, I don’t know, it just… It’s sort of changed over the years. And it was sort of, I think, we… It’s so funny ’cause this last year has been so not normal, obviously, staying at home hasn’t being such a horrific time for a lot of people, but I think maybe… Or myself and I won’t speak for the rest of the band, but I assume so that it’s… We’ve always found a slight sense of normalcy in this madness right off of the last year and a half, you know what I mean?
I think we strike a fine line of making the music that we wanna make and understanding that there’s a lot of people listening and understanding a bit more. Even more than that, it’s like whatever our fan base likes. You know what I mean? And like what are they gonna like? And what do we like and how do we… With every album, I feel like we’ve sort of expanded as a band more and more to the point where two of us are doing solo things, so it’s expanded even more. And I think that’s just really rad and to take your fans on a journey, and they’ve grown up with us since they were the same age or even younger than us. So it’s, I don’t know, it’s, I guess… I’m not exactly sure if that answers any of the question, [chuckle] I don’t know how you separate it, but I think we’ve got a better handle on it now, especially, we’ve got significant others, for the most part, and I don’t know… You sort of, as you get older, you cherish your family a bit more and understand… I don’t know, obviously, understand more about yourself and understand how to handle certain situations far better than when you’re 16, 17. That’s for sure.
On a personal level, I've had so much empathy for you guys because Calm released right into the pandemic, and it deserves its moment in the sun.
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, that was an interesting one. I think we were one of the first releases that were in… It was like right at the start. I feel like it was April 1st or something it came out, and then we got locked down around that time. It was a bit of a scramble to figure it out, and there were a lot of people who delayed their albums, and we had already waited so long for it. We felt like that seems a bit shitty to fans, and even to us as people making this music. Imagine if we’d held onto it to the end of the pandemic, it’s just like, that’s never gonna happen ’cause we’re still in it. I love that album, and I’m glad we put it out. Obviously, it was under strange circumstances, but I think it more than anything is important that people heard it at a time where they probably needed some music to listen to – they’re inside enough.
Well, you have my respect for soldiering on; I think that's one of the hardest things to do, especially in this environment. Diving into your new music, when did you know you were making a solo album, and not the next 5 Seconds of Summer record?
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, it was interesting for us as, obviously, like you just said… That’s a good segue, I’ve done this before. [chuckle] After that album, we do try and get as many people to hear it and you do obviously videos and blah, blah, blah, and all the stuff that comes along with releasing an album. And we had reached the end of that road, and then we obviously weren’t touring, so we were just at home for a long time. And as you know, in New York, I think it was a similar thing where, I feel like we were locked down for a month. I feel it was a whole year we’re locked down with little breaks, increments of outside. It was pretty… [chuckle] It was pretty gnarly. When people from Australia talk to me about being locked down, which is really bad there, and it’s shitty to be locked down, it’s like, “Yeah, but, we were in there for eight months, nine months,” I don’t know how it was in New York, if it was… Was it like that?
It's hard, because you don't have a lot of private or open space in the city – we don't have front yards or anything – so going outside was itself a challenge.
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, exactly. It’s pretty hard not to bump into people isn’t it, in New York? [laughter] That’s for sure. I think I just sort of started writing music because at that point, I hadn’t… I’m always writing, but I don’t know, I just wanted to make stuff. I think that’s my only way to deal with anything, and it’s just as natural as it sounds so cheesy, but I make coffee in the morning but then I’ll sit down at the piano and see what happens, you know what I mean? That’s part of the daily routine for me, and it just started as trying to write songs on my own and see if I could do it on my own with no intent to make an album, and no sort of… Yeah, and I think if I had gone into it like, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna make a solo album,” then… First of all, I didn’t have any songs, so there was no weight behind that, and also it would have been way too daunting and I think it would have been a different thing. I don’t know, I just sort of… And once I had… Obviously, once I had a few songs under the belt, and I was like, “Oh okay, this is cool.” I met Sammy Witte, who did the album with me. Obviously, that was a huge turning point, but yeah, it just felt different, and I wanted to challenge myself. And then I even said to Sam when I first met him, and as I was making it up until the last little bit, I was like, “I don’t know what this is for, I don’t know if this is, whatever,” I just wanted to challenge myself to write songs on my own and get better production.
I wanted to make something that sounded different and felt different and talked about other things, the very personal, and I don’t know. It really just started out as a… I guess as a challenge, ’cause… Yeah, I don’t know. As a songwriter, I need to grow, I need to… Yeah, so all those things are just skills, you know what I mean, and I can take them back into writing for the band. And for the band, we’re such a… It’s such a collaborative thing with the band, that for me, they’re like right… It was turning into an element for me to write an album and the band do it. It makes no sense ’cause they’re f*cking talented, and they know what they’re doing. They all have their own thoughts and feelings. It just felt different sonically and topically and all of that but also just, we make music in a different way than me writing the songs.
Is the process with the band far more collaborative?
Luke Hemmings: Oh yeah, there’ll be odd ones where they’re like… I’ll have an idea like everyone else, Ashton, Calum, Michael, bring in an idea, “I’ve got this idea” and then you collaborate from there, but a lot of it just is out of thin air, really…
I know you guys share writing credits, right?
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, yeah, we all write as well and that’s… It makes it handy, and I think it’s hard as I’ve even… [chuckle] As I’ve done this album and, again, gotten a little bit older, I’ve understood that there’s such a magic within a band that people resonate with, and I think that is something I didn’t realize, but, I don’t know, it’s a such a special thing, and I think… Yeah, I don’t know if that makes sense or makes sense to the question, but even when I’ve been writing with the band, we were making an album, and I love writing with them, and I love that collaborative process. It brings out a different side of me. You know what I mean? It brings out different songs that I wouldn’t have written, so it just, off the bat, feels like a separate thing anyway, but obviously this album is very me-focused and sounds… Yeah, I wanted it to sound different and feel different.
Let's dive into that. What was the process of making these songs like for you and doing so much yourself and with Sam, compared to those experiences that you just talked about with the band?
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, I think because, us as a band, at the start of COVID took it for what it was, and we were lucky enough to a welcome time at home, which is a rarity for us. And obviously, it’s gone on a bit long now, but at the time it was scary and unknown, but we just… Well, again, I won’t speak for everyone else, but I just took it as being at home for the first time ever, it’s the longest time I’ve been at home since… In the same place, sorry, since I was 15. It’s a big deal. It’s a big chunk of time to be in one spot, but, I don’t know, I just was on a search for something, I was listening to a bunch of new music and sifting through artists that maybe I hadn’t heard different songs from. I got into new artists and a lot of it would start… Some of the ideas were very much created with me and Sammy, but a lot of them started, like just me, in this room on a guitar figuring stuff out, listening to new stuff, and I’d, I don’t know, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact process, but it always would start… It always would be written on an acoustic instrument, you know what I mean, on a guitar or piano, and then I’ll… Or at least, if there was a track, like “Motion” started with this weird trippy vocal thing and then that riff that comes in, so it started like that, but then all the song was written on a guitar or a piano, you know what I mean?
So I think because I gravitate… Especially, if you can’t tell, this album is quite a drama, and very grand, ethereal, big, and lush, and I just wanted those emotions to be running through this album and that feeling that you almost can’t quite put your finger on… It’s like a tangible emotion that it evokes from people, like it does to me when I listen to it. It took a long time to get those layers and to get it feeling the way, exactly the way I wanted it to with the strings and making it, since in the walls of guitar is like it’s huge… It’s quite a big affair for a lot of it, but I think it’s balanced. I naturally will write on a guitar and a piano, and the lyrics are very introspective. They’re big topics, but they’re in relation to my very introspective thoughts and feelings on these big topics, if that makes sense.
This album is quite a drama, and very grand, ethereal, big, and lush, and I just wanted those emotions to be running through this album and that feeling that you almost can’t quite put your finger on…
I listen to this album and I think about Bowie, as well as contemporaries like Troye Sivan and Harry Styles – there’s this psychedelic element, but it's still a very pop-forward record.
Luke Hemmings: At the moment, my songwriting definitely is as big and lush and whatever it gets production wise. Lyrically, even on the somber moments it gets quite introspective and dark. I think I still gravitate towards all that stuff – something I can latch on to, so I can make sense of it in my head. Obviously it has a pop influence because I love pop music, and I love the way it has something that you can grasp onto and remember, but I tried to sort of do things that I wouldn’t have done before. Even small things, like if you listen to “Mum,” the cords are very Radiohead and then the outro just goes into this new place… There’s intros and outros in the album that try to push the envelope, just within myself, of different structures… But I always resonate with pop music, and it just comes out that way. I love melody, I love mapping out something, but this is more of my first instinctual melody and lyric as opposed to maybe before, when I was writing, it would be very melody based and it has to do this, it has do this.
Mum I’m sorry I stopped calling
Don’t know what the hell I was caught in
Can’t stop dreaming of chandeliers
And your voice is all I hear
I’m so heavy
Jump into my ocean
Can’t you see me sinking
Love the fear of falling
Don’t you know I’m too young
Can’t you hear me calling you
Nothing hurts me now
Mum I’m sorry I’m still falling
I’ll be home December morning
I keep these dreams like souvenirs
Always ringing in my ear
It's cool to be challenging our concepts of what a commercial record can be, because, hey, we both know this is gonna be a commercial record, but at the same time, it's not... I don't know, there's just a lot of depth to it, and I gotta commend you for that. Do you feel you were able to express and explore ideas on this album that you haven't been able to articulate previously with 5 Seconds of Summer?
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, definitely, I think on… The first time to even sit, and dwell, and think, and sift through those, even just on a lyrical standpoint, sift through those ideas mentally, isn’t something that I’ve really had time to even do, so even… It might have been something that’s touched on before, but I just have never had the time to even understand what the f**k just happened? And like what, who am I, and what do I like to do? And you know what I mean? I knew to a certain extent, but it’s a different feeling when you’re inside for a long time, as I’m sure you’ve figured out. Everyone that I talk to like… ‘Cause these are very… I guess, I’m an optimist in the way that I think there’s hopefully some positives to be taken out of it and people maybe will live their lives slightly differently with hopefully more gratitude and, I don’t know, just savor it a bit more. And even myself, I haven’t seen my family in a long time, and I usually don’t go over long periods of time without seeing my family, I was always there. I could always jump on a plane if I really had to, but at the moment, I can’t, and that’s, even that, you… I don’t know, and that’s just me being at home and getting a bit older and a bit wiser, hopefully, yeah.
You've had a lot of time with yourself.
Luke Hemmings: I’ve had too much of time with myself. Yeah, exactly, [chuckle] way too much time.
Are you and the other guys all kind of scattered across the world at this point?
Luke Hemmings: No, we’re all… Honestly, we’re all like still 15 minutes from each other. It’s so funny, [chuckle] we grew up 20 minutes from each other, and we seem to have settled in a similar point, and it’s very… Now that I think about it, it’s very funny, like I’ll see them in a couple of hours actually which is… We’ve been making music a bunch as well, and I see them… I see them all the time. It’s pretty adorable actually.
Do you talk to them about these songs? It sounds like they were isolated from this process – did you talk to them about this music you were making, or did you really try to keep it yours until the end?
Luke Hemmings: I, if you can tell already, I’m quite an overthinker, and I’ve tinkered with this album for such a long time that I was very apprehensive of showing anyone. They definitely knew about it and knew I was doing it and heard a little bit some pieces, and I’ve explained it to them, and I think, part of the reason that… A really big thing was explaining to them why I’m doing it, and same with the fanbase as well. This is why I’m doing it, it’s for these reasons, and it’s not because I wanna do this or do that, it’s because I love to make music, and I had this time and wanted to get this across. And I love the band, I love being in the band, that was all very clear within us, so that was never weird at all, but I did wait a little bit to show them the full thing, and just because of my own stuff. It’s like showing… It’s…
Yeah, I’ve barely showed anyone. Like I showed Sierra, obviously Sam, and then Matt who manages me. I showed him, but even then, I took a little bit to show him and no one really had heard anything until… Until the album comes out, a lot of people will hear it for the first time. But I’ve started sending it to more friends now, but it just was… I don’t know, I was just apprehensive I guess. I wanted, I knew how I wanted it to sound and feel and until I got it to the exact point, then I didn’t wanna show anyone.
That's perfect. So let me ask you point blank, and then I'd love to dive into some of these songs themselves, how for you, do you feel When Facing The Things We Turn Away From, re-introduces you and captures your artistry?
Luke Hemmings: Even if you listen to Ashton’s album, ’cause he did one as well, I think it’s interesting, just from a fan perspective, or anyone that’s been listening along the way to the band, I think it’s so cool and unique that we have a band that everyone could write a full album on their own, and it would sound different, but then if you mush them all together it would make the band! I’ve just started thinking about it in the last couple of weeks and it’s crazy… Not to toot our own horn or anything, but I think it’s just really cool that we can do that and still be a band, and I don’t know if the other guys are gonna do stuff or whatever – I’m not trying to give that away – but I just know they have that capability within them.
I love songwriting, and the whole album was very over-thought; every sound and every twist and turn of the album was cared for immensely, so I guess it shows how much I love the art of making music and the art of writing songs and getting these stories across. I don’t know exactly what it gets across – I think it’s just a deeper dive into me as a human and the way my head works and the way I have handled the last 25 years, I suppose, and all the ups and downs, and the good and bad. For someone that has been a follower of the band, or even someone who hasn’t been a follower of the band, it sums up me at this point in my life, and I guess that’s what an album should do: At 24, this is how I felt.
I think it’s just a deeper dive into me as a human and the way my head works and the way I have handled the last 25 years.
You introduced your solo artistry with “Starting Line.” Can you talk about why you chose to start this journey and the album as a whole with that song?
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, the whole album, every song relates back to the album title, When Facing the Things We Turn Away From and it was that… There’s something about that song that just sonically and lyrically captured the whole thing for me, like the way it starts and the way it takes you on this journey and ends really quite in a vastly different place than when it started. It was the feeling behind it, it got across all of that ethereal, emotional evocation. And lyrically, it just kind of sums up everything for me. A lot of the album is about dissecting memories and understanding myself more, and the idea of time and the things that are out of our control, and it just summed up everything for me. sonically, I think it’s really rad. Like I said, it sums up the highs and lows of the album.
It starts out as this power ballad, and it turns into an anthem – which is great, you can feel the energy going, and it's a good way to start and hype us for the rest of the album.
So the album gets its title from a lyric in “Saigon”: “When facing the things we turn away from, we're chasing the way we were in Saigon, it's picked apart until there's nothing left of us to carry on.” I'd love to learn a little more about this line and why it speaks to you!
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, so the line in “Saigon” is about… That was the first, on a very… Taking that lyric very directly in that song, it’s very much about that trip that I took with me and my now fiancée Sierra and our two moms, it was the first time they met in Vietnam, this was before the pandemic. So it was the last trip I took, a non-work trip I took before everything was locked down, I think on a very… Yeah, like I said, on a direct level, and that song is very much about not understanding the… I don’t know, there’s times that maybe you didn’t… Even what I was saying before, you didn’t savor enough and understand how beautiful they are until they’re passed, and you can never get those moments back and a lot of the album deals with that. So for that song its particularly about that… The relationship between me and Sierra and the way that trip felt, but that line for me sums up every song on the album, so I guess that if you’re asking directly about that song, that’s kind what it relates to, and that feeling of never getting those moments back and not understanding how good they are until they’re gone, you know what I mean?
But overall on the album I think every song relates back to that title. So on a bigger scale on the album, every song like “Starting Line”… They’re literally just a list of things I had to get through to understand how to move forward.
There is something bittersweet about starting with “Starting Line,” just amping up and then you end with a very clear sonic and emotional “Comedown.” From start to finish, I pinpointed lyrical themes throughout the record: “Tell me, am I broken, I can never leave,” in “Starting Line,” “How far is far, are we too deep in?” in “Diamonds,” “Once you get on, you won't ever get off and won't be the same,” in “Comedown.” There's this sense of powerless and feeling trapped, being kept away from the ones you love, and a permeating feeling of loss.
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, yeah, I think a lot of that… Well, I guess it depends which exact one you’re talking about, but the “How far is far?” is very, very much that lost thing you’re talking about of… ‘Cause that song is sort of written from a 17-year-old perspective of, like I was talking about it at the start of this, like not understanding how to deal with things the way I would deal with them now. And I think being in quite a unique situation with the band and personally, it’s not… I guess, at that time, it was… Everyone’s awkward and shy at that age, and I’m like… Anyway, I was anyway. And I think that is not understanding, I don’t know that the… It’s hard to… It’s hard to say, but not knowing the boundaries, I suppose, as a 17-year-old when, I don’t know, you can sort of do whatever. That’s kind of the feeling of being… The feeling of being lost and sort of trapped and now, obviously, I wouldn’t have known that at the time, but looking back, it’s funny ’cause I look back and then put myself in those shoes and obviously hindsight it’s 2020, so I can talk about it in a different way. Yeah, so I forgot what the question was, but I just… I really like that line, so I’m glad you picked it out.
I listened to this record and it's... not a quarter-life crisis...
Luke Hemmings: [laughs]
You know what I mean? You tackled a lot of really deep emotions here. You didn’t shy away from anything.
Luke Hemmings: I guess that’s what I mean. It’s a bit drama, isn’t it? It’s so weird because of the… All of those things, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot obviously, ’cause I’ve been speaking about it more and more, and I really, I struggle as a person to sum up what I’ve said in the song better than I did in the song, so I struggled to say it. ‘Cause I also don’t wanna sway what anyone thinks as well too much, but. Yeah, I mean, all of those, even “Mum” and “Diamonds” and honestly, all of them were very… I sat down somewhere and saying something with the chords or whatever it was and the lyrics sort of came out and then I have to try and understand what that meant, ’cause I wasn’t… I didn’t sit down being like, “Oh, I’m gonna write this song about this.” It just sort of… It sounds so lame, and it’s why songwriting is so frustrating ’cause I sat down not to do that, and then now I’m in this thing where I’m like, “Oh great, now I’m gonna write… Now, I’m writing about this,” and it’s like you chase that for weeks and months and… “Comedown” was… That first verse in the first chorus was written in 15 minutes, and it just was there.
I don’t know where it came from, and it was something that I almost even… ’cause I’ll write the lyrics, and I’ll understand it in the moment, this is probably from my subconscious about this and this and this. And then even looking back now, it means a deeper thing than it did at the time, ’cause I was almost chasing whatever that feeling was, anyway, I don’t know.
Do you feel like songwriting is your therapy?
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, definitely. [chuckle] If I sit down and really think about it and go through each line, and I can understand where the song came from and what it means to me obviously, but I think the way it’s been written out is like the peak of my wordsmithness, I suppose. You know what I mean? Where if I… Me talking to you right now, I’m stuttering, I don’t know exactly what it means, and then this line means this, and then this line means that, so it’s like… Yeah, it’s just, it’s funny. I don’t know, I’ve just noticed that, that it’s just kind of… It’s my, I guess, love language or the way I work through things I suppose, obviously, ’cause the whole album is working through a bunch of shit.
Do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off the record that we haven't spoken about yet?
Luke Hemmings: I love “Comedown.” I think “Comedown” is my favorite on the album, which is album. And I think “A Beautiful Dream” is one of my favorites, if not my favorite.
I don’t know [why]… It’s probably the most, well, maybe not the most, but one of the most dramatic ethereal moments, and I just live for that, you know what I mean? I think it was written right at the end, and I had a big hand in producing it, which was a huge step for me, ’cause I can make ideas, but it’s really difficult for me to get it to a certain point where it’s listenable. So I can get it across, so that song was very much started from my production, which was huge, and like… And it just sort of… It’s got my mom leaving me a voicemail at the end, it’s all chopped up, which I think is really cool. And just the what it says to me, and at that point, I hadn’t seen my family for a long time, and it sort of… I don’t know, the way that the song, it’s so short, and I think, the whole… ‘Cause I was gonna make it a full song, and I think that song to me was related back to that thing called zenosyne, Z-E-N-O-S-Y-N-E, which I don’t know if it’s a made up word, word, but I just, I came across it somehow, and it’s the feeling that as you get older, time seems to move quicker. I think that’s what it is, yeah, unless I’m butchering that meaning but, and I just, I love that. And I think, that it’s not a full song. It says… The song’s length and what it does in the song sums up what the song is about which I think is really cool.
I've read about that theory, too and, to be honest with you it freaks me out. The more time you experience, the less every second means because you have more and more of them!
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, it freaks me out, the whole album revolves around time just flipping away. [chuckle] You know what I mean? It’s terrifying.
An hour used to be a baby's entire lifetime, so what's the value and perception of an hour once you've lived through millions of them?
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, it’s baffling. And I think a lot of the album tries to understand [that]… There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty, in trying to understand those things that aren’t supposed to be understood.
Do you feel like you have a better understanding of some of these fears now, having written these songs out and kind of made these musical diary entries?
Luke Hemmings: Yes, very much so. [chuckle] That sounds funny, ’cause I’m not giving off a calm vibe, but I feel a lot calmer in my everyday life which is interesting. I don’t think you’re supposed to ever figure anything out fully, or yourself – I don’t know if anyone ever figures themself out fully, and if they have, they’re probably lying. [chuckle]
Maybe, I don’t know. People maybe figure themselves out; I definitely haven’t, but I think it’s more looking at something in your life – vices or what we were just talking about – and being like, “Oh yeah! That is a thing that was left on the shelf, I took it down, I looked at it, and I put it back up, and it’s not necessarily figured out, but it’s acknowledged and more understood,” I guess.
At the same time, these, do you feel like some of those emotions on the record about missing home and feeling disconnected have resolved?
Luke Hemmings: Yes, definitely. I just feel much more comfortable in myself. A lot of those things had to be written and worked through for me to get to that place.
Thank you so much for your time today, Luke! It was cool to dig into these ideas of time and being with you – I don't think we would have gotten there otherwise.
Luke Hemmings: I know, me too. It’s just been… It’s been nice, a kindred spirit, a kindred-fearful-of-time spirit. [laughter]
Yeah, deeply anxious and with nobody who wants to talk about why we're anxious.
Luke Hemmings: Yeah, exactly.
You bottle it all up and put it out in a song, at least you can make a living off of it! Luke, what do you hope listeners take away from When Facing The Things We Turn Away From, and what have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?
Luke Hemmings: Okay, let me start with the second one… On a skillset level, I suppose, I’ve learned a lot more about songwriting and production, obviously, and, getting a song… ‘Cause it was a very one-on-one thing with me, and Sammy threw out the whole thing album process and that is something I haven’t fully done ’cause there was other people in the band. So I learnt a lot about that and getting a song to the finish line, and how you can get it there and learning about manipulating sounds and, obviously, songwriting in general and understanding how I write songs and putting my… Knowing when it’s gonna happen and when to just leave it alone. So I learnt a lot about that, and then obviously all the things we spoke about before about, within myself – all these songs were things left on the shelf that I sort of had to look at and put on the back burner, and had to sift through it. So obviously that’s been hugely cathartic for me.
And then for other people, I think I sort of touched on it before, where I feel like obviously these songs are very much about whatever’s going on within me and how I was feeling, and the way I look at the things we were talking about throughout the interview, with time and growing up and all that stuff. But I think there are things to be hopefully learned, feelings that are very… Even talking to you about it, they’re very universal things. They’re big topics that I’ve covered, but just my reflection of them, so hopefully that is mirrored into other people’s experiences and walks of life. I just want it to be a world that people can get lost in, because for me, it was very much a body of work that I lost and found myself in, I suppose, yeah. [laughs]
Do you see these songs getting played live?
Luke Hemmings: I think at some point in the future, there’ll be like a broken-down live thing online probably, but not a full show yet. Well, who knows? We’re supposed to go on tour with the band, but you never know if that’ll happen, so maybe there’ll be a show or two – but I think that’s more a thing in the distant, but no-so-distant future, because as we’re getting older the years are feeling shorter, anyway. [laughs] It’ll be here before we know it.
Way to tie it all in! Luke, congratulations on this upcoming album release. I can feel just through listening to it how much it means to you, and it's definitely a fun, introspective record.
I just want it to be a world that people can get lost in, because for me, it was very much a body of work that I lost and found myself in.
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📸 © Davis Bates
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