Interview: Brooklyn’s Stolen Jars Steal Our Hearts on Cathartic, Introspective, & Personal 4th LP, ‘I Won’t Let Me Down’

Stolen Jars' Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen
Stolen Jars' Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen
Unapologetic, unrelenting, and unfiltered, ‘I Won’t Let Me Down’ sees Brooklyn’s Stolen Jars dwelling in life’s emotional deep end, confronting questions of intimacy, identity, love, and purpose with an open mind and a heavy heart.
Stream: “Reality TV” – Stolen Jars




I don’t want to fall in love, so I won’t this time,” Cody Fitzgerald sings at the top of Stolen Jars’ fourth LP. There’s a passion and conviction in his tender voice, such that we almost believe him: He just may keep love at bay, after all. “Close the windows now, it’s a one-room kind of world,” he goes on to sing, “Where I’m falling now ‘cause I cannot let you go.” Shivers run down the spine as Fitzgerald and his bandmates erupt in an avalanche of cathartic and charged indie rock. Of course, the heart wants what it wants, regardless of past experience, but we can certainly try… can’t we?

I don’t want to fall in love, I think I’m done.” It’s without a doubt a provocative way to start a conversation – and it proves the perfect entrance to a record full of friction, tension, raw vulnerability, and inner reckoning. Unapologetic, unrelenting, and unfiltered, I Won’t Let Me Down sees Stolen Jars dwelling in life’s emotional deep end, confronting questions of intimacy, identity, love, and purpose with an open mind and a heavy heart.

I Won't Let Me Down - Stolen Jars
I Won’t Let Me Down – Stolen Jars

Sure, you can theoretically close yourself off to the world, reject others from entering your inner sanctum, and live off the grid in your own bubble, but that’s not their end goal, nor is it for most people. So what do we really want, and how can we get it? The answers are never simple, and the road is never easy, but in I Won’t Let Me Down, Stolen Jars put in the work – and the result is an album that aches in all the right ways.

I’ll get drunk on songs my sister loves
I tried to write one
About the dream with my dad
You’re on his girlfriend’s lawn —
The perfect setting for my conditional love song
I won’t let me down,
So I’ll sing it now.
Jack says I’m changing,
It’s not just the lexapro:
I stopped crying on zoom calls and
dating scorpios.
I know in my letter
I said I’d see you again
But, oh, you let me down.
Glad you let me down.
Bet you’d like me now.
– “Smoke in the House,” Stolen Jars

Independently released August 4, 2023, I Won’t Let Me Down is a captivating and catchy series of intimate confessionals and musical upheavals channeled through a wellspring of head-turning sound. Arriving five long years after Stolen Jars’ third album A Reminder (which received accolades from The New York Times and Atwood Magazine, among others), I Won’t Let Me Down finds Stolen Jars successfully navigating both the challenges of COVID as well as the darkest parts of human experience, returning with a collection of songs full of light, honesty, and an irrefutable warm energy to seeps into even the coolest, most frigid spaces.

Stolen Jars' Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen
Stolen Jars’ Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen



“At its heart, this record is a lot less complicated [than our past ones], and I think that there is something heartfelt and beautiful about that simplicity,” Stolen Jars’ founding member and frontman Cody Fitzgerald tells Atwood Magazine. “To me, the songwriting feels more clear and focused.”

The fireworks are sounding off tonight,
in the city that cannot sleep
A man outside is singing to me –
“you made it here, you’ll make it anywhere”
But the street’s on fire
and I just want to come back home
To the town you’d loved so desperately…
It’s gone now with your memories…
We f’ed up, our lives flew over our heads
So I guess we’ll lay low instead
I missed New York when out on the road
Now I’m here and I miss it from home
– “Won’t Stay Gone Forever,” Stolen Jars

Comprised of Fitzgerald alongside co-lead vocalist and songwriter Sarah Coffey, guitarist, co-producer and songwriter Elias Spector-Zabusky, drummer Isaiah Hazzard, and keyboardist Grant Meyer, Stolen Jars has transformed from a solo project to a truly collaborative band over the past decade and change. The group brought in Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart to mix and co-produce the album, and even worked with Frankie Cosmos frontwoman Greta Kline in songwriting sessions that produced one of this album’s finest moments – the intimate and exhilarating finale, “Run It Wild.”

“In trying to capture a bit of the more-defined live sound from our full US tour, Cody and I (and everyone else) spent a lot of time working on creating the exact right sounds for each layer we included,” Stolen Jars’ Elias Spector-Zabusky explains. “Often, in the process of finding the right elements for the arrangement and production, we’d surprise ourselves with new ideas that tied everything together. So the sound was both very intentional and a process of discovery.”

Stolen Jars' Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen
Stolen Jars’ Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen



From the melodramatic intensity of album opener “Reality TV” to the brutally beautiful “Won’t Stay Gone Forever” and dreamy, propulsive “Somewhere Else” (which was featured as an Atwood Editor’s Pick last year), I Won’t Let Me Down is without a doubt Stolen Jars’ most powerful, comprehensive, and cohesive record yet – one that captures our own intimate depths in such a way that feels personal, yet nonetheless universal.

“I think that line really speaks to the feeling of the album as a whole,” Fitzgerald muses. “From my perspective it speaks to the idea of allowing yourself to fall in love, even if you know you might get hurt.”

“And there’s also this through line of what our relationships with ourselves are, even as we experience love and loss,” Spector-Zabusky chimes in.

come back find me when i’m 17
tell me i’m not ugly and write me poetry
found out you’re leaving, hold me in your skin
break down all the echoes of places we have been
Adeline
the good stuff’s always over
or i just never went
i stare into my iphone but i can’t find my friends
why then do i wait here drowning in my skin,
i’m always making mountains out of all the could’ve beens
Adeline




There’s a lot to love, and a lot to think about when it comes to Stolen Jars’ fourth studio album, but one this is clear: This Brooklyn-based band are stealing more than just jars these days.

Atwood Magazine caught up with Cody Fitzgerald, Sarah Coffey, and Elias Spector-Zabusky to dive into the beautiful depths of I Won’t Let Me Down, and unpack all of its emotional and musical content along the way. Read our interview below as we discuss Stolen Jars’ diaristic songwriting, collaborative spirit, evolving musical identity, and more!

Oh it isn’t safe in my head
I can’t figure out
How to live in silence instead
When the world doesn’t make a sound
I don’t want to be in this house
Trust falling to catch myself
My blood is slowing me down
Running circles to somewhere else
– “Somewhere Else,” Stolen Jars

“I just hope it makes listeners feel some portion of the feeling that we put into it,” Fitzgerald smiles. “It means so much to see that people have actually connected with this record – that’s all that ever matters to me when putting something out is that someone else finds some part of themselves in it.”

— —

:: stream/purchase I Won’t Let Me Down here ::
:: connect with Stolen Jars here ::
Stream: ‘I Won’t Let Me Down’ – Stolen Jars



A CONVERSATION WITH STOLEN JARS

I Won't Let Me Down - Stolen Jars

”Atwood
Stolen Jars' Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen Stolen Jars’ Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen[/caption]



That’s the thing about art that I’ve had to learn – it’s not all productivity. Sometimes you need to gab or cry or laugh for an hour or two before you can get anything meaningful down.

What was your vision going into this record? Did that change over the course of recording this?

Sarah Coffey: Make good songs. Make purposeful melodies. Give the songs an arc musically and lyrically. Something truthful.

Cody Fitzgerald: Definitely. And I think one important piece of the vision for this record was capturing the feel of our live set. In October 2019 we went on a full US tour that really solidified our live sound and I loved the way we were playing and wanted to make sure that was a big part of the new music. I think we really found a way to do that with I Won’t Let Me Down.

Why the title “I Won’t Let Me Down”?

Sarah Coffey: When I was writing the lyrics for “Smoke In The House,” I was in the midst of a heartbreak. People who are heartbroken function differently. It’s weird – sometimes I wish I was still that hurt person. I was able to prove my power to myself by insisting that I would become the best person I could be for myself, someone that was kind to myself. When I’m on auto-pilot, I’m hypercritical of myself, I’ll berate myself, I’ll be more cruel to myself than I’d ever be to anyone else. “I Won’t Let Me Down” was a way of demanding that I would no longer rely on my cruel habits of comfort. It’s sort of like manifesting – when you say something like that out loud, when you demand it of yourself, you will get there.

Cody Fitzgerald: Yeah, and I think that line really speaks to the feeling of the album as a whole – from my perspective it speaks to the idea of allowing yourself to fall in love, even if you know you might get hurt.

Elias Spector-Zabusky: Exactly, and there’s also this through line of what our relationships with ourselves are, even as we experience love and loss.

How do you feel I Won’t Let Me Down captures your artistry today, and compares to records like A Reminder and Kept?

Cody Fitzgerald: This record is quite a bit different from the last two. I love Kept and A Reminder, but they came out of such different places in my life. At its heart, this record is a lot less complicated – the arrangements aren’t as dense, the songs wander less – and I think that there is something heartfelt and beautiful about that simplicity. To me, the songwriting feels more clear and focused. Another nice shift is that, though the last two records were very collaborative, this one was even more so. I would come to the table with some initial musical ideas and then Elias, Sarah and I would all work together to take those and run with them, building them into the songs they eventually became.

Sarah Coffey: By collaborating for years, we’ve developed a language of working together. It’s facilitated a process of making the music more personal and more specific.

Stolen Jars' Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen
Stolen Jars’ Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen

You open the album with the line, “I don’t want to fall in love, so I won’t this time” - and we’re off to the races. “Reality TV” is intense and unapologetic. Why open the album with this song; how does it set the scene, for you?

Elias Spector-Zabusky: Honestly, the song just rocks – we knew people would like the sound and hopefully would connect immediately to the lyrics. It really opens up a door for the journey we want the album to take people on.

Why wouldn’t you (or the narrator - not sure if they’re one and the same) want to fall in love?

Cody Fitzgerald: Oh it is for sure me haha – or at least a version of me. Falling in love is a scary thing especially after a heartbreak – you don’t ever want to go through that pain again and so you have to be sure the person is really right this time. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to ignore those feelings rather than admit to yourself that you have already fallen.

Sarah Coffey: Not only does love mean subjecting yourself to potential pain, but it also means you’re giving up your independence. Before I met my current partner, I was extremely resistant to the idea of having anybody around ever. I had too much to do! I’ve got 150,000 songs and I can’t finish 1. But eventually you meet someone that brings your walls down and shows you that it doesn’t have to be so scary.

You teased out a number of songs for this album in advance of its release, starting with “Adeline” - which you already know I’m a fan of! What is it about that song that made it worthy as the “comeback single” - the first look at what was to come?

Cody Fitzgerald: “Adeline” was always one of our favorites from the record.

Sarah Coffey: It has this positive energy, the fun lyrics in the beginning. “Tell me I’m not ugly” is all I wanted to hear when I was 17. It felt very truthful and universal to some insecure teenage experience.

I really love the warm, warbly sound you managed to capture in songs like “Won’t Stay Gone Forever,” “South,” and “Somewhere Else.” Can you talk about your sound for a minute, and what you think about when you’re bringing a song like “Won’t Stay Gone Forever” to life in the studio?

Cody Fitzgerald: For sure! Elias and I worked a ton on the intricacies of the sound of this record, and we also got our bandmates Grant Meyer and Isaiah Hazzard, and the amazing Joe Reinhart to help it find its final form. I’ve always been an intense layer-er, historically I’ve been a “the more layers the better” kind of guy, haha. But I’ve learned to control that instinct a bit and make sure that at every moment the right thing is catching your ear and keeping your attention. For me, production is all about capturing a feeling, and if I feel at every moment that the emotion is conveyed, then the arrangement is working.

Elias Spector-Zabusky: Yeah, in trying to capture a bit of the more-defined live sound from our full US tour, Cody and I (and everyone else) spent A LOT of time working on creating the exact right sounds for each layer we included. Often, in the process of finding the right elements for the arrangement and production, we’d surprise ourselves with new ideas that tied everything together. So the sound was both very intentional and a process of discovery.

It was dark when you said we should go. Now you're not around. Who'll hide from me now?” Would you mind sharing a bit about these final moments of “South,” and what this song means to you?

Elias Spector-Zabusky: It hurts to miss someone, even when you’re missing a version of them you haven’t known in a while. Absence is painful, even when it’s welcome.

Cody Fitzgerald: We wrote this song about things that have been left unsaid for too long that finally boil to the surface. Once someone is gone, even though they were hiding and not being themselves around you, you will still find yourself missing them and what was.

I’d love to talk about the “deeper cuts” for a minute - what songs resonate the most to you on this album, and what do you hope listeners pick up on when they’re experiencing this record for the first time?

Cody Fitzgerald: For me “Run It Wild” is my favorite song on the record. That song just hits home every time I hear it. I’ve also loved Greta Kline’s music for a long time, so it was really fun getting to work with her on it. Hopefully when listeners hear the record for the first time they find a piece of themselves in it – that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Sarah Coffey: I agree – Run It Wild is so good. It also feels like a perfect place to end the album. It’s about two people going their separate ways, but still feeling joy for someone else’s discovery of a new life. It’s both sad and hopeful.

Elias Spector-Zabusky: “Somewhere Else” for me, I think – though it’s easy to pigeonhole this as a pandemic song, it’s really about dealing with a dissatisfaction about where we find ourselves in life. I hope anyone else who feels that way might hear this song and feel less alone.

Can you describe this album in three words?

Cody Fitzgerald: Cathartic

Elias Spector-Zabusky: Introspective

Sarah Coffey: Personal

I think some of my definitive favorites on this album are the last two tracks, “Smoke in the House” and “Run It Wild.” They both feel so intimate, and yet there’s this rush of energy coursing through them that you don’t usually hear in an album’s last tracks! Do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off this record?

Elias Spector-Zabusky: “Smoke In The House” steals my heart everytime I hear it – the musical journey the song takes, the power of the B-Section, and the poignancy and powerfulness of the lyrics. I’m really proud of this one.

Sarah Coffey: Yeah “Smoke In The House” is a really personal song for me. Writing it got me through a difficult time and I hope that it helps others through their difficult times.

Cody Fitzgerald: “Run It Wild” is definitely my fave, but I’m honestly pretty proud of the whole record.

Stolen Jars' Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen
Stolen Jars’ Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen

Likewise, do you have any favorite lyrics in these songs?

Cody Fitzgerald:

“I see myself in front of me –
And I look just like my dad to me
Singing “Blue Chair” in the living room in 1995
With a reminder in the melody:
There’s somewhere I’m supposed to be.”

Elias Spector-Zabusky:

“Well the fog is out in droves tonight,
Guess the world just wants me blind.
But I can see your face in front of me”

Sarah Coffey:

“I’ll get drunk on songs my sister loves
Tried to write one about the dream with my dad
You’re on his girlfriend’s lawn, a perfect setting for my
Conditional love song.
I won’t let me down.”



Stolen Jars © Tonje Thilesen
Stolen Jars’ Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey © Tonje Thilesen

What do you hope listeners take away from I Won’t Let Me Down? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

Cody Fitzgerald: I just hope it makes them feel some portion of the feeling that we put into it. It means so much to see that people have actually connected with this record – that’s all that ever matters to me when putting something out is that someone else finds some part of themselves in it.

Sarah Coffey: I hope people do with it what I’ve done with music throughout my life – take it and make it personal to you, it’s yours as much as it’s ours. I love when music becomes a part of who you are. That’s what’s so powerful about it.

Elias Spector-Zabusky: I want this record to make them feel less alone, in the good times, “In The Bad Times” (😉), and any time in between. Thanks for listening.

Thank you so much!

— —

:: stream/purchase I Won’t Let Me Down here ::
:: connect with Stolen Jars here ::
Stream: ‘I Won’t Let Me Down’ – Stolen Jars



— — — —

I Won't Let Me Down - Stolen Jars

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