The San Francisco indie quintet Should We Run has struggled to define its musical identity since its formation in 2012. On its 2013 debut album Safer in the Sky, the band attempted to make sense of its members’ emotions and experiences over trembling violins and subtle percussion. They used that album as an experiment, exploring the folk and singer/songwriter genres to see where they fit.
Three years later, they have returned with their sophomore effort, Existential, an album that finds the band more confident in themselves as musicians. Featuring new members and new instrumentation, Should We Run will unveil Existential at their album release show at the Independent on Saturday, Nov. 19.
While Safer in the Sky emphasized the lyrical content of the songs, Existential was an effort to focus more on instrumentation and production.
“We were thinking about how the songs would translate live much more,” frontman Krishan Abeyatunge says. “We learned a lot from our first album. Our arrangements were close and personal, but we had a six-piece band, so Safer in the Sky was a little confused. We hadn’t found our sound yet.”
The band then had lineup changes that led to the addition of a tambora, Nord keyboards, and a QChord. Though new songs like “Grown Up Kid” and “Meet You There” feature frustrated lyrics about intimacy over quivering strings similar to those on the first album, the band’s new instrumentation and group-effort writing processes resulted in songs with faster tempos and more urgent lyrics.
“Different people are lending more to the actual arrangements nowadays, which feels really nice,” says Abeyatunge, who wrote the foundations of most of the band’s previous songs. “It’s more collaborative.”
Some songs were slow to pull together even with the entire band writing. While Abeyatunge wrote 14 different verses for the track “This is Life” before settling on the current one, songs like the grimy, guitar-driven single, “Meet You There,” evolved faster.
“Once I played it, they were all feeling it and threw their lines in.,” he says. “It came together so quick.”
Written as a confrontation of the band’s fear of emotional dependency, “Meet You There” brings its characters to life in the form of kidnapping monsters in its music video. “We were trying to express [the theme] in a storyboard that would be creative and grab the audience’s attention,” Abeyatunge says of the visuals. “It’s us struggling with our demons and issues about commitment and intimacy that are personified through these goblins.”
A therapist by day, Abeyatunge channels the intensity of his work into his songwriting.
“It’s like catharsis,” he says. “I’m brushing up close to the most fragile parts of the human condition all day long, so it needs to find a way out.”
Abeyatunge writes new song ideas often and has several waiting until Existential wraps up so they can receive the band’s full attention. He laughs as he remembers shooting the music video, just as he chuckles at the more recent memory of working late into the night to finish Existential’s final track. It’s hard work to propel a new band forward, but it’s work that Abeyatunge and the other Should We Run members enjoy.
Should We Run plays at 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 19 at the Independent. More info here.