Lifeâs a bitch, but itâs really the moment when we give up, shelve our dreams and harden our hearts that we truly die. For the members of rising pop-punk quartet Summerlin, thatâs no way to âlive,â and the bandâs upcoming full-length debut, You Canât Burn Out If Youâre Not On Fire, is a rallying cry for anyone who dreams of escaping their dreaded daily grind, and boldly shouting their true intentions to the world.
Summerlin are making good on their pact: The Leeds (Yorkshire), England-based band are only in their early 20s, and still work day jobs when not touring, but this new record may be the final step toward leaving it all behind. Based on the albumâs message, itâs a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, driven by Summerlinâs unwavering determination to not only succeed, but to also do it on their own creative terms.
âGrowing up, youâre young, you enjoy life, you donât really think about or do much, but you get a little older and you start to realize what the world is really about and the negativities that go with itâ says singer/guitarist Drew Lawson. âGrowing upâs definitely one of the themesâ¦the record is about responsibility, and how you just strive for things. A lot of it is about finding yourself.â
Summerlin formed in late 2008, when members of various Yorkshire bands began looking for something musically different, and gravitated toward classic pop-punk like Blink-182, New Found Glory and the Offspring. The band began writing material with a sound that combined pop-punk with the harder elements they also loved. The early growing pains and lineup changes ensued, but by summer 2009 the band unveiled an EP, So Make Your Move. Early tours began in the U.K. and Europe, climaxing with an appearance at the 2011 Slam Dunk Festival, alongside the likes of Less Than Jake, The Starting Line, Goldfinger, Anti-Flag and Set Your Goals.
All the while, Summerlin were developing a clearer picture of the band they wanted to become. Lawson took on the role of DIY producer/engineer, tracking all of the groupâs early and ongoing demos, and eventually the role became semi-permanent. Rather than risk having an outside party potentially water-down the bandâs sonic essence, Lawson opted to self-produce You Canât Burn Out If Youâre Not On Fire. The result is a clear impression of Summerlinâs diverse take on pop-punk and post-hardcore, fusing unforgettable melodies with pulsing breakdowns and shreddy harmonized guitar licks. Not bad considering they tracked in a Yorkshire council house, much to the ire of neighbours.
âItâs something Iâve always done, because I normally track most of the demos we do anyway,â says Lawson of his role at the console board. âWe just got sick to death of going to studios where they didnât do what we wanted to. We got together and decided if we put enough into it, we could do it ourselves. It was just that nobody got what we were trying to go for, and at the same time, we knew what we wanted.â
For the final piece of the puzzle, Summerlin tapped the legendary Pelle Henricsson (Refused, Entombed, In Flames) to mix and master the completed tracks. Sequestered in Henricssonâs Tonteknik studio in UmeÃ¥, Sweden, the band had the rare opportunity to pick the brain of an industry icon, whoâs produced some of the most important recordings in punk-rock, metal and hardcore. As is his trademark, Henricsson was vital to further preserving the grit Summerlin wanted to retain in their music.
âHeâs a guy I always wanted to work with, even before this band. He did records I loveâbasically every Swedish punk band I was into when I was younger,â explains Lawson. âWe didnât want to go with somebody who would end up thinking we were just a pop band. I wanted somebody who doesnât really know necessarily what our genre is, but knows how to capture rawness, and at the same time get great melodies. It was mainly about just getting raw and aggressive, but keeping our melodies intact.â
Borrowing a famous quote from Doors frontman Jim Morrison, the title You Canât Burn Out If Youâre Not On Fire succinctly summarizes the heart of the recordâyouâll never risk a glorious downfall if you havenât ever soared. Kicking in hard and fast with opening cut âLet It Go,â the album projects a consistent message of hope, tempered with the ugliness of daily reality our protagonists must overcome.
ââLet It Go,â is basically about alienation and loved ones leaving you because of it,â shares Roo Buxton, the groupâs guitarist .âItâs describing how someone feels: They just want to sleep to stop negativity in their heads, and depression. Itâs weird, because itâs a really uplifting songâa really major based songâbut the lyrics are quite dark within it. It describes how anything would be done to sleep and escape the situation.â
The track âSink Or Swimâ continues the theme further, this time focusing on the pivotal decision every musician must make when faced with embracing music as a lifestyle and career, or clinging to anchors like jobs, homes and girlfriends. Summerlin went through multiple lineup changes since their inception precisely due to such issues, and the band couldnât help but channel their frustrations into the lyrics.
â âSink or Swim is about, in a broad sense, taking the plunge and fully committing into what you want to do. Itâs about taking that leap and committing to something, and what happens, happens,â says bassist Benjamin Jackson. âThe songâs really about an ex-member who didnât want to, so we wrote the song while he was actually in the band. He didnât really know all the lyrics were about him while he sat across the room.â
The departure of one of those former band mates was the impetus behind Lawson picking up the guitar full-time. Re-organized as a four-piece, the ex-quintet is now tighter live, and closer as friends, than theyâve ever been. With the four of us now, itâs solidified; weâre on the same wavelength. Weâre like a band of brothers.â
With You Canât Burn Out If Youâre Not On Fire targeted for a spring release, Summerlin are gearing up for what promises to be a hectic, exhilarating year. Extensive touring is expected behind the release, starting initially within the bandâs U.K. backyard and neighboring Europe, before moving on to total global domination and adoration. Whatever the result, Summerlin are having the times of their lives, finally, making music that deeply means something to the members. It sure beats the hell out of punching a clock, provided music fans see past the various flavors of the week, and continue to support bands with genuine integrity and something valuable to say. If so, Summerlinâs gamble will pay out handsomely, and thereâs plenty more to come.