Trying to shake off your past is largely a pointless endeavor. Somewhere down the line, someone will remember a thing you did, minor or not, and spring it on you out of nowhere.
Garrett Klahn of Texas Is The Reason doesn’t try to run from his past in the band, instead enjoying what he accomplished as much as the fans that worship Do You Know Who You Are? Since the breakup of TITR back in the 90s, Klahn has been set on making more records in bands like New Rising Sons, Atlantic/Pacific, Felled Trees, and he’s now releasing his first solo album ever.
Garrett Klahn is set to release the new self-titled record tomorrow, January 15, through Rise Records. It’s a genre-spanning, project-leaping record incorporating his different works and styles from the past ten years on one record. Glimmers of his projects shine out in each song; songs like “Motion For Action” show exactly what 20 years’ worth of development looks like in a track. His voice carries the emotion and earnestness it did all those years before, except it’s packed with a larger sense of sole, and assuredness.
Read our interview with Garrett below, and stream his new, self-titled record in full.
Noisey: I don’t know how to make this not sound weird, and obviously it’s been 20 years, but I listened to the new record and then back to Texas Is The Reason and all I could think was “holy shit, he sounds like such a fucking man now.”
Garrett Klahn: Haha! I’ll take it, can that be the pull quote? I guess that’s just how it goes, right?
Do you remember when you first started to sing?
Yeah, it wasn’t something I did as a young boy at all. But something that comes to mind upon you asking me that is walking to and from school with my headphones on and just singing along to Smiths records and Cure records and definitely singing then, knowing I wasn’t terrible. Not that I knew I was any good but I could sing along, and in my head it sounded like I was locked in.
Did other people dig your voice at the beginning?
Not at first. I remember in high school, the first band I was ever in was a proper, shit-kicking Western New York hardcore stompin’ band. We were called Support, and we recorded a four-song cassette demo and I remember a lot of people telling me I sucked. [Laughs] It was like Lars Ulrich from Metallica! And I was never a metalhead, never into that type of music, so back then, I took it as a diss. Much to the chagrin of everyone I was friends with, including the band. But yeah people have told me I can sing. [Laughs]
I ask because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about voices behind emotive hardcore being hard to call “beautiful,” yet they’re really impactful and resonant for other reasons.
For sure, even look at Neil Young. Some thing it’s like nails on a chalkboard, but to others it’s like the heavens opening up.
Definitely. So speaking of songwriters, has the idea of a solo record been kicking around in your head for a while now?
Not exactly, no. I’m a product of the four to five guys or gals in a room or van, chugging along. I’m a proud product of that. But I thought maybe it was time to do something a little more just me, some of the songs on this record I’ve held on in hopes of doing something with them. Not as in “this will be my first solo record,” but I held onto them for whatever reason. And I wanted to be able, over the last couple of years, to zero in on a gypsy existence which is the best word I could use. Over the years, I’ve played with so many “bands” doing the solo thing. One tour in Europe, I met this band called The Clever Square from Italy. Played a couple shows with them, stayed in touch, and on the next tour, I sent them some of the stuff I was working on, and they were my band.
I just wanted to try something different, and not limit it to the same four guys and gals. I wanted it to be obligatory for if and when whoever comes to see this band play on tour, they get a different version of the record. That might be a bad “business move,” but I get off on the performance not sounding exactly like the record. Everything happens so fast, I just want to keep it interesting.
I think it’s weird for anyone coming out of hardcore to try and approach the idea of being a “solo artist” when you spend a lot of your time in a scene where equality and equal plane is king.
Well, I don’t know if you noticed but my name isn’t on the cover and neither is my picture. [Laughs] It’s without a doubt one of the most collaborative things I’ve done since I started making records, there’s almost eight or nine people total playing on the record. Number one, I couldn’t come up a good enough band name, and I’ve done the band in a box thing before. I’ve done it, and I’m not shitting on it either because christ that’s my entire life. But I wanted to give it a shot with just a little more me involved.
One thing I was curious about, this record spans a lot of time, does the way you write your songs now differ from how you started out?
Not in the slightest. I find a riff, play it to fucking death, sort out the structure of the song and then toil and squirm and bite my way through my lyrics. The same thing, it’s like fucking Groundhog Day.
Yeah, lyrics never get easier, do they?
Never, ever. [Laughs] It all comes with experience, maybe I need to experience more.
Lyrically, is it weird connecting back to your older stuff when you hear it or play it?
I kind of look at it like going to church. They’re two totally different animals, playing Texas is The Reason songs on my own with an acoustic guitar versus playing with those three boys. When I’m doing it on my own, I mean, I can’t remember the last time I played on my own and didn’t play a Texas song. They’ve just become such a part of everything, like if I have a guitar in my hand you’re going to get a Texas song. They’re just really special, I’m getting less cynical in my older age and I know they mean something to people. I handle them with great care and respect. Whereas when I play with Texas Is The Reason, I play like it’s the last fucking night on Earth.
After Texas broke up, did you try to escape emo?
It’s kind of inescapable, man. [Laughs] In our world, there’s no escape from it. I started that band New Rising Sons and we got signed to Virgin, and pretty much right out of the gate, any and everything written about the band, there’s no escaping it. Even if I really tried I don’t think I could have. It’s just fucking there. [Laughs] Whatever you call it, emo, hardcore, whatever. Shit, I’m 41 years old and I’m still talking about it.
Yeah, it just sticks with you forever. People attribute it to being a teenager or whatever but it never really goes away.
It’s a beautiful thing. My friends that don’t come from this little bubble that you and I come from, I’d be surprised to hear people have the connections we do. The life-affirming connections we make through punk rock, and making fanzines and going to shows. It’s a unifying thing, to shrug it off is almost a sin.