A lot has happened to Hellogoodbye since the Huntington Beach, California-based act released their breakthrough album Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! back in 2006. Over the past four years the band have parted with their old record label, retooled their lineup, released a handful of EPs and performed everywhere from the Philippines to living rooms. All of these cumulative experiences play into the band’s new album Would It Kill You? a collection of perfect pop gems that not only proves that Hellogoodbye are still relevant but affirms that if anything, they’ve sharpened their musical edge over the past few years—and looking back, the band’s frontman Forrest Kline sees the past few years as an amazing opportunity to hone his craft without pressure.
“I’m super slow at everything no matter what I do,” Kline explains when asked what the process of writing and recording Would It Kill You? was like. “If I’m going to clean out my closet it’ll take me all day because I’ll empty out the whole thing, then I’ll paint it, then I’ll tear off the drawers and get new hardware. Everything becomes a process and musically it’s the same thing,” he continues with a laugh. “If I do one thing, I have to do 900 tasks to get it done, so to be able to take the time with this album was a relief because I didn’t have to stress about not having enough time to accomplish everything I wanted to do with these songs.”
Released on the band’s own label Wasted Summer and recorded with longtime producer Matt Mahaffey (Beck, Tenacious D) at his studio as well as Kline’s renovated garage, Kline approached Would It Kill You? in very much the same way he did the band’s debut: by concentrating on the songwriting instead of fancy production tricks. “We did our first record in my living room with a laptop and for this new record I tore down my garage to build a studio so I could record there,” Kline explains. “It was a great situation because I could stay up all night and mess around with stuff and not have any pressure to watch the clock or please anyone except myself.”
While Kline remains to be the main songwriter in Hellogoodbye, the new lineup on Would It Kill You? also reinvigorated him and helped the group fully realize this batch of songs. Featuring bassist Travis Head, keyboard/guitarist Joseph Marro (formerly of the Early November), multi-instrumentalist Andrew Richards and drummer Michael Nielsen, the band’s current lineup was handpicked by Kline over the past few years and he couldn’t be more pleased with the results. “It’s been great because the first lineup happened in high school and for whatever reason a lot of them weren’t interested in touring full-time,” Kline explains. “This has been an awesome opportunity to play with a bunch of people I’ve always wanted to share the stage with and everyone is on the same page.”
From the upbeat opener “Finding Something To Do” to horn-driven, Shins-esque indie rock romps like “Betrayed By Bones” and epic, intricately arranged masterpieces such as “The Thoughts That Give Me The Creeps,” Would It Kill You? sees the band exploring new instrumental timbres that bring out the inherent sonic subtleties in these tracks. “On the last record there were some songs that had sequenced horns, but on this record everything is real,” Kline explains. “Instead of trying to recreate a sound we would just have someone come in and play that instrument and I think you can really tell the difference when you’re listening to this album.”
Musically the disc retains Kline’s love of doo-wop and Oldies, but puts them into a fresh, new context to keep these influences from sounding clichéd. “When I was in third grade all I listened to was oldies radio so that’s been a huge influence on me for my entire life,” Kline explains when asked how he manages to keep the music on Would It Kill You? sounding so fresh. “That said, I’ve never liked it when something sounds like a throwback or sounds old for the sake of being old because that’s already been done before,” Kline explains. “I like it better if someone takes what they like about something and does it in a more natural way.”
When it comes to the lyrics, Would It Kill You? is deceptively complex and is more of a mental journey than a traditional narrative. “I went through a lot in the course of making this record because it took a very long time,” Kline explains. “Just before I started it I got engaged and by the end I was married, so there are a lot of songs dealing with the process of being unsure about a relationship to knowing you made the right decision,” he continues. “Even in a really good relationship there are still times when you’re fighting so there are a few songs that touch on that, but most of it is celebrating it,” he adds, noting that true to his personality there is also a healthy dose of paranoia present in many of these songs.
Ultimately after three years of hard work, sweat and anticipation, Kline and his bandmates are simply happy to finally have the album finished and can’t wait for their fans to hear it. “There was a point when I was nervous that this album might never come out and I thought that maybe I should give up, but once I had written these songs I knew I had to release them somehow,” he explains when asked what kept him motivated to make these ideas a reality. “I just knew I had to finish it once I started it because everyone in this band is just as excited as I am about these songs,” he summarizes. “That energy is contagious.”