With their 2014 self-titled debut, ISSUES broke big by infusing their metal-punk hybrid with pop-perfect melodies and the heavy rhythms of hip-hop and R&B. On follow-up album Headspace, the Atlanta-based band takes that genre-bending to a bold new level, pushing further into their kaleidoscopic influences to carve out a sound that’s fiercely inventive and deeply infectious.
Named “one of the most anticipated records of 2016” by Alternative Press, Headspace finds ISSUES matching their sonic exploration with daringly honest lyrics that reflect on everything from family strife to toxic relationships. “When I first started writing, I was holding back a bit and making the lyrics more poetic instead of really saying what I was going through,” says vocalist Tyler Carter. “But the emotion behind everything was so powerful, and after a while I realized I needed the lyrics to match that intensity. I wanted to write about these things in a way that would help me let go of them forever and just feel totally liberated.”
With its crushing guitar riffs, commanding vocals, and brutally intense drumming, Headspace surges with an untamable energy that’s nothing short of exhilarating. The band kicks off the album with lead single “The Realest,” which Carter explains “is about those situations where you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in someone, and then you end up figuring out it was all just a complete waste.” The album continually shifts moods and immerses itself in both bright and dark—a dynamic embodied by the perpetual trade-off between Carter’s soulful voice and Michael Bohn’s throat-shredding vocals. ‘Coma,’ for example, fuses its massive riffs with tenderly delivered lyrics to dream up an unapologetically romantic portrait of undying love.
The album also encompasses moments of fragile beauty (Carter’s ethereal vocal performance on ‘Home Soon’) and irrepressible joy (the arena-ready sing-along of ‘Lost-n-Found (On a Roll)’). And closing out the record is ‘Slow Me Down,’ a brave and candid look at betrayal’s destructive effects on family life. “That song was the hardest for me to write,” Carter points out. “I’m a huge Amy Winehouse fan, and I was thinking about how whenever she was dealing with something she’d lay it all out word-for-word, in her own beautiful way. So I channeled my inner Amy and told it exactly like it is.”
In making Headspace, ISSUES recorded in Portland, Oregon, with producers Kris Crummett (Dance Gavin Dance, Sleeping with Sirens, American Me), Erik Ron, and Tyler “Scout” Acord. Throughout the album’s production, the band made a point of defying formula and constantly changing up the creative process. “One of the most important things for us is to always try new ways of putting songs together,” says Carter. At the same time, ISSUES also brought Headspace to life by revisiting their garage-band roots and reclaiming the unchecked passion that initially propelled the band. “A lot of the new material came from just hanging out and jamming as homies,” says Carter. “Instead of overthinking everything, we took a step back and returned to that original feeling of when we first started out.”
Formed in 2012, ISSUES was born from the ashes of Woe, Is Me (an Atlanta-based metalcore act also featuring Carter and Bohn). That year, the band put out their debut release Black Diamonds and soon saw the EP hit #1 on Billboard’s Top Hard Rock and Independent Albums charts. Upon its release in early 2014, their first full-length album Issues quickly climbed to #9 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. Along with earning the Artist of the Year prize at the 2015 Alternative Press Music Awards, ISSUES played to packed-house crowds around the world, sharing stages with the likes of Linkin Park, Of Mice & Men, Bring Me The Horizon, and PVRIS.
“Playing to audiences around the world and having thousands of people sing your lyrics back at you is an incredible feeling,” says Carter.
For ISSUES, that sense of connection is essential to making music with a profound impact. “As a band, we all come from completely different places and have completely different ideas about music,” says the vocalist. “But when we put it all together, it all somehow coexists and becomes something much bigger than any of us individually.” In selecting album art for Headspace, he adds, ISSUES chose a painting created especially for the band, in which a pigeon reimagines itself as a peacock. “The idea is that, even if you feel like you come from nothing, you can become whatever you want to,” Carter says. “It really doesn’t matter what headspace you’re in when you start out, as long as you’ve got that passion and creativity and drive to keep going and make it all work.”