Pianos Become The Teeth
Pianos Become The Teeth are many things but they aren’t the type of band that are simple to describe. Correspondingly if the Baltimore, Maryland, based act exploded on the scene with their 2009 debut Old Pride and gained national attention with 2011’s The Lack Long After, their third album Keep You sees them taking a brave step forward to craft a musical statement that truly transcends genres. “There’s still the same amount of passion and energy inherent in this record, it’s just presented in a different way,” frontman Kyle Durfey explains—and that undying desire to push, challenge and redefine the band’s musical limits is what makes Keep You the type of record that grows more revealing to the listener with each listen.
Obviously the biggest difference between Keep You and Pianos Become The Teeth’s previous albums is Durfey’s approach, which sees him trading the throat-gutting screams of the band’s early releases with cleaner, more intelligible vocals. However anyone who has followed the band’s trajectory—specifically the song “Hiding” from their 2013 split with Touché Amoré—can trace the way the band’s sound has evolved from a melodic hardcore act to a group who create heaviness and weight via raw emotion instead of distortion “I took a less unbridled approach to the songs this time around,” Durfey explains. “That’s what I felt the songs called for and in my heart it matched the tone of the record.”
Pianos Become The Teeth—which also features guitarists Mike York and Chad McDonald, bassist Zac Sewell and drummer David Haik— began writing Keep You in 2012 while during a tour with Title Fight. When they got home the group took a writing expedition to a cabin owned by Sewell’s family in Taylors Island, Maryland, where they came up with the songs “Say Nothing” and “Lesions.” “We knew Kyle was planning on singing on this album so we wanted to be able to create something musically that would be beneficial for him to do that,” York says. “We paid attention to detail a lot with these songs but not in the same way that we had done in the past in the sense that instead of putting a bunch of cool parts together, we really tried to focus on the songs as a whole,” he adds.
In order to capture the band’s creative vision this time around they decided to work with producer Will Yip (Circa Survive, Braid) during a month long recording session in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. “Will was just such a positive force to be around and he really helped us embrace what we were trying to do,” Durfey explains. “I definitely learned a lot about my own voice and gained a ton of confidence in the process.” York concurs adding, “Will knew what we were going for atmosphere wise; I realized we were making something that we loved but Will took that vision and made it more than we ever could have expected.”
Musically Keep You is an expansive statement that is defined almost as much by what the listener hears as it is the dramatic space that hangs between each note. For example, when Durfey sings “you can’t be everything you want to be before your time” on the cathartic, slow build “Late Lives” the same can be said of the fact that the band had to spend eight years playing together in order to get to the point where they could write music this layered and deliberate. “I love a song like ‘Late Lives’ because instead of a lead riff there’s intertwined riffs and David doesn’t even hit a snare drum until two-and-a-half minutes in,” York explains. “Alternately ‘April’ and ‘Old Jaw’ are more straightforward that anything we’ve ever done structure-wise but if you let yourself fall into the groove of the song you’ll appreciate it in ways that I don’t think have ever been possible with this band.”
That’s not to say that these songs don’t feature the virtuosic musicianship the band have built their name on, it’s just recontextualized into more moody and haunting compositions such as “Repine” which features atmospheric strings, an instantly contagious chorus and a tribal rhythm that solidly roots it. Lyrically Keep You deals with familiar concepts like mortality and communication in an intensely personal way that’s also remarkably relatable in its honesty. “If I had to boil down the overall theme of the album it’s about things you want to say to people but you can’t for some reason whether it’s because they’re not in your life anymore or they’ve passed away,” Durfey explains. “It still ties into our other records but it’s where I’m at now, which is still morose but not being completely destroyed by anything anymore.”
That inkling of hope is expressed when Durfey sings, “your wick won’t burn away” (“Repine”) or muses, “I say it all when I say nothing at all” (“Say Nothing”), conveying that memories live on after the physical bodies that embodied them have faded away. “I think it’s a musical growth not a departure,” Durfey summarizes when asked how he views the album. “We’re more proud of this album than anything we’ve ever done in the past,” adds York. “I’m just so excited to be able to share it with the people who have supported us for so long because I think it’s a really exciting next step for the band in every possible way.”