“It’s been so long friend, how ya been?”
Don’t call it a comeback because reunion records rarely sound as inspired as The Movielife’s first full-length in 14 years, Cities In Search Of A Heart. This is an album that shows how the group’s songwriters—vocalist Vinnie Caruana and guitarist Brandon Reilly—have grown since 2003’s celebrated full-length Forty Hour Train Back To Penn, and also contains some of their most energized songwriting to date. In other words, whether you’ve loved The Movielife since they were a scrappy Long Island hardcore band in the early 2000s or you’re a recent initiate, it’s difficult not to get caught up in kinetic frenzy that permeates every note of Cities In Search Of A Heart.
The story of this record officially began two years ago when, after spending years on their own projects—Caruana’s I Am The Avalanche and Reilly’s Nightmare Of You—the duo started playing shows together as The Movielife once again. “The two of us became close friends again and we both felt like we had learned so much about songwriting since the early 2000s that we should do another record,” Caruana recalls, speaking from his current home in Brooklyn. “We had a great reaction to the reunion shows in 2014 but felt like instead of keeping it on a nostalgic level we wanted to write a record together that people could get into.” Not wanting to taint the band’s legacy or recycle the past, the duo were faced with the monumental task of figuring out exactly who The Movielife are in 2017, which was no easy task.
Caruana and Reilly struggled with the writing until last year when they realized that they simply had to make a new record that included the punk spark that was so prevalent in all of their previous work. “I knew the tempos had to be up and we had to be energetic because that’s what our shows are like and that element is so important to who we are as a band,” Caruana explains. Eventually the duo ended up with fifteen songs that they ended up trimming down and perfecting until they ended up with the ten songs that made the final cut. “I have to admit that the task of making this record seemed slightly impossible in the beginning but I’m so happy that we pushed ourselves so hard because we ended up making a Movielife record that we’re freaking out about and can’t wait to share with the world,” he adds.
Caruana has good reason to be excited. From the driving, melodic rocker “Mercy Is Asleep At The Wheel” to the fuzzed-out pop perfection of “Laugh Ourselves To Death” and orchestrally-tinged acoustic ballad “Pour Two Glasses,” the album shows that The Movielife have crafted a collection of songs that’s as captivating as it is catchy. “‘Mercy Is Asleep At The Wheel’ is about how it feels to be alive right now during such a crazy time and also musically it feels like a really good place to pick up again,” Caruana says of the aforementioned song. “On the other hand, we’ve come close to having a ballad before but ‘Pour Two Glasses’ is something completely new to us and we put it in the middle just to break things up. There’s a lot of new feelings on this record that you haven’t gotten from this band before.”
In order to capture their vision, the band enlisted new drummer Brett Romnes who also produced the record over the course of a month at Barber Shop Studios in northern New Jersey. “The studio was built inside of an old church from the 1800s on a lake and we just posted up there for a month and banged out the record,” Caruana explains, adding that Reilly took on the bass duties as well. The group also enlisted Brand New’s tone guru Joe Cannetti to help capture the perfect sound and subsequently had Zakk Cervini (Blink-182, All Time Low) mix the results. ‘We had a dream team of me and Brandon on the songwriting side and Joe and Brett on the production side helping us execute and then we brought in Zakk who works more in the pop/rock world and he took what we already had and made it sound absolutely massive,” he continues.
Lyrically, the album sees Caruana once again writing from the heart, about where he is in his life today and about the current state of the world. “The dichotomy of The Movielife has always been upbeat music with sometimes unsettling lyrics and on this record that dark cloud is being addressed throughout the record in different ways,” Caruana says of the album. While lines like, “We’re all gonna die, exploding in a ball of fire” from “Laugh Ourselves To Death” may sound nihilistic, it’s more of a reaction to the uncertainty that plagues the world today as interpreted through the band’s unique approach to songwriting. On the flip side, Cities In Search Of A Heart features some of the band’s most hopeful songs to date such as “You’re The Cure,” keeping the album’s overall sound feel far more inspiring than defeatist.
But ultimately Cities In Search Of A Heart is meant to be listened to, not analyzed, so turn it up because rebirths usually aren’t this catchy. “Calling on the hearts, wear it on the sleeve for all to see,” Caruana sings during the album’s infectious closer “Hearts” and with these words it’s clear that he’s singing as much for himself as he is for the band’s listeners who may not have found their own voices yet. This album speaks to those very simple yet relatable attributes of what it means to be human during an unprecedented time in history, so take it all in and hold on tight.