Sorry, Totally Unicorn’s second album, comes out on April 12. They return a different band to the one that made 2016’s Dream Life. Aaron Streatfeild is now the lone guitarist while Adam Meyers joins as the hard rock band’s new drummer. The reduction in size is matched by a leaner sound that puts greater emphasis on the songs’ emotional content.
“I feel like this album for us is a new beginning lineup-wise, the way we recorded it and just for myself lyrically,” says vocalist Drew Gardner. “We’ve taken a different approach to everything. So it’s definitely a really exciting time for the band, but it feels like a whole new thing.”
Gardner sounds more exposed than on any of the Sydney-via-Wollongong band’s previous releases. His lyrics are rawer and the vocals benefit from a primal, emotionally revealing presentation. Having moved away from the hyper technicality of Dream Life, the focus shifts towards the messages Gardner’s trying to get across.
“Aaron and I sat down and were like, ‘let’s focus a lot more on vocals and what you have to say by yourself.’ It’s weird. In my older lyrics I was a bit of a puzzle. You had to kind of work it out for yourself what I was talking about,” he says.
“Dream Life was a thing where in my life I thought things were getting better, but they got really bad. So I was like, ‘fuck this, I’m going to sing about all these things.’ Talking about them, in a way it was a bit of therapy for me, but it’s fucking real scary. But I’m sure people can relate, unfortunately.”
Divorce, substance abuse and damaging life choices all show up in Gardner’s lyrics. These issues make for chunky creative fodder and clearly gave Gardner a sense of purpose when making Sorry. The act of songwriting doesn’t guarantee a psychological release, but Gardner says it’s been an essential outlet.
“When you feel this way, sad and like there’s nothing there, the best way to deal with it is to fucking talk to people,” he says. “I am horrible at doing that. I always bottle my shit up. I have talked to friends about it, but this was another way of helping me get through it.
“Playing the newer songs, it’s hard emotionally for me. But it’s getting better and it’s like therapy, so as we go through playing these songs it’ll help me as well.”
Totally Unicorn decamped to Ghostnote studios in Adelaide to work with co-producers Jonathan Boulet (Party Dozen) and James Balderston (whose credits include Gay Paris and The Amity Affliction). Input from the producers was essential in allowing Totally Unicorn to execute the stylistic reboot.
“James is a good friend of Meyers, our drummer, so he was keen to record with him. Jonathan has been a friend for a little bit and we fucking love the shit that he does and we just asked him and he was keen to help us out,” Gardner says. “It was a bit of a dream team for us. They helped us out so much with creating what we did in the studio.
“That’s why we chose them, because we love what they do. So we trusted them and what they had to say.”
Gardner formed an especially close bond with Boulet during a series of late night recording sessions, working side by side to optimise the impact of his soul-baring vocal performances.
“After everything had been done during the day Jonathan would stay back and we would stay into the morning and do vocals. His input on my lyrics and how to deliver how I was feeling was so great to have. It was just basically the two of us in the studio. I feel very comfortable with him and our relationship is massive now because of it. We bonded a lot through it.”
Sorry is out Friday April 12 via Farmer & The Owl/Inertia. Totally Unicorn’s album tour kicks off in Newcastle on Sunday April 21.