Interview: Emily Armstrong On The Rebirth Of Dead Sara And The Arduous Journey That Led To Their New Album

GID: Something I would have never expected from Dead Sara. Talking about the song and the album in general, it seems like that’s what you guys were going for. This is a very ambitious album with a little bit of that pop-rock along with things that are completely different. Was that always the plan when you started working on the album?

EA: Not really. This has been going on for years. We have a lot of rock songs. We could do that in our sleep. About three years ago we started going more in this direction of playing what we hear and what we like instead of being like oh no we can’t go there because our first two albums aren’t like that. No, we should do what the fuck we want to do. It wasn’t necessarily like let’s try and do this. Little by little it gained a lot of confidence. Let’s not give a fuck. That kind of became our attitude and then the songs started to come out with these ideas. It brought a lot of inspiration and made it more fun for us. We wanted it to be fun. We wanted to love it as much as possible and this is what happened. We’re not sticking to one kind of guitar sound or vocal sound or anything. It’s fun.

GID: Then there’s “Heroes,” which you guys recently released. It’s catchy, high energy, and I love the line all my heroes are dead but they’re living in my head. Can you tell me more about that song and the story behind it?

EA: We had a friend over and they were trying to figure out what the song meant and eventually, it was put on the back burner for four years. There was something to it, but I didn’t understand what it was. At the time, it didn’t have the “all my heroes are dead” line. It just had the chorus and verses. It wasn’t until we were gonna write this album and rewrite these songs from the demos because there was something there and “Heroes” was one of them. We were sitting there writing and it needed something. I was looking down at my phone where I write all kinds of things and I just happened to look down right then and it said all my heroes are dead and that’s what I started singing.

Everyone was like whoa that’s so cool! From there I kind of knew what the song was about, so I rewrote it around that lyric. And it just came together. When you read all the lyrics it becomes very apparent what it’s about – growing up and having all these people like your parents, figures, or whoever you consider a hero. Someone who has gotten you through hard times. Then you realize it’s really up to you and that could be a lonely thought. That kind of realization in your life sucks. But at the same time, it could be a good thing to be like I’m now more independent.

GID: Based on what we’ve been talking about it sounds like the album is made up of some new stuff, but also found you revisiting songs that have been in the works for a while. What made you guys want to revisit these songs that had previously been shelved?

EA: When we did Temporary Things Taking Up Space, we didn’t think we were doing an EP; we thought we were doing an album. So, these other songs were going to be fully written for the album, but at the time label and management were like let’s do an EP instead. So, we focused on that and the other songs got put in the vault. So, we picked up where we left off and it still needed a lot of work. It was also songs that Warner was like these are really cool, finish these. And that helped a lot. There’s still a bunch of songs from that time we love and haven’t dived into yet.

GID: Glad these songs will finally be released! And soon, you’ll embark on your first headline tour in three years which is thrilling especially after last year. But at the same time, we’re starting to see that uncertainty return with the new mask mandates, shows being canceled again, and the Delta variant on the rise. With the tour so close to starting, how are you feeling about get back on the road during this time?

EA: I mean we just gotta be as safe as possible to do our part. That goes for everybody. If everybody does their part, whatever that is, then we should be fine. Obviously, everybody is not, but you only try to control what you can control or it’s gonna make you go crazy. We talked to our manager and she’s on it. She’s like we’re gonna be the fucking safest, cleanest band ever. Everybody’s gotta do their part and we will. And if something happens, something happens. You can’t control that either. That’s kind of my attitude.

GID: That’s a good way to look at it because it’s so easy to worry about everything, even the things you can’t do anything about. Whatever happens, happens but I hope the tour goes off without a hitch. I hope it’s one big celebration.

EA: Me too! That’s what I am hoping for, big time. We actually were on tour with Badflower right before the pandemic. That was really fun. It was a small thing where our manager was like you guys wanna tour? And we’re like fuck yeah! We wanna play some new stuff. That’s some of the new stuff you hear now. We wanted to try it on the road. We played “Hypnotic,” “Heroes,” “Lovers” – we played a bunch of songs that were already getting there but realized they needed more work. We love trying new songs on the road.

GID: So, Ain’t It Tragic is your third album, but Dead Sara has been around for almost 20 years. You’ve had some major highs and some unfortunate lows. What would you say is the most difficult thing that you learned about being in a band or making music for a living during that time?

EA: I think looking at it as a job. That’s a hard thing to deal with. Our first album was kind of successful right off the bat. When all that starts to fade and you go to your second album, and you find a new label and it’s not the same, that’s when you start to look at it as a job instead of as fun. That’s the hard part because you want to separate them completely. When that thought crashed in on me it was this weird unfortunate thing. When it starts to not be fun when you feel sad about it and it feels like work – that was the lesson. And then switching those gears to be like okay what can we do? How can it be more of a game? How could we make lively?

GID: When you’re in any creative field that’s a harsh reality to come to terms with and you start to question what you’re doing and if it’s right. So, with that in mind what motivates you to keep doing this?

EA: Because I love my band so much. We might as well see the best outcome we could possibly see. I feel like we’re finally in that position to see that result, even if it doesn’t happen. What we’ve learned in the past is even if it doesn’t exceed our expectations or get to a place where we are comfortable, we are still gonna be proud especially of this album because we know this is something truly authentic to us. We will be happy no matter what. Fuck it.

Dead Sara’s new album, Ain’t It Tragic, comes out September 17th. Pre-order it here. The band will embark on their 2021 headline tour on September 18th in St. Paul, Minnesota. See all their tour dates here.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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