Music

Never Coming Home: Local pop-punk band talks about the meaning behind their music

I first met frontman Anthony at – of all places – an All Time Low show a couple years back. The thing about Never Coming Home is they don’t view their band as a hobby. 

The equation is simple – all four boys have that quintessential boy-band aesthetic (but edgier, of course) that makes teen girls take notice. Plus they’re all incredibly talented, having already written countless songs just waiting for the right time to get produced. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Anthony Hefler keeps the energy up, lending bright melodies to their songs. Bassist Derek Lane-Bell is primarily a drummer, but started playing bass because that’s what their band needed. Lead guitarist Aidan Sullivan is incredibly skilled with a good improvisational ear and musical sensitivity. And last but absolutely not least is Merritt Cathers, drummer extraordinaire with so much energy that watching him behind a drum kit makes mere mortals feel like they need to up their cardio workouts. 

Their breakout tune was “Runaway,” and although it was their first dip into the waters of showbiz and the mix was a little rough, they’ve come so far since then. After releasing “Halloween” mixed by Blake Roses (of previous Oh Weatherly fame) and “You Crushed Me and I’m Not Ready to Laugh About It” a.k.a. “YMCA” mixed by Zack Fiske (who seems to work with all the best New England bands), it’s abundantly clear that their music is going to take off. Their songs are filled with wall-to-wall catchy beats, iconic chord progressions, and shockingly mature additions (string-section in “Halloween,” I’m looking at you).

Angelina Singer (Motif): How did each of you find music in the first place? Did you always have a passion for it?

Anthony Hefler: I kinda got into music because of a lack of things to do. I didn’t really have any “interests” and my dad was always into music, but I always pushed it off. One day he showed me bands like Twenty One Pilots and some other random ones, and then I just picked it up one day and never went back. I asked a bunch of friends in gym [class] the next day to write down bands to listen to, and of course they wrote like Fall Out Boy and all that and that’s where I started.

Derek Lane-Bell: I found music through Weird Al parodies in 4th grade. Through him, I found Nirvana and fell in love with rock, and eventually sprouted out to love punk, emo, the Beatles and indie. Especially emo.

Merritt Cathers: I got into music when I was about 13 or 14, and I expressed an interest in playing the drums. From there it took off, discovering bands like Twenty One Pilots and blink-182, and later diving headfirst into more pop punk bands like Neck Deep and WSTR.

Aidan Sullivan: I blame the movie “School of Rock,” that’s kind of what sparked my interest. It wasn’t long before I found bands like blink-182 and All Time Low – that’s when I dove into the scene.

Motif: What is the central theme behind your music, and what do you hope to accomplish with your lyrics and ideas?

AH: When I write lyrics, I usually write from my perspective as a way to release my emotions into something when I have nowhere else to put these emotions and problems. Lately I’ve been also trying to write from other perspectives as well in a more story-driven format. Sometimes I’ll write about an experience I’ve never had, but the feeling behind it is genuine in the fact that I’m feeling that way but don’t know how to elaborate [on] it. So sometimes I’ll elaborate those feelings into stories, or just write it straight up. Sometimes it’s just a jumble of words that don’t mean much, but it means something to me at least, and maybe it’ll mean something to someone else. Hopefully it does.

DLB: I write to give people something to relate to. We all go through the same shit in different ways, and when you hear something that you relate to, it sticks with you and makes you feel something. That’s why I listen to music, cheesy as it sounds.

MC: I use music as an outlet for things such as my stress and anger. I hope to use this band as a creative outlet to help others find the comfort I do within music.

AS: Music is my outlet — I find that writing helps me process difficult emotions. I just hope to one day have music that affects others the way music has affected me.

Motif: Elaborate on the story behind YMCA (if you feel comfortable).

DLB: The verses and chorus in that song are mostly just wordplay and contradictions, which is my favorite way of writing, with a few specific lines thrown in that relate directly to me. The bridge was something that Anthony, Aidan and I wrote together, which was basically the only part of the song that actually happened. I went through a rough relationship and the bridge is just a straight-up retelling of it. I didn’t intend the song to be about that, and it certainly wasn’t the intent I had while writing the song, but that stuff just comes out. The title is entirely ironic. It was just making fun of long song titles and I thought it was funny. It was a joke I thought the other guys would laugh at before I actually titled the song, but it just stuck.

Motif: How has being in a band impacted your life so far? Not many people can brag about the level of success you’ve already had at such a young age.

AH: I’m not gonna lie — it has impacted it a ton, but at the same time not at all. I’ve made a ton of friends and connections through the band but at the same time, day-to-day life is still absolutely the same. Go to school, do the same things I would do if I wasn’t in the band. It just gives me something to think about and work at instead of doing nothing.

DLB: It’s neat. Having a creative outlet in a world where most things are disappointing is great.

MC: I think that playing as a group, especially on stage, is an amazing experience. Hearing other people sing along to songs we spent time working on in Anthony’s garage is still so crazy to me.

AS: Creating music is one of the best feelings in the world. I feel that just being in a band has helped me grow as a musician.

Motif: You have a fairly large backlog of music that is yet to be released. What was the writing process like for your songs, and about how long did it take to put everything together?

AH: We write all the time and lately we’ve been trying to think outside the box with new songs because once you have an unreleased list of like 30-40 songs, you gotta start to change it up. We normally write lyrics and basics on our own and then bring the composition to practice and put it all together. Sometimes we work in pairs, Derek and I are really good at working together on songs and a good bit of our latest songs have come from that. Our song “Coffins” came from me showing Derek a random riff, whipping up random lyrics in 10 minutes, and then playing it part by part and just looking at each other for changes, none of it was planned at all! We just kinda made it up as we went along, and then it all came together.

DLB: Usually we write alone and bring a mostly finished song for the rest of the band to work on. The songs just came together over time. We write fairly often so our back catalogue is just all the stuff we’ve written that we’re proud of. It’s becoming a problem actually.

MC: We honestly let things come together naturally. We write by ourselves and sometimes together but not really as a group, instead we bring our unfinished songs to the group and we work together on improving where we can and adding our own unique suggestions.

AS: I pretty much just write when I’m sad or whatever other emotion I might be feeling. We all do a lot of writing on our own, but once a song is brought to the band, I feel like there’s this sort of unique creativity that’s brought to the table, we start asking “how can we make this stand out?” or “what is this missing?”

Motif: Looking back at where you’ve started and how far you’ve already come, what is something you would tell your past selves to do differently?

AH: Don’t be so negative about things, and stop apologizing for being excited about things. Also think things through before you do them, don’t just jump into things because why not.

DLB: Leave School of Rock about three years before I did. Also maybe learn to play bass before joining a band.

MC: I think we should’ve been more optimistic and laid back a bit instead of jumping headfirst into things. However I’m glad that we do our own thing and aren’t worried about expressing ourselves.

AS: For the love of god, don’t let “Runaway” happen.

Motif: Share the most cringe-y awkward moment that happened to you on or offstage at a gig.

MC: Back in January, we played at the AS220 and I butchered our drum break when we played Halloween live. It haunts me to this day.

Motif: How have you liked the studio recording process for your first EP so far? Up until now, you’ve released some really dope singles, but never a full release.

DLB: Recording in the studio was a mess. The A/C was broken, equipment broken, it’d be easier to talk about what didn’t go wrong. We’re just excited we finally got the damn thing recorded.

AH: It was an incredibly fun experience, but the whole time we joked about it being cursed! Every day something went wrong! Derek went over most of what went wrong in his answer but actually the last day in the studio it was just me and Zack (producer) finishing up vocals for “South Station” and my voice started giving out. So there was this vocal spray in the booth so he ran it out to me and I took it. Now I normally have this like vocal honey spray thing or whatever it’s called that you can use as much as you want but this was different. I took one hit then my throat was numb…. and I was LOVING it. It started to wear off in like 2 minutes so I went to hit it again when I read the back and it said only take once so I was okay. But here’s the kicker, in tiny writing on the back it said DO NOT SWALLOW. It’s a cherry flavored product OF COURSE I SWALLOWED IT! So we’re frantically running around calling everyone and thinking I’m gonna have to go to the ER because we looked it up and it causes internal bleeding in the lining of the stomach. We spend 30 minutes flipping out when we get on call with a pharmacist. And his answer to what we should do was literally just, “Oh you’ll be fine, I swallow that stuff every day.” So now I’m just worried for the guy at the pharmacy! But overall it was a great experience to do a record, I wanna shout out our man Zack Fiske real quick. If you’re a band or musical artist of any kind in the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area GO TO ZACK! 

MC: Recording in the studio was a series of unfortunate events. On top of what was already going wrong, I broke one of my cymbals after finishing tracking two songs and couldn’t find one anywhere in the area. After driving 30 minutes to buy a cymbal, I realized I forgot my wallet back at the studio.

Stream music by Never Coming Home! Spotify: open.spotify.com/artist/2uXNi9A0csWxuxvpOUcHnr?si=4lM_u0GESCWVs4TSMNW_kg; YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCk8Z_1qG1CsalLMsxETduJA; Instagram/Twitter @nchbandri

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