With a penchant for rousing pop-punk with a distinctly heart-wrenching emo streak, Spanish Love Songs have been converting people to their often-bleak realist cause since the release of 2018 album, ‘Schmaltz’.
Documenting the misery, despair, and sheer hopelessness that often cloud the minds of many, the LA five-piece have spent the better half of a decade fostering a community of fans unafraid to feel, driven by the emotionally bruising songwriting of frontman Dylan Slocum.
With 2020’s ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ released just weeks before a global pandemic took hold of the planet, the band’s intensely personal songs became a beacon of hope for many, serving as a reminder that no matter how bad things get – you’re never alone. Shamelessly skirting around life’s darkest edges, whether he’s delving into the inner workings of his own brain or attempting to make sense of the chaos that surrounds him, Dylan’s lyrics have become defined by their humanity, capturing the everyday moments and emotions that unite us all.
A songwriter who often prefers to let people draw their own interpretations from his words, as the release of Spanish Love Songs’ latest album ‘No Joy’ looms, Dylan talks Rock Sound through ten of his favourite references within the band’s lyrics.
“Listening to deathbed confessionals // Try to find someone more dependable”, ‘Lifers’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“This came from a very specific memory I have of being in the van in Germany at the end of 2019. It was pretty early, and we were driving from Berlin to Cologne to play what still might be the biggest show of our career with Hot Water Music.
We have a lot of friends in Berlin, so I didn’t sleep the night before. For some self-hating reason, I put on Mount Eerie’s album ‘A Crow Looked at Me’, which is about the singer’s wife dying. I was openly weeping in the backseat of the van, and at one point, Meredith [Van Woert, keys] looked over and asked what was wrong. I showed her the album on my phone, and she was like, ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’ I’ve only listened to that album maybe three times in total, and it’s crushingly beautiful, but it’s the worst thing you can do to yourself when you haven’t slept the night before and you’re on the edge of sanity anyway.”
“The vampires come at four in the morning // Out for blood with their spotlight on me”, ‘Pendulum’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“This is pretty much a direct quote from my grandma. She had COVID and was in the hospital for about five months before she died. She said that the vampires would come every morning to take her blood, because it was basically the middle of the night. That image is terrifying to think of, and it was one of the last full conversations we had. It’s heart-breaking to think about, especially during COVID when nobody could be in the hospital with her. She was being playful about it though, and she was that type of person.
That whole song is about three different instances of people dying in weird ways, by themselves. I already obsessed about death before people were dying at an alarming rate around me, so now it’s ramped up.”
“There’s another body in the McDonald’s parking lot // The cops stand around like there’s nothing to do // You start to worry that’s what you’ll look like when it catches up”, ‘Haunted’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“Something you’ll notice in our songs is that I tend to find these experiences that seem weird, or set against something mundane, and obsess over them. I was driving through Nashville, pretty soon after I’d moved there, and drove by McDonald’s. There were some cops and EMTs huddled around a dead body, and I don’t know what struck me, but I ended up pulling off the road on my drive home and writing that entire second verse into my notes app. It was a weird thing to be inspired by, I guess, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that person who was dead in the McDonald’s parking lot. What led them to that moment? It’s terrifying to think that it could have been anybody.”
“I saw an angel on a hill built on top of a landfill // Overlooking the mess I’d made”, ‘Clean-Up Crew’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“We spent the first chunk of the pandemic living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, because we had given up our place in LA to go on tour for all of 2020. Suddenly we didn’t have a tour anymore, so we ended up back in Cedar Rapids, which is where Meredith is from. In the city there, they took one of their old landfills and built a hill over the top of it. They covered it up, and they called it Mount Trashmore. It’s this weirdly beautiful and horrifying thing.
We would ride our bikes around the empty city during the pandemic, and I’d see people on top of Mount Trashmore just living their lives. It’s one of the more beautiful parts of Cedar Rapids, even though it doesn’t sound like it. They took something that should have been truly disgusting, and at least made it liveable. They even put a mountain bike trail on it.”
“I’ll be fine // Silent explosions in my mind // Come take me down at any time // Just trying to make it to the end of the world // Stay alive out of spite”, ‘Marvel’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“There are a few things going on here, but I think the most important one to me is that I’m definitely afraid of having a brain aneurysm – which is the ‘silent explosions’ thing. I finally managed to work that anxiety into a song, so I was quite proud of myself.
The ‘stay alive out of spite’ line started as a joke to a friend in the middle of the pandemic. They were going through a hard time, and it was this idea of, ‘Screw the haters, stay alive. Who cares about the world?’ I ended up writing this song for them, and it fit really well with the record as a whole when we were putting it together.
‘Stay alive out of spite’ actually became a rallying point for the album itself. We’ve had enough and we’re here in this world that feels like it’s ending, but what are we going to do? I always joke and say, ‘What a privilege to be around to witness the end of the world’. You’ve got to try and look at it positively sometimes.”
“May 5th, woke up in an ambulance // Holding my brother’s hand asking him what went wrong // Throwing fits, they asked, ‘Who’s president?’ // I say, “It don’t make sense, is there a war going on?”, ‘I’m Gonna Miss Everything’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“This entire first verse is about a traumatic head injury I suffered on May 5th, 2010. I was in college, playing basketball on campus. I nailed this sweet shot, and I was playing one of the best games I’d ever played in a pickup game. Then I woke up in an ambulance. Somebody had tripped behind me, and I fell over them. I hit my head on the concrete, knocked myself out instantly, and then had a seizure.
After waking in the ambulance, I went under again, and I woke up in the hospital. They did the whole head trauma thing where they asked, ‘What’s your name? Where are you? What’s the date?’ I couldn’t remember that it was May 5th. They asked who the president was, I couldn’t remember, and they were like, ‘It’s Barack Obama’.
It was a weird time that left me in a mountain of medical debt. I think that injury fundamentally shifted who I am as a person, but I have no way of knowing for sure because I don’t remember much around that time. I think I might have been different before it, and that actually structured a lot of this album.”
“Spent our Easter at the Mall of America // Still not sure why we try // Wanted to ride out all my mania before I left // The coaster car was climbing // I hung my head over the edge // If the fall would go down easy // I can picture sinking in”, ‘Mutable’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“Meredith and I spent Easter of 2019 at the Mall of America, waiting for our flight out of Minneapolis to go to Europe for tour. Everything was closed except for the theme rides, which I thought was weird. We rode some of them, and I felt like absolute crap. I was literally on the roller coasters feeling like I was dying or there was something severely wrong with me. We found out later on that tour that I had mono.
That day though, I remember writing down ‘Easter at the Mall of America’ as a song title, which sat in my phone for three years. When we were writing this album, that verse came up, and I realised that I could fit it into a song. It’s always fun when you have something weird and can find a way to shoehorn it into something where it makes sense.”
“I remember as a kid // Mobile classroom, holding hands // Young Christians with good intentions calling for a stranger’s head // I found it all just a bit too much”, ‘Re-Emerging Signs of the Apocalypse’ – ‘No Joy’ (2023)
“This is a reference that only my little brother would ever understand. We grew up going to church off and on, and this is from a time in our life where we were going to church a bit more. We ended up at youth group the week after 9/11 happened, and there were a tonne of people saying that they wanted to kill a bunch of other people. I think I was 13 at the time, and my brother was 10. We were looking at each other like, ‘This is fucked up, right?’
As you grow up, you realise that it’s just how those kids were raised, to fear and to hate other people. I don’t have a tonne of memories of church, and this is probably my strongest one. There was something deeply weird and awful about people saying, ‘We’re gonna get the guys who did this. We’re gonna kill them all’. It was an odd time in world history.”
“Trying to take these bastards for a quarter of a million // Despite your mom’s protesting”, ‘Beach Front Property’ – ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ (2020)
“I get asked about this line quite a lot, and it’s about how me and every friend I have in America are scared that we’re never going to get out from under our student loan debt, but we’re also trying to be tough about it. They’re going to keep charging me interest and by the time I die, I’m going to owe them a quarter of a million dollars. Despite that though, there’s a deep-seated fear for a whole generation of being saddled with an unthinkable debt.
I want to shout out the debt collective though. It’s a debtor’s union here in the States that’s coming together to try to fight some of this stuff. Everyone should check them out if they get a chance.”
“I saw a sign in Hanover that said, ‘the future is in motion’”, ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ – ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ (2020)
“This is the number one thing I get asked about, but it really isn’t that exciting! I saw an actual sign in Hanover for Continental, which I think is a car company, and their slogan is, ‘The future is in motion’. It’s just one of those weird things that I wrote down when I saw it.
I have a great memory of pointing out two signs in Germany, one was that, and the other was a sign that said ‘Dildo King’ in Berlin. I have photos of both of those things on my phone, but I haven’t quite managed to work that one into a song yet…”
Spanish Love Songs’ ‘No Joy’ is out now via Pure Noise Records.