The Home Team, ‘The Crucible Of Life’ | The Album Story

The Home Team guide us through the creation of their boundless and brilliant second album, ‘The Crucible Of Life’, out July 12 via Thriller Records.

Plus, we have teamed up with the band to bring you this exclusive gold cassette. Limited to just 200 copies, it comes alongside a signed postcard.

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Read The Home Team, ‘The Crucible Of Life’ | The Album Story below:

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It’s often said that great things take time, and in the case of The Home Team, the cliche couldn’t ring truer.

Having been a touring band for over nine years, the last eighteen months have seen the Seattle-based four-piece lives ramp up from zero to one hundred. 

Packing their bags under the dark skies of their cloud-swallowed home city before stepping onto plane after plane, they spent the majority of 2023 on the road. Taking their self-labelled brand of “heavy pop” to venues across the world, they began to reap the rewards of almost a decade of hard work, finding a home within a freshly bubbling scene of alternative artists with similarly boundaryless visions.

“At times, it’s hard for us to grasp how successful the band has become,” drummer Daniel Matson ponders.

“We were a DIY touring band from 2015 to 2021, and the growth in the last two years has been so exponential. We try to consistently take a step back and appreciate what’s happening, because that rise only happens once.”

With the success of 2021 album ‘Slow Bloom’ taking the band to stages they’d only ever dreamed of standing upon, tour bus conversations began to shift towards their next move. The pressure on as they headed down to LA in January 2023 to begin working on new music, with their new album – they knew they had to make a statement. 

A labour of love, creativity, and sheer passion, with ‘The Crucible Of Life’ – The Home Team have truly arrived. 

Twelve songs that showcase the expansive breadth of their musical tastes, darting between pop-punk, metal, and R&B at lightning speed, they’re raising the bar for alternative music. Electrifyingly fearless yet masterfully subtle at points, ‘The Crucible Of Life’ is a challenge to the scene to do better. To think bigger, to shout louder, and to be wholly unashamed to embrace the things you love.

Their boldest move to date, to find out more about The Home Team’s latest era, Rock Sound sat down with the band to delve into the magic of ‘The Crucible Of Life’.

THE SOUND

When Tyler and Skyler Acord hopped on a flight to Seattle back in December 2022 to work on new music with The Home Team, no one gathered in that studio truly knew that ‘The Crucible Of Life’ was about to start taking shape. 

With plans to write a single to release prior to their 2023 headline tour, the album’s opener ‘Turn You Off’ was initially intended to be the first taste of the band’s new era. A huge, funk-driven track laden with confronting synths, the position of first single would come to be occupied by the explosive ‘Loud’, but it was here that the foundations for album two were laid.

“It set the stage for what we were looking to create, but the album ended up going in different directions based on who we worked with,” vocalist Brian Butcher explains.

“We did a few more songs with Skyler and Tyler, including ‘Loud’ and ‘Somebody Else’s Face’, but the ones we did Zach Jones [producer] had a different vibe to them. They don’t belong on different albums though, because all of them have our identity within them.”

Working with different creatives and different minds, a collective goal was naturally created. Pushing the band to try things they hadn’t considered, and even things they weren’t comfortable with, the push of their peers helped create something truly unique. 

Take for example the story of how ‘Loud’, now the band’s most successful song, came to be. Written towards the end of their LA trip, guitarist John Baran first strummed out those chords in a state of complete creative drain. Hearing them back, he instructed the team to delete it, but after catching the ears of Brian – alternative plans were soon put in place. 

“As soon as I heard it, I was like, ‘You guys are insane, let me write something here!’” the frontman laughs.

“‘Loud’ is the most characteristic The Home Team song, even though it’s a bit of an outlier on the album. It’s the rawest form of our sound because it’s just an R&B song with an 8-string. That’s a lot of what we are, but then you have a song like ‘Hell’ which is much faster and heavier. Everywhere in between those two sounds is where we want this record to land, because it’s a representation of all the things we like. From Japanese rock to R&B to metal, our mission was to boil down a collection of all the different sounds we enjoy.”

The process became guided by a mantra best outlined by bassist Ryne Olson: “You can fail at anything, so why not fail whilst doing something you love?”

Picking the brains of their tour mates and overanalysing their identity, the importance of trusting your own instincts and taste fully dawned on the four-piece.

“We’re all failed heavy musicians, and after we left our old bands, we started The Home Team to try and sell out,” Daniel nods.

“That was our goal, and people liked pop-punk at the time, so we wrote pop-punk. It didn’t work, so if we’re not going to make it by doing music that we don’t like, we might as well just write music that we do like. As it turns out, people connect with that a hell of a lot more.”

THE LYRICS

Written largely about their last year as a touring band, ‘The Crucible Of Life’ is a vital look into the realities of life as a musician. From the euphoria of performing live to the sleepless nights and the toll that operating at a non-stop pace can have on your mental and physical health, it’s a reminder that living the dream rarely comes without sacrifices.

“The theme of this album is how hard it was to write it,” Brian explains.

“’Love & Co’ is about our US headliner and the Senses Fail tour that followed. Doing those two tours back-to-back was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There was one morning where I woke up in the van in Baltimore at four in the morning, puking my guts out. It was like, ‘Is this it? Is this what I’ve been trying to get to this whole time?’”

Documenting the frontman’s realisations about not only the music industry, but the impact of their career choice on his personal life, it’s an album steeped in self-doubt, but equally coloured by camaraderie. A brotherhood who have spent almost a decade finding their identity, album two is a celebration of finally being free to be yourself. 

“The idea of trusting yourself may seem corny and generic, but your relationship with yourself and how that affects your relationship with other people is so important,” Brian says.

“It’s often hard to be yourself because of whatever judgments you might have from your family, your friends, or wider society though,” John adds.

“Even for us, the idea of pursuing a band is insane to our loved ones. I think a lot of people can relate to how hard it can be just to be yourself in this world.”

For The Home Team, a large part of being themselves involves embracing fun. From their no-holds-barred approach to blending genres to the way they express themselves in their music videos, their refusal to take themselves too seriously sets them apart from many of their peers, but there’s an undeniably serious undertone to ‘The Crucible Of Life’. Written during a time when Brian’s self-doubt was often overwhelming, the tongue-in-cheek cockiness of ‘Brag’ serves as a further reminder to always have your own back.

“I’m not used to writing songs like that, and it was the first song we did with Zach,” Brian recalls.

“We’d had a couple of experiences prior that had soured our tastes for going to LA, but when we went back in with Zach, it was a huge confidence boost. He understood the vision, and that song felt like a breath of fresh air. I think that’s a big part of what made me want to write about being cocky.”

“We knew what we wanted to do, but just before we wrote ‘Brag’, we encountered a lot of doubt,” Ryne adds.

“People around us were doubting that we knew what was best for the band, but as soon as we had that song, we knew we had it under control. It was like having a big scoop of ice cream after eating a plate of super spicy wings.”

THE COLLABORATORS

With the majority of ‘The Crucible Of Life’ created under the supervision of Skyler, Tyler, and Zach, a couple of other helping hands were needed to bring the album to life.  

With Aaron Marshall (aka Intervals) delivering a killer cameo on the anthemic ‘Love & Co.’, the writing prowess of Jared Gaines (aka Vaines) utilised on two-minute-long firecracker ‘Honest’, and a day spent with former With Confidence frontman Jayden Seeley, the four-piece were able to pick the minds of some of the finest creatives in their scene. 

We needed people who understood the vision on this record,” John nods.

“Especially with Skyler, Tyler, and Zach, not only do they understand the vision, but they’re incredible creatives. Watching Tyler work is crazy, because you can give him an idea and ten minutes later, he’ll realise it in a way that’s so much better than you could have ever imagined.”

“We respect what they do a lot,” Brian adds.

“There have been times where we have had to stand our ground with everyone we’ve worked with because ultimately, we know our sound the best, but they’re on our side. You’re looking for the fourth musketeer when you work with people outside of your band, and it’s so important that you click.”

THE TITLE & THE ARTWORK

Before the four-piece even sat down to write these songs, the album’s title had been born.

During the creation of ‘Turn You Off’, John dramatically uttered the phrase ‘I’m tired of being hardened in the crucible of life’ to his bandmates. A premonition of the laborious writing process they would come to endure, by the end of its creation, they knew it was the perfect encapsulation of album two’s journey. 

“I don’t know what happened to me that day, I assume someone got the parking spot before me,” the guitarist laughs.

“You either get hardened by the crucible of life, or you crack under its pressure. That’s a great explanation of what this life in music has been like for us.”

When it came to creating the visual representation of that message which would grace the album’s cover though, the talents of Bristol-based tattoo artist Myriam Black were required. Whittling down the band’s vision from a long explanation sent by Brian, the finished artwork of a small cup floating above a bigger cup serves as a metaphor for The Home Team’s journey. 

“For a long time, it felt like we were being hardened in this crucible, but we finally got out of it,” Brian explains.

“We finally got out of the DIY touring grind, but then we just jumped into a much larger crucible. We’re learning a lot, and each lesson learnt makes us better people. We understand ourselves a lot better now, but it’s been a wild ride.”

THE FUTURE

It’s no secret that the best songs come from bands who are fans of music first and foremost, but with ‘The Crucible Of Life’ The Home Team are taking things a step further. Not only are they huge advocates for the power of the scene that raised them, on album two, the four-piece are asserting the importance of being your own biggest fan. 

“Oftentimes when I’m writing something that I don’t enjoy, I look at it from a fan’s perspective and feel disappointed,” Brian explains.

“That gives me the motivation to never get lazy, because I never want to see The Home Team make music that I don’t like. When people start to care less about their own art and care more about what’s popular or what’s going to make them money, that’s when things feel disappointing from a fan’s perspective.”

Aware that the scene is hungering for something new, it’s taken them almost a decade to get there, but the four-piece are primed to push the envelope for reinvention in the modern scene. Their community constantly building as the bright reality of what they’re accomplishing slowly comes into vision, now, The Home Team are ready to take on the world.

“When you’ve been a DIY band for so long, you don’t expect anybody to give a shit about the music you create. We still struggle to get our heads around it,” John acknowledges.

“There have been a couple of times where I’ve truly realised what a beautiful thing we’ve created though,” Ryne finishes.

“I’ve had kids come up to me after shows, and they’ll tell me the exact same thing I would say to my heroes after concerts. I remember how important that was to me, so realising that this band is now that to someone else is unreal.”

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