The French poet Francois Rabelais’ last words were “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” In John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska the main character, Pudge, evokes Rabelais’ words when he seeks his own unknowns at boarding school. He finds the ultimate “Perhaps” in Alaska, a whimsical enigma of a girl whom he instantly falls in love with. Alaska’s instability and spontaneity more than fulfill Pudge’s introverted fantasies of living an interesting life away from home. But, after Pudge’s “Perhaps” ends tragically, he finds himself alone and struggling to reconcile the happiest times of his life with the crushing heartbreak of losing Alaska. Detroit-area emo band, Former States’ song “Pudge” taps into that struggle with an uncommon empathy. With songs so bluntly honest the bands debut EP Heritage delves admirably into the emotional lineage of emo and seeks a “Great Perhaps” of its own.
A debut is always a sensitive release since it obligates a band to define themselves so early in their career. A new band’s uncertainty about their sound, image or atmosphere will reflect in their debut songs to sometimes disastrous effect. Because Former States explore the possibility of their own sound on Heritage, they manage to incorporate the listener into defining the band. All five tracks on the EP explore different lyrical and thematic styles while maintaining a comprehensive sound. This means that each track represents a different shape that Former States could take while still allowing the album to flow. Often, when bands release different styles on a debut it turns out disjointed and awkward but Heritage stands strong as a full release while still leaving the band wiggle room for later releases.
Exploration alone, however, does not make Former States a band worth keeping an eye on. It’s their pop-punk inspired brand of emo that really makes Heritage shine. Every song showcases the band’s command for hard-hitting but catchy riffs that complement their classically emo lyrics and song structure. The title track, for instance, combines driving punk rhythm sections with a slowly strummed melancholic outro for a song that seemingly defies genre. Heritage boasts a raw power difficult to find in a band so emotionally brooding. Their bandcamp appropriately tags this uncommon combination as “Midwestern Gloompop,” a pseudo-genre they lovingly embrace all throughout the EP. With everything a band needs to please fans of classic Midwest emo and contemporary head-nodding punk, Former States uncover the heritage of their own musical style while still seeking the “Great Perhaps” of later releases.
For Fans Of: Light Years, Brave Bird, Citizen