Track by Track is a regular new music feature that gives artists the chance to go into detail on every track on their latest record.
Los Angeles-based new wave band Night Things got their start about a decade ago when Zach Shields and Maize LaRue began performing live covers of The Everly Brothers and Echo and the Bunny Men. After experiencing recurring dreams about one another in which Shields would come to LaRue’s rescue, they began writing and recording original music together. Night Things have since used the concept of dreams as a driving force, culminating in the upcoming release of their debut full-length, Cost of the Summer.
Seven years in the making, the album morphed from its origins as a concept record into a diary of the band’s experiences during its making. “Because the process of making the record spanned so long, and took several attempts, it’s hard to look back now with absolute certainty how the songs originated,” Night Things tell Consequence of Sound. “They have become markers for periods in our lives. As time’s gone on the meanings have shifted and changed [and] that in and of itself is such a beautiful and strange thing. This record and the responsibility of finishing it followed us for such a long time; we desperately wanted to get it right.”
Built on a foundation of polished harmonies from LaRue and Shields, Cost of the Summer is a gorgeous dream pop record drawing influence from Fleetwood Mac, Human League, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, and more. Equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking, it achieves what Night Things ultimately set out to accomplish: Tell the story of two people finding each other to sing in harmony.
Ahead of its arrival on April 5th, Cost of the Summer is exclusively available on Consequence of Sound as a first listen. Stream it below.
For more insight into how Cost of the Summer came together, Night Things have provided a Track by Track breakdown. Check it out below.
“Sub 05b9a – E.228c”:
Interspersed throughout the record are short “dream sequences” based on recordings from ourselves, our friends and family, and some strangers that called our 1-800 number. The idea for them was to be almost like a little movie in your head that sets the stage for the songs that follow — a door into the room of the song. Joseph Shabason made these sequences possible, he really came to our rescue and was totally instrumental in finishing the project. Truly, without him the record would be missing so much of what makes it special and we’re forever thankful to him for all that he contributed. We owe Benjamin Knapp a thank you as well, he spent so much time with us getting these dreams, this whole record really, just right.
This first sequence is a dream that Maize [LaRue] had. It’s about crossing the threshold from waking life into the world of dreams. About the feeling of falling into love. Being scared that you want someone, but plunging in anyway. “I can’t tell where I start or end — I’m falling. I feel scared for a minute, then it goes away. And I know I’ll be ok because you’re underneath me, holding out your arms, remembering my name.”
This track is a kind of continuation of the first song we ever released, “Sleeping Beauty”. So much so, that we took a line that didn’t use in the final recording to build the concept for “Towers”. It’s two people looking for each other in a strange world of nightmares. They have to decide whether they are going to stay together in this great unknown or go back to the world they know, alone. In the end, they choose to stay and watch the world they came from fall to the ground. Kind of like the end of Fight Club, it’s really about letting your old self fall away so you can open your heart to the one you love. But also, it’s about whatever you want it to be about…
“Cost of the Summer”:
Zach Shields: The feeling of summer love ending. It’s like when you wake up from a dream and realize the person you just met and fell in love with was only a figment of your imagination, and you’ll never meet them again.
Maize LaRue: For me, the most poignant line is “and if I only knew you’d break my heart again, maybe I’d still choose to do it all again”. This sentiment is so tragic and yet it speaks to the universal experience of loving someone. The risk is there, but you take it anyways knowing heartbreak is the price you pay for falling. This song follows the sadness of summer love, but really every affair ends eventually and the cost is the same. Big ups to Scott Huckabee for writing that guitar line, and Hays Holladay for the bass part. We were so lucky to have their talent as it made the song what it is now.
ZS: It’s a kind of response to “Cost of the Summer”. A person trying to understand heartbreak. There’s no logic to why we fall in love, or why it goes away. In the end, you can’t explain it to yourself. You can’t reason with love.
ML: Like so many songs on the record, this started with Zach on guitar and me playing with chords on the Lambda. Filip Nikolic had a huge influence in the development of the chorus from the demo version to the final cut. Oftentimes a demo would get stuck, we knew something was missing anbd then a friend would have a magic idea and everything would fall into place. I distinctly remember tracking the vocals because our engineer, Neil Baldock, was really particular about getting the right emotion in each take. At one point he set up the track on a loop, turned all the lights off, and left me in the studio alone to record until I felt I’d gotten it. I would picture this terrible person I loved so clearly in my head, and sing the song to him, hoping how I felt would translate in the performance. I’d like to think it did.
ZS: It’s hard to control yourself. We’re animals living in a “civilized” world. It’s like when you’re a kid and you go behind the Chinese restaurant down the street and you break all their empty wine bottles in the parking lot, and when you get in trouble and they ask you why you did it, you don’t have any good reason. You face a wake of destruction and you feel ashamed, but there’s nothing you can do to fix it. This song is like that, but with love. It’s about acknowledging shortcomings and failures — “I couldn’t be your one.”
ML: I was so proud of that bassline. I still am. This was probably the first real “line” I came up with, and it’s a big part of the song for me as a listener. It’s such a driving thing to play live, too, easily the most energetic song we have. There’s a feeling of momentum in it that was such a departure for us in the best way. Zach committed so hard to this one when we recorded it, and relives that commitment whenever we play it. For him, I think, it’s a song he gets truly lost in.
ZS: This song is about giving into love. In a relationship, you might have certain doubts and fears, but at a certain point you have to let go of it and allow yourself to “sway.” It’s a plea to the other person not to give up, though you may sometimes waver.
ML: This song is particularly special because it shows so many parts of my identity reflected back at me. Jazz vocalists and melodies completely changed my relationship to singing and storytelling. It was a really beautiful thing to be able to honor that in this song. Again, this was really early on in my bass playing and I was so proud of myself when I wrote that line. It was my tribute to The Cure’s “All Cats Are Grey”. The bass part plays like Bob Fosse choreography, how the first note falls and then walks… it feels like a dance. We wanted sax, so much so, that I played a version of the solo on the keyboard for someone to play later on. Joseph came in, threw my part away, and created something that we knew we couldn’t live without.
ZS: This is the chaos that happens when there’s a wedge between two people, like a mistress in a relationship. It’s two people talking at each other but not really communicating. Musically, it’s our best attempt at Human League. Not as good as Human League, but it’s our best. We hope you enjoy it.
ML: Another song we really struggled to crack. For a long time, it was just a collection of parts we loved, but couldn’t figure out how to string them together. It definitely takes you on a journey style-wise. There’s a real progression musically that takes place, and I think it fits nicely with the story it tells. Two people doing this dance, the games we play, the back and forth, the manipulative shit we do out of fear of getting hurt. Then, it opens up into this chorus of my voice finally putting it all out there, “If you want me don’t let go, If you want me let me know” answering to Zach’s final admission of how he really feels. Zach and I had a lot of fun building out the walls of voices in this one. Our foundation is in harmonies and part singing, and this song gave us a lot of room to build layers of them.
ZS: If “Mistress” is about another person coming between two lovers, this is them trying to move on. First, there’s the guilt he feels in knowing he’s hurt her (“It’s hard not to try just to break the up the lies that I tell her so”) and then her indignation (“Sweat on the sheets, did you get what you needed?”). But after all of her accusations, she just wants him to come back to her — a bit of optimism for their future, a desire to make things work.
ML: This song is the only one I can remember where the chorus came first, I just had that bassline and melody stuck in my head. I kept playing it in rehearsal, and finally said to Zach that I thought it could be something. So we reverse engineered the rest of it, the guitar on this is one of my favorites. And of course, I have a lot of pride in my bass playing. It’s one of the three or four songs we wrote when I’d just started playing, and every time I hit on something, it was so exciting for me because it felt like I was an instrumentalist and not just a singer. And really, Zach singing that last chorus with me is one of my favorites of the whole record. It always feels so anthemic when we play it, like it’s the final push to the destination of the song. I love it.
ZS: This song is about love racing against time. Knowing a relationship is coming to an end, but not wanting to accept it. It’s about wanting to freeze the last moment of being in love with someone, but knowing it’s impossible.
ML: I’ve gone through a lot of phases with this one. It feels sort of like how I imagine Elton John feels about “Candle in the Wind”. It’s a close cousin of Sleeping Beauty in my opinion. The melody — particularly in the chorus — feels reminiscent of our early, early writing. Zach always loved it. Another friend of ours, Wendy Wang, contributed the background parts and she made our Cocteau Twins dreams come true. As much as this song challenges me sometimes, I love her presence on it and it made the song so much more.
“Call the Preacher”:
ZS: A friend of ours died under very tragic circumstances. This is an attempt to get close to him in those final moments. The moments no one wants to look at, when you’re alone, desperate, and completely isolated by your own darkness. Ultimately, it’s about getting to the end your life and hoping that the bad in your life doesn’t outweigh the good, that your sins don’t keep you from heaven, so to speak.
ML: Zach came into rehearsal and was so committed to playing the song for everyone that he showed me the guitar part so I could play it while he sang, which never happened. I’m not sure if he feels we ever fully nailed this one, but it was another big song. Driving, aggressive, a super emotional performance for him. But my favorite, and again another favorite moment of the record as a whole, is the vocal breakdown. It’s as close to Fleetwood Mac as we could ever hope to get, and it makes me so proud of us whenever I hear it. We tried so hard on all of these songs to take our ideas as far as we could, and I think that sincerity is the beating heart of our music.
“Like You Used To”:
ZS: Whatever the story is that we’re trying to tell on this record, this is the conclusion. It’s two people finding each other, singing in harmony, knowing that this is just the beginning.
ML: We spent a lot of time discussing the track listing for the record, and Zach always felt this should close us out. This song is the truest representation of how we started as a band, the two of us harmonizing together heartfelt and simple. It’s funny that this is our ending because the line of the chorus is all about the future and looking ahead, “It’s only just begun, to keep you close enough to the light” There is so much hope and love in that song, I can’t imagine a better way to bring us home.
“Til I Kissed You”:
This song is sort of a bonus track. It’s a cover of an old track by the Everly Brothers and one of the first songs we sang together. This type of 50s/60s doo-wop is a huge touchstone for us musically, and our mutual love for it was what spurred us to start a band in the first place. It has a sweet sentiment, so we thought it would be a nice way to close out the record and celebrate the accomplishment of finally releasing it.