At its most basic level, a rock band can be thought of as a family, a group of people selflessly devoted to a cause.
When a band member passes away, even at a band’s genesis, it hits hard. Benjamin High, who was only part of New Jersey indie rock band Cymbals Eat Guitars for less than a year, died seven years ago. Though frontman Joe D'Agostino has said that he's thought about his deceased friend every day, the songwriter is only now musically dealing with the loss specifically on the band's latest album, "LOSE."
“I met Ben at a house show in New Jersey in 2006, my last year of high school. We immediately clicked, and became best friends through AOL Instant Messenger, just talking about music, hanging out and playing music together. And then he ended up playing bass in Cymbals Eat Guitars for a little bit,” says D’Agostino on his relationship with High.
D’Agostino puts an emphasis on close relationships. In between cross-country tours, he lives with his parents, grandparents and elderly dog in Staten Island.
"LOSE" isn't just the first album to deal thematically with a member's death, it's the first to include songs that have anything close to traditional pop structures. After the first two Cymbals albums, which explored unusual arrangements, psychedelia and eschewed choruses or repeated lyrics, didn’t have the commercial returns they hoped for, the band decided to experiment with accessibility. The result is a record that includes harmonica-laced cuts (“XR”), melancholy ballads (“Child Bride”) and guitar pop (“Lifenet”). All are held together by D’Agostino’s soulful, emotion-filled voice.
“I wanted to couple the heavy subject matter with music that would make it reach people and tell the story that is really important to me, and to many of my friends who knew Ben and his family,” says D’Agostino.
Loss of youth
Although D’Agostino is only 25, "LOSE" also deals with more mature types of loss: loss of youth, anticipating loss as he grows older and changing perspectives on music.
“The rest of the record deals with other types of sojourn, namely the way that music fandom has evolved, how I feel about music … how music makes me feel as compared to how it made me feel. This kind of chasing that feeling when I was much younger and trying to write a record that makes me feel that way. [This record] is a little self-referential in that regard.”