If the indie-pop scene were a high school movie, the Night Terrors of 1927 would be somewhere between the brooding, greasy-haired bad boy and the goth poet. Add in the life experiences of the English teacher with tellingly empty ear piercings, and Jarrod Gorbel and Blake Sennett’s collaborative project evokes the nostalgia of feeling very old when you’re very young.
Gorbel (formerly of the Honorary Title) and Sennett (formerly of Rilo Kiley and the Elected) met through friends in 2010, when Gorbel was looking for someone to help produce his solo album. Initially, they had no intentions to collaborate, but after a few songwriting sessions and a fateful trip to Todos Santos, Mexico, the Night Terrors of 1927 was formed.
“That’s when we solidified, or brought up the reality of, ‘Hey, this should be a project,’ ” shared Gorbel in a phone interview with The Daily Californian. “ ‘Let’s just turn it into a band, not just a random songwriting session of a couple of songs.’ Then we put up a song online — Soundcloud is the way to do it these days. Then we put up another song, and Sirius Alt Nation started playing it, and then the labels started coming around … and that was it.”
After signing with Atlantic Records, the Night Terrors of 1927 released their 2013 debut EP Guilty Pleas. Now, with a few tours under their belt and a spot on this year’s Coachella lineup, Gorbel and Sennet seem poised to make 2015 their year.
Their debut album, Everything’s Coming up Roses, came out last month, launched by the polished and angsty single “When You Were Mine (Featuring Tegan and Sara).” On Wednesday night, the pair will be playing their new tracks at the Fillmore when their North American tour with Joywave and Bleachers stops by San Francisco.
Gorbel described the themes of the album, saying, “There’s heartbreak, there’s life and death, there’s paranoia and obsession.”
“I have trouble really embracing happy, uplifting, positive vibes,” Gorbel continued, sharing how his philosophy has influenced the album’s tone. “I think that’s because I feel more comfortable in the darker, more sad, conflicted place, even when things are in a peaceful equilibrium sort of happy place. I myself find I’m always looking like, ‘This is great, but I can see everything that will go wrong.’ ”
From a listener’s perspective, however, things seem to be going just fine. Everything’s Coming up Roses delivers a hypnotic blend of haunting, dark pop and anthemic, ’80s-inspired indie electro. Sennet’s production paints a glowing effervescence on the tracks, balancing and complementing the melancholy lyricism and Gorbel’s saturnine vocals.
“Even the brightest, happiest of songs, they don’t sound that happy, because I just don’t have that kind of voice,” Gorbel joked. “It’s very low and heavy. Even at my highest range, I sound upset. I feel like that’s one element of a pop song that keeps the underlying dark tone.”
Supporting that dark tone is a somber religious motif, running through tracks such as “Dust and Bones” and “Running in Place.” On “Fire with Fire,” Gorbel’s voice rumbles, “I’ve been up nights making you my God/ I finally see you’re not, not the one to blame.” Lyrical references to cathedrals, praying and deities evoke the sacred, although not in the traditional sense.
“It’s more used in metaphors and symbolism,” Gorbel explained. “Like your God or anybody’s God is different. Not even based on different religions, obviously people have a different sort of God character, but it’s the thing that rules your life. That could be a love, that could be an addiction, that could be seeking happiness. So it’s not literal. The metaphors and symbols used in religion are just epic and huge.”
It’s this reinterpretation of the familiar into something dramatic and emotive that makes the Night Terror of 1927’s debut album a bold first impression.
The Night Terrors of 1927 are playing at the Fillmore in San Francisco, with Bleachers and Joywave, on Wednesday.
Grace Lovio is a senior staff writer. Contact her at [email protected].