Wish I could break your heart not tear myself apart / It’s your tainted innocence that devours me, sings Steven Blake, a quiver in his voice. On this lyric, Blake’s favorite of the bunch, buried within Animal Sun’s molten “can you hear the thunder?” the band frontman employs such “dark imagery” to mine “the real-world implications of just how attractive a potentially toxic and dangerous personality can be,” he says.
“We often find these people exciting, mysterious, or spontaneous, and it is these same qualities that also cause us to overlook the serious damage they are inflicting on our mental health,” the LA singer-songwriter tells American Songwriter. “To have a love that is all-consuming, regardless of the consequences. Deep down isn’t that what we all crave?”
However, if one finds “yourself caught in a whirlwind of emotion between you and another person, weather that storm and don’t let it consume you,” he advises. “Fight back, stick up for yourself, and enjoy the ride, but also know when to grow and express those feelings to your partner, as well. We want our relationships to be exciting and full of adventure but not at the expense of our own mental and physical health. This is something your partner should be aware of, too, and it is important to include this in communication or it can lead to disaster. And let’s be honest, the world really does not need another breakup song.”
“can you hear the thunder?” extracts traces of retro ‘80s synths, pinging across nail-splintering arena-rock guitars (think: The Killers), as it also combs modern buoyancy akin to The 1975, Twenty One Pilots, and Nothing But Thieves. Ripped from the band’s debut record, echoes of a dream, the genre-melter serves as an introduction to the set’s core characters and their volatile relationship.
“Mainly this song explores the law of attraction and how it can sometimes blind our better judgment. However, we didn’t want to go into this album doing what had been done before over and over again. We wanted our characters to grow, overcome their personal demons that might have been disguising them as toxic,” Blake describes, “and at the end of it, all learn to live together in harmony ‘with’ each other and not ‘for’ each other. A very important distinction in terms of what should be considered a healthy relationship.”
“We often forget, while trying to put people into labeled boxes, that human beings are not stagnant. They are dynamic, forever-changing, and always capable of anything they may put their mind to,” he adds.
Animal Sun─also composed of William Alton (drums), Tyler DeCastro (keyboard), and Adam Gardner (base)─invite the listener into the pale afterglow of my despair, as Blake laments. A chill fills the air, drifting from his sorrow-laden lungs, to set the stage for an enrapturing, melancholic storybook.
In the accompanying visual, out today (July 30), “can you hear the thunder?” utilizes modern, psychedelic, rainbow-strewn lighting to navigate Blake’s own personal story. “A few years back I met an individual who shall remain anonymous, whose figure, personality, and composure exuded such confidence I was left completely dumbstruck,” he recalls. “I felt powerless, completely consumed with a desire that tore me apart like a hurricane. It was only a few days later that I finally came to and became so obsessed with the feelings I had just witnessed that the entire song came together in just a few minutes. I knew it had to be the first song on the album, aside from the intro, right then and there. There was no other option.”
A sleek eight songs, echoes of a dream depicts two characters—one named red, the other blue─“who fall in love, out of love, almost ruin each other’s personal lives, fall back in love, and then finally learn to grow past their issues together in the perfect resolution,” offers Blake. “Even though all of these tracks and visuals are linked while telling a story, everything within them was inspired by our own personal experiences as a band that led to each concept found within these tracks.”
Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Blake’s songwriting journey began when he first picked up a guitar way back in 2008. “I was always far more geared towards songwriting than trying to learn covers or perfect my craft, which was a bad habit that left me at a disadvantage until after about the 1000th song,” he says. “It was then that it became my winning formula.”
In 2011, the death of a dear friend, whose name James Sun inspired the band moniker, propelled Blake “to another level entirely,” he says. “I had tunnel vision after becoming consumed with grief and knew from that moment on I had only one goal in life: do what I love while connecting with as many people as humanly possible before my time on this earth is up. Songwriting gives me purpose, a purpose I hope to share with the world on a level James would be proud of.”
echoes of a dream, radiant to its core, is “the culmination of the last 13 years,” he concludes, “and we couldn’t be more proud for people to finally hear it.”