The term ‘class of 2020’ has taken on much new meaning in the last six months and punk-rockers (HED) P.E. grew the term even more with their upcoming record, using the same tag. Class of 2020 serves to offer a connection amid the pandemic where the term has become bittersweet for the graduating classes, as well as marking a two-decade-long milestone anniversary for the group’s breakout album Broke, an album they sought to re-hash on the upcoming release.
Class of 2020 is the twelfth studio release from the group, out August 21st, on Suburban Noize Records and depicts the band’s long journey as a punk-rock band coming of age in the prime era of Nu-metal and rap/rock and transcending to a more matured punk-rock group with a longstanding mass of fans eager to see what is next.
Frontman Jared Gomes, left behind his usual tendencies of writing provocative lyrics as heard on some of their earlier songs like “CBC” and moved to a more thoughtful and probing approach to his lyrics on the new record. Songs like “First Blood,” the debut single from the record, deal with concepts of post colonialism and what it’s like to live in such a world, attacking it from every point in the verses to the few word chorus; where Gomes talks about “god, gold and glory.”
“The entire world we live in is because of a colonialist past,” Gomes told American Songwriter about ‘First Blood’. “It was written with the first riff, which reminds me of Refused, and the rhythm was inspired by a track by the Weeknd that my twelve-year-old son played for me, which no one would have guessed. The context is colonialism, which is broad, but how we live in a post-colonialist world. I think not enough attention is paid to it.”
The catchy vocal hook ‘The evil that men do live after them, the good is oft interred with dem bones, angels who long sought after them’ in the verses is seething with reggae elements, which the vocalist explains is due to his years spent immersed in Jamaican Dance-Hall music, listening to names like Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel.
Turning their attention to Broke, (HED) P.E. also wanted to make an album that was somewhat more punk, while also bringing back some of their early trip-hop sounds, but in a concise tracklist, not like their previous lengthier songs. Gomes, wanting to make the writing a focal point, also scrapped the instrument layering that they used previously and went for a sound that could be achieved with a single guitar.
“Don’t stack up four guitars with what one could play at a show,” he said. “I grew up on that kind of stuff during the hair metal days which is kind of back in a different way, just like fashion. Life is like a spiral. But for me it’s all about great songs and that’s what I love about music nowadays, even popular music is being stripped down.”
Additional efforts to fuse their earlier sound with more punk-rock and songwriting elements continued with the re-introduction of original guitarist Chad Benekos on the song “Greedy Girl” along with some other features from previous member DJ Product on some tracks, who also illustrated the album artwork for Class of 2020.
“Greedy Girl” tells the story of a young woman, living in a patriarchal world, who knows what she wants. The riff wandered around on tour with Gomes for over a year and at its peak Gomes had several pages of lyrics to go with the riff. Gomes even wrote a piano call-and-response part for it before whittling the song down to one page of lyrics and bringing it to Benekos.
“That music has been around for over a year and I knew it was going to be called ‘Greedy Girl’ but I hadn’t written the lyrics,” Gomes explained. “The riff came first then I wrote a piano answer back then I finally had the vocals together, but I had been writing those vocals on tour in some fashion, just jotting down ideas for a year. Chad played slide guitar on it and just put it on another plateau, just lifted it up. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I’m very proud of that one.”
Despite the pride and immense effort Gomes and his band put into Class of 2020, it was not a project they meant to happen prior to the pandemic but was jumpstarted when the band was forced to shut down their spring tour while playing in Rhode Island when the shutdowns started to occur. This forced them to return home and cancel the remaining shows. Gomes already had the idea to release something unique for the 20th anniversary of Broke, and Class of 2020 was his answer after tireless non-stop hours in his home studio during quarantine, when he weaved together all the recordings they had completed prior to the pandemic, with new vocals that he laid down himself.
“I came home and finished the record,” Gomes said. “It’s hard to talk about a silver lining when people are dying. But we are trying to make lemonade out of the lemons. For me as a blue-collar musician, there’s a little bit of living for the tour, but I came home not sure about the future and I was in the studio upstairs and just finished the record until it was done. Now it’s coming out soon and I’m stoked!”