Semi-acoustic, semi-pop-punk, hella-emo project Adjust The Sails is releasing its debut full-length, The Worst Of Adjust The Sails. The album is a collection of new songs as well as studio re-workings of the basement records of songwriter Shane Hurst.
The name Adjust The Sails is a metaphor for changing your situation and represents an essential aspect of Hurst’s music. While unafraid to delve into the darker parts of the human psyche, these songs are carefully balanced by a keen wit and warm storytelling.
Prior to its release, Hurst did a track-by-track breakdown for American Songwriters readers to see where the inspiration for each tune came from.
It ranges from the strumming fun of “Mike Walton” to a little more traditional soft-punk sound of “A Lifetime of Bad Habits,” which is our favorite track, offering a decided vibe of Barenaked Ladies meets They Might Be Giants, which makes for a fun listen from front to back.
Intro / Sanity – So basically this song is a prime example of my writing process. I wrote it on a late-night in 2018, right after a big break up. A few weeks had gone by and my ex had hit me with the good old “well you seem like you’re perfectly okay so…” I had a lapse of sanity and decided I wanted to be petty and make a video of me singing about the situation. I picked up my guitar, started playing the riff and started just sort of talk/singing with a cracking up demeanor expressing “yeah I’ll find someone else, and so will you, but no matter how many people I move onto, none of them will be you” followed by my description of how I wasn’t as okay as I was accused of being, and finished off with me telling her that I’d smile and pretend I’m okay. This lapse of sanity that caused this moment, is why the song is called Sanity
Look Ma! I’m Edgy – I like to write songs from the perspective of other people. In this case, the little “edgy” teenage/early 20s kids that think it’s cool to hate anything popular. The song goes on about hating stuff and pretty much being against what society wants from us (“I should go to school and get a job just like they say”) and ends on the “I don’t fit in with anyone I surround myself with,” in an attempt to express the idea that these people Don’t actually hate everything, but feel outcasted by the people around them and lash out because of this.
Meet Kyle – Okay. So this one’s always been one of my favorite and unfavorite songs. The idea started when my ex had told me “I really miss you, I miss you being my friend.” One of my toxic traits is that being friends with ex-lovers is hard for me. The line “It’s hard to be platonic when we were so damn erotic,” instantly became a line I was desperate to put into a song. So I built the song around that line. The rest of the song played to experiences shared from the relationship, as well as what was going through my mind at the time. Now, as humans, we all have that little voice in our heads that tells us to do stupid things. I named this little voice Kyle and wanted to shove it into the song. In an act of laziness and desperation to do so, I created the line “I think I’ll call him kyle and put him on speed dial, because he’s my only friend,” to express this and to help portray the idea that this little voice is part of us and knows us better than anyone else. BUT (as to why it’s my least favorite song) this is one of the laziest lines I ever wrote because I couldn’t think of another word to rhyme with Kyle and to try and hide how dumb the line was, I added the “I’m sorry that got a little weird.” To tell my fans “yeah, that was lazy, I’m sorry.”
A Lifetime of Bad Habits – I had recently woken up to the idea that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. For a while I thought, “Nah, I’m just being a young adult/kid and having fun. We all do tons of psychedelics and get blackout drunk nonstop, I’m fine.” But I wasn’t. I came to realize during the writing of this album that my drinking and drug habits had, one way or another, been what killed every romantic relationship I had ever been in, and caused many of my lapses of sanity throughout the years. So I wrote about the realization and furthered it with my addiction to being loved/companionship. I wasn’t worried about dying from any drugs or alcohol poisoning. I was worried about being alone when I did.
Intermission(Why I do this) – I wrote this really cool acoustic melody but didn’t know what to do with it. So I decided to make it the intermission on the album. But to take it a step further, I took to Instagram and asked my followers to send me voice memos of how I’ve affected them with my music. I set out to do this whole music thing to hopefully help others not feel alone when they were feeling down, like other bands had done for me. I chose the submissions that really made me feel the warmest, and really resonated with me/made me feel like I was achieving my goal. This song is more for me than my fans. It’s to motivate me to keep doing this and not give up on myself or them.
Mike Walton – I wrote this song about my best friend Mike. He let me live with him for 2-3 years while I was homeless. He let me record and jam in his basement at 2 am and was just always there. He never left the house, smoked 2 packs a day, and just binge-watched Netflix or Youtube videos all day. So one day, he was complaining about this girl he liked, and how she kept telling him that she was in love with him, but would only come over if he had marijuana. I picked up my guitar, started strumming chords and just started saying stuff in our typical “make fun of one another to cheer the other up” fashion. And boom. Mike Walton was born.
wack. – When I was 17 years old, my friend Ryan and I made a song called Folk the Haters which was basically a really offensive song targeting the people who harassed us in high school and the girls that had “done us wrong.” A lot of which was stupid childish, immature misogyny and a song I regret writing and making. I look back on it and think “wow you were stupid.” That being said, the chorus “ Woah, it won’t ever get you anywhere at all,” and the last verse that explains the possibility of drugs and alcohol causing your life to go to shit, still resonate with me today. I set out to make this album show growth, be it production of the songs, lyricism, or mentalities, so I rewrote the song about giving up on your hopes and dreams for a life of mediocrity and following the social norms.
Goodbye – So back to being homeless. 2015 or 16, After about a year of couch hopping/renting out basements, I got low. Super low. I had no money, no job, the first tour I had ever self-booked had to be canceled because my car had been repossessed. I didn’t see a way out. No one was discovering my music, it was a dark time. I then thought of all the artists whose art wasn’t famous until after they died. So I thought maybe I could do the same. I wrote Goodbye as my suicide note. The plan was to record a voice memo, put it out on Tumblr, and end my life. I don’t remember what happened after that. All I remember is I didn’t. And things slowly got better. I reconciled and moved back in with my parents, bought a new car, got a decent job, paid off my debts from years prior. Found a good partner, whom I moved 12 hours away from my home in Maryland to live with, and now people are hearing my music and connecting with it in ways I never imagined.
I remade this song slightly more upbeat, the sad/suicidal message is still there, but I hope the people who hear the song, hear the lyrics and see that at one time I did feel that low, but I’m still here. I hope they can connect and feel that no matter how low they may be feeling at any moment, things can get better.