A lot of bands saw their plans interrupted or come to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, but for some it became a means to persevere. For Columbus trio Goodnight Fear, the time was just right to continue making music after their previous band expired.
“We quit playing in 2018 and sat on some music for a while,” says bassist Matt Brooks. “We decided we wanted to write more music together, but not to tour. We were pushing for a career before, but now we’re just using the band as a creative outlet. It definitely helped us get through the pandemic, especially since I was unemployed for a good portion of it.”
Brooks, drummer David Sadowski and singer/guitarist Austin Hafner played together previously in Ex-Nihilo, who we interviewed four years ago at the height of their tenure. Hafner said that he enjoyed the creative process that came with working with the other two.
“It’s a very collaborative process,” he explains. “I bring a lot of the lyrics to the arrangements we write, but nine times out of ten Matt and David will change a little bit, and it goes from an Austin Hafner song to a Goodnight Fear tune.”
Brooks says that the name means something different to each member of the band, but at the end of the day it just felt right during the pandemic.
“It all comes back to putting fear to bed, and not being afraid of what is ahead. That was a contributing factor to the album name as well!”
The group’s debut album, titled What’s Holding You Back? is an 11-song journey that ebbs and flows with a unique personality all to itself. The band actually did all of the recording, mixing and mastering on their own, and did a fairly good job for first-timers.
“We wanted this to be fully in-house,” says Brooks. “David and Austin have been learning over the years how to mix and have even thrown around the idea of starting their own studio.
“So we figured, why not start with ourselves?”
“I should really give the credit to David,” admits Hafner, “we all had a hand in producing and getting the sound we wanted, but he was the one behind the desk, hitting all the buttons and engineering. We may not be the best in the world, but we worked hard to get the sound we wanted, and I’m really proud of what we produced.”
“We weren’t trying to push for a tour or radio play, so it didn’t really make sense to sink a bunch of funds into it,” adds Brooks. “Plus, even though it took a little longer, we were able to take our time and tweak songs at our leisure.”
“We took our time creating a central theme for the LP, so that it could tell more of a story,” finished Hafner.
That story begins with Open Road, which features bits of sermons from Brooks’ father and Hafner’s mother, who are both preachers. The final line states that “there’s joy in the journey… there’s not just joy at the end. There’s really nothing to be afraid of.” The buildup feels like something off of a Benjamin Dunn record, and soars into your eardrums to set the stage for the journey you are about to partake.
Open Road transitions into Discovery, which features vocals from Spencer Grimes of Minneapolis quintet Whosah. Grimes is the first of three guest artists on the record, and brings his own unique voice and flair to the song. Hafner lays himself bare on the chorus, singing “a passion stirring in my soul, there’s more out there to explore, to discover who I was made for.” The song brings an upbeat tempo and lays the lyrical groundwork for the rest of the record.
10 features a driving drum beat from Sadowski before the guitars jump in and build the introduction up. Hafner sings about youth and innocence, and how he had “nothing but time” back then. The concept continues to build on traveling through life, with Hafner stating “I don’t know where this road will lead, possibilities as far as the eye can see.” Brooks says this song was one of his favorite to write and play on, and his bass-line is increasingly evident as the song progresses.
Matthew 4 is an interlude, with Brooks’ dad preaching about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Brooks says that the verse was a huge influence on the next track, You Got Me (I Got You). He also wrote the majority of the track, and it has much more of a radio-friendly alternative rock feel to it. There is also a guitar solo midway through that feels like the Ex-Nihilo EP, which Hafner says was intentional.
“I thought a lot about what our former guitarists would do. We are a very guitar driven band, and any time we try veering away from that, it just doesn’t feel right.”
The next track is titled Forget About It (I Don’t Care) and features Dean Jaxen from Indiana’s Shiny Penny on vocals and keyboards. Compared to the previous tracks, the song seems a little disjointed as it bounces different sounds off of each other, but it pairs better with You Got Me than any other song.
A soft acoustic guitar leads you into Anxious, which certainly feels like an ode to the time spent during the lockdown last year. “I’m so tired of trying so hard to make my way through it all” is a line that will resonate with every ear that comes across the track, and the overall feel of the song was very reminiscent to when Relient K put For The Moments I Feel Faint smack-dab in the middle of their sophomore record.
The guitars pick back up on the emotional apex of the record, Write My Own Story. Hafner says the song was about breaking himself from the identity of simply being his parent’s son, and transitioning into his own person.
“I was hoping that the message of the song would resonate with more people than just me. My dad sang on the worship team and my mom was a pastor, so for a long time I was just associated as their kid.”
As someone who has often been referred to as his parent’s child (rather than himself), it rang heavy in my heart as he sang “I’m not defined by anyone – my choices are what define me. Yeah, you are what you choose to be. And only I can write my own story.” There’s also another screaming guitar solo the brushes against your heartstrings while keeping your head nodding. I would certainly say it is my favorite song from the record.
Justice, Harmony and Peace has a soft piano playing over parts of President Harry S. Truman’s inauguration speech, specifically about peace and harmony. The speech is bookended by people chanting from a rally held in Columbus last spring, which all three members had attended. Brooks said the inclusion of that speech was more about where this country was politically and socially, rather than being completely about the album’s theme.
Finish Line is a song that the trio had written to be the sendoff for their previous band, but they ended up liking the concept so much that the entire album ended up being written around it and Discovery. “There are times where I just want to reach the finish line, but there is so much beauty in life you never see if you don’t try” sums up the journey that the listener has been participating in for the last half hour. A lot of the lyrical themes from Discovery circle back around, as Hafner asks “What’s holding you back?” James from Truslow provides the final guest appearance on the record, adding his talents to the second verse.
The final line of the song ends up being the title of the outro, There Is So Much To Discover. Hafner’s voice echoes around more bits from President Truman’s speech as well as a few more sermon clips. And with the last few piano twinkles, your voyage reaches its peaceful conclusion.
The band worked hard to craft a product that is equal parts uplifting and inspiring. Brooks says that it felt good practicing and recording in random places, and Hafner conveyed to me that he felt great not having to work against a deadline. All together, the trio set themselves up nicely with an audio project that captures each of their own personalities and presents it in an easily digestible format that keeps you hooked.
If you listen to the album from top to bottom, I think that you will find a peacefulness within you, and I believe that coming into 2021, that is something each of us was truly searching for.
- Open Road
- Discovery (feat. Whosah)
- Matthew 4 (interlude)
- You Got Me (I Got You)
- Forget About It (I Don’t Care) (feat. Shiny Penny)
- Write My Own Story
- Justice, Harmony, Peace (Interlude)
- Finish Line (feat. Truslow)
- There Is So Much To Discover
Goodnight Fear – Write My Own Story