When writing How We Got By, Air Review frontman Doug Hale lost custody of a baby his family had fostered for a year. Due to a series of bureaucratic mistakes that were impossible to challenge, the child was placed with extended family that Child Protective Services had deemed unfit. “Our family was shocked and devastated,” he says. “We were mom and dad as far as he was concerned.” The child left the week after his first birthday.
Soon after, keys player Richard Carpenter’s girlfriend’s mother died. Later that year, bassist Jeff Taylor’s wife lost her father to a very sudden and aggressive brain cancer and guitarist Dragan Jakovljevic and his wife dealt with infertility. Instead of quit or pause, the band continued to write songs, allowing the narrative arc of each member’s struggles to help define the lyrics and sounds of the record. Meditations on love, trauma and resilience pair with ultra melodic ’80s-influenced synth-pop, slinky R&B rhythms and sparkling guitar riffs, reflecting the panoply of emotions commensurate with loss and healing. “If you could have stayed I’d have never let you go / Love is the price I pay,” Hale sings on “You Won’t Be Coming Home,” as grooving bass pollinates blossoms of analog synth and guitar jangle.
Writing became a form of therapy for the Dallas-based quintet, a place to share burdens and turn them into something meaningful. The process of crafting these songs became an invaluable season. Denton, Texas-based producer Matt Pence (Centro-Matic, Sara Jaffe) and East Coast producer Scott Solter (St. Vincent, Spoon) honed the overall effect, resulting in 13 tracks and a brand new, pop-focused sound for the band. At its core, the album’s a celebration of basic humanity and the many painful and heartwarming events that connect us. Air Review’s hope is that it might bring joy or clarity to others who are struggling.