At Work: Guards

Emily Zemler on October 7, 2019
At Work: Guards

Rock-and-Roll Realities

“A lot of surprising things came up,” Guards frontman Richie James Follin says as he mulls over the origins of his band’s long-labored sophomore LP, Modern Hymns. “Lyrically, I had been writing things I really wasn’t aware I was dealing with. Then, about a year later, I went through a breakup and everything I had already been writing about became much clearer.”

It’s been six years since the New York indie outfit released their acclaimed debut album, In Guards We Trust, and Follin and his collaborators poured the lessons they’ve taken from their personal journeys during that prolonged period of time into their latest set of static-laced, melodic songs.

Along the way, Follin decided to produce what become Modern Hymns himself to help streamline the band’s vision. “I know what I want things to sound like and, most of the time, with the help of other musicians, I can get there,” he notes. “Unless someone comes to you with some great vision for your music, doing it yourself is probably the easiest way to get there.”

Toward the end of the recording process, Follin also began considering how these new songs would mesh into Guards’ live show, making slight alterations to ensure the tracks would have enough momentum onstage. “I started adding guitars because that’s more what we do live, and I wanted to be able to rock,” he says. “I love rocking.”

Follin hints that Guards fans shouldn’t have to wait nearly as long for their next set of songs. He plans to release more new music, drop some music videos and announce additional tour dates in the near future. For the singer/guitarist, who has spent his time away from Guards working with The Willowz and various other projects, the group hasn’t always been a walk in the park. But he’s grateful for the hurdles that have come along with the project.

“Being a band is just a wave of up and down and up and down in every way,” Follin says. “As a musician, you just want to make music and release it, but sometimes it just isn’t that simple of a process if you want to maximize the amount of people that will hear your music. I love everything about making music and being an artist. Challenges are a good thing.”

This article originally appears in the September 2019 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.