.after that, Tonight Alive return – one member down – from a period of turmoil
Between leaving their label and overcoming personal demons, tonight alive have Been through a lot to make their new album, underworld. and now guitarist whakaio taahihas left. what’s going on, jenna mcdougall?
TONIGHT ALIVE have had a busy summer: straight after playing Slam Dunk at the end of May, singer Jenna Mcdougall revealed they were immediately going to start work on the follow-up to 2016’s Limitless.
The band spent six weeks holed-up in a Thailand recording studio with producer Dave Petrovic, the man responsible for producing their earlier releases, including their second full-length The Other Side. The result is Underworld, and the really good news is that Temple – Jenna’s favourite song on the album – has been pushed forward as the first single.
This year marks a period of significant change for the band. Since parting ways with previous label Sony, the band have signed with Hopeless/unfd. But it’s not all positive – the band have also slimmed down to a quartet following the departure of guitarist Whakaio Taahi.and on a personal level, Jenna herself has had to deal with issues of her own.there’s a lot to take in, so we caught up with her to find out more…
WHAT INSPIRED THE FIRST SINGLE, TEMPLE?
JENNA MCDOUGALL (VOCALS): “I was really unwell a few months ago and struggling with my health – my eczema was back in a chronic state. There’s a line in the song which says:‘help me please, I could not be more desperate / And I don’t think you heard me when I said.’ It’s about my struggle with going to doctors and having them say, ‘You’re too young to be this sick,’ but they wouldn’t do the testing I was asking for because they thought it was too serious, too severe. I was super-fragile and fatigued and dizzy.the worst part was that I was developing an allergy to everything I was eating, so my diet was really scarce, and I actually developed a bulimic habit. I was rejecting everything I ate in the fear I was going to have an allergic reaction to it.”
BUT JUDGING BY YOUR INSTAGRAM, YOU EAT INCREDIBLY HEALTHILY – THIS MUST HAVE BEEN REALLY CONFUSING AND FRUSTRATING…
“Yeah. I don’t really have a toxic diet, so it was really confusing to be reacting to fruit and vegetables, sugars and things like that. I don’t eat grains or any animal products, no alcohol. I was doing everything I could to stay as pure as possible and keep my body really healthy, but I wasn’t being rewarded in any way; it was almost like I was being punished. I was feeling really trapped in myself.the song’s about the depression that was spawned from that.”
ARE YOU FEELING BETTER NOW, THOUGH?
“I am. I can’t believe I’m saying that, because I can’t really remember the last time I’ve felt this well.as soon as we’d made this record, it felt like I’d purged everything that needed to leave my system.a lot of it came from the pain of Limitless and the rejection we’d felt from our past label, as well as the stress of making this record and also being really sick at the same time. Finishing the record and leaving Thailand shut that book for me. Coming back to Australia, my intention was to get healthy and find the right practitioner for my condition. It’s like it resolved itself, and I’m in a much better place.”
WHAT ELSE HAS INFORMED THE NEW ALBUM?
“I’ve explored the idea of ‘returning to the child’ a lot. It’s about practicing non-judgement. I’ve always had that fear of judgement, and that was something that restricted my happiness. It’s about becoming more playful and returning to your innocence and your vulnerability, and the lack of fear associated with that.when you’re a child, you’re not afraid to cry, or ask for help, or express yourself, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I feel a lot more at peace with myself than I ever have. For the first time, I look in the mirror and don’t want to change what I see. I think that’s part of having some spiritual understanding that you are not your body.”
WAS THE ACT OF SHAVING YOUR HEAD A WAY OF HITTING THE RESET BUTTON?
“It was something that was symbolic for me – removing conventional beauty.that’s something I felt a lot of pressure over with our last label. I guess I put it on myself that I never felt beautiful enough or feminine enough, and every time I tried to chase that image I was dissatisfied. It was unattainable for me. By cutting my hair I was taking my body back and I was making a decision that a lot of people didn’t agree with.that’s what empowered me the most.”
DURING LIMITLESS, IT SEEMED LIKE YOU NEVER STOPPED WORKING…
“It was a distressing time for us.we had done so much in the lead-up, and there was nothing else in the world that mattered. But once the album was released, we stopped hearing from our label.we took a lot of risks with that record and I made a lot of compromises. Once we were on Warped [in 2016], I was trying to rebel against everything I had done by wearing militant outfits, blackening my eyes and having a bowl cut – which is not a feminine haircut.”
HOW DID YOU PICK YOURSELF UP?
“I wasn’t ready to admit what had happened, that the record wasn’t connecting with our fans. It took me until January to grieve that record. In the band, we were pretty low and did a couple of tours. But the thing that got us excited again was when we started writing this new record.when we were setting up our new record deals [with UNFD and Hopeless], it was really exciting, because we felt supported in an honest and authentic way. It didn’t feel like they had another agenda for the band, and they told us to make the record we wanted to make. No-one has ever said that to us before.”
WHAT IS UNDERWORLD A REFERENCE TO?
“In a spiritual sense, it’s the realm where your shadow resides. It’s a place where we neglect ourselves, shun ourselves, and put ugly, embarrassing, shameful things. For me, I started pursuing a spiritual lifestyle a few years ago, and when that happens you’re attracted to the light in the world and other people.you start removing toxicity from your life, whether it’s your diet, your behaviours, anything. I neglected a lot of work that needed to be done, like past pain and traumas, relationships – things for me that were never finished. It’s a fitting theme for me, because I was prepared to look at myself more
honestly and practice more honesty in my life.”
WHAK HAS NOW LEFT THE BAND. HOW WILL HIS DEPARTURE AFFECT YOU GUYS, MOVING FORWARD?
“There’s going to be a gaping hole where he was.we made this record together, so when we take this music on the road, he’s still going to be very much there. It’s a devastating change for us, but it’s a natural progression that means he’s happier and healthier in his mind. I don’t have to tell his story, but we’re sad to lose him and hope our fans will support his decision. His essence is within the band and the music – it’ll be impossible to not feel his presence.”
“FOR THE FIRST TIME, I LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND DON’T WANT TO CHANGE WHAT I SEE…” JENNA MCDOUGALL
Jenna:“i’m feeling better now“ Underworld is released on January 12 via Hopeless/unfd. Tonight Alive tour the UK in March 2018 – see the Gig Guide