“For me, the whole project is about the ways in which we are all bound,” says Bryan Buchanan of the Washington, D.C. band, Bound. He’s speaking via phone, just a week before his group’s debut album, No Beyond, is let out into the world. The guitarist/vocalist is joined by bassist Kotu Bajaj, keyboardist/vocalist Trish Harris and drummer Dan Richardson on that recording. Across a series of songs, most of them epic in scope and length, the outfit forges a sturdy bond that draws on shoegaze as much as traditional progressive and hard rock.
“Currents” imagines the pop act Dream Academy experimenting with post-rock, “Hold” is built on rhythm track that, were the rest of the material brighter, more superficial, might feel at home in a pop ballad. “Company” recalls the quieter but always disquieting moments of the avant black metal group Emptiness. “Now That It’s Over” finds the album slipping into the ether, the listener having been taken on an emotional and musical journey that places them face-to-face with their best and worst tendencies, their hopes and fears, all in equal measure.
It’s an impressive debut and an ambitious one. The band, too, is ambitious, even choosing a name that reflects a particular philosophy.
“We’re bound by our families, our personal histories, the expectations that surround us. There are good and bad things that come from those bonds,” the guitarist notes. “Some of the moments that we face that become thematically important across the record aren’t just the sad ones. There are moments about those things we encounter that help shape us and give us hope.”
The band formed in 2017 just as Buchanan was closing out a dark chapter in his life. There had been years stuck in the mire of grief and frustration. The death of his grandmother, a woman largely responsible for his raising, dealt a crushing blow. There were matters of addiction, disease, and depression within his inner circle as well. “I knew that I needed a place to put a lot of the stuff that had been happening in my life,” Buchanan offers. “A band was a good place to do that.”
There were commonalities among the members as they’d all cut their teeth in the punk rock world, though their music tastes diverged down rich and fertile paths from there, from doom and black metal to shoegaze, dub, and ambient music. “We thought we could do something that was an amalgamation of those things without it specifically being one of those things,” says Buchanan. “We agreed on that, and we also agreed that before we did anything else, we wanted to record an album. We didn’t want to play shows; we didn’t want to put out an EP to test the waters. We wanted to come out of the gate with a full statement, something that represented considered judgment.”
The quartet worked up the material over the course of 365 days, emerging with the completed project in hand near the start of 2018. The intention was to hone the material into something free of outside influence. It also allowed space for some healing and reflection to occur. Buchanan adds, “My life is pretty good right now. We’re all pretty happy folks but not always. I think that having a place to put that stuff is important. It’s not a novel idea, a lot of artists have had that idea about their work.” He points to the LP’s penultimate track, “Pillars” as an example of the many places the emotional heft of the record takes listeners.
It specifically addresses the death of his grandmother. She was born in India, moved to the England that her mother had known. There, she married a U.S. airman who brought her to his hometown.
“She was kind of a fish out of water”, Buchanan says. “She arrived in this small, southern town to make a life with my grandfather. She was the person in my family who I remained closest with in my adulthood. Her death was very sudden”, he continues. She had been placed on a life support system. There came a time when it became obvious she’d have to be removed from the system. Nurses encouraged Buchanan to leave the room.
He remembers, “They told me that it could hard to watch and that most people leave the room. Other members of my family started filing out. I didn’t know what to do, then started to leave. Then, my grandmother’s best friend, who was also a big part of my life, grabbed my hand and said, ‘No, you stay right here, son.'” Her statement became a critical line within the song, a reminder that we must all face the inevitable. “It doesn’t have to be death. There is a moment after which everything will be different”, he says. “Everything changes.”
Over the course of the record, the listener is brought across a loose progression from “youthful new beginnings to hope through maturity to loss, regret, and resignation,” Buchanan notes. “You can trace that progression from the lyrics and how the music progresses. It’s a big loop. What you hear at the end is also what you’ve heard at the beginning.”
As for the album’s title, he notes, “It’s inspired by two things: The feeling of there being no beyond when you are deep in something, and it seems that there’s no way out of it. The other side of it is one that has very important meaning to me and the others: That there is only us. That we are responsible, everything that we’ve done and will do, there’s a cause. We are what we make. We don’t have to look anywhere else. It’s all right here.”
Live date: Friday, April 20, The Pinch, Washington, D.C.