In an introspective and ethereal reflection of a youth spent under the spotlight as one-fourth of Australian quartet 5 Seconds Of Summer, Luke Hemmings delivers hyper-emotive debut solo album ‘When Facing The Things We Turn Away From’ juxtaposing an expansive soundscape with inward-looking lyrics. Inspired by the grandiose production style of The War On Drugs, Arcade Fire, or Pink Floyd, alongside the back-to-basic lyrical approach of Neil Young, say, and Joni Mitchell, the album was born out of lockdown, the need to make music becoming a knee-jerk reaction to the vast difference in his routine.
Speaking of the message behind the album – hinged on the concept of how quickly time slips by us – he tells Clash: “I’ve always been intoxicated by the things humans can’t control – the concept of time being one, especially with a youth that’s been in hyperdrive. Since I was 15 I’ve been on a crazy journey with 5SOS and so there was never any time to stop and figure things out.”
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Juxtaposing the quick succession of his career with the year-long pause which he spent at home, the album sees Hemmings step out of what he calls the “shortest and longest time of my life,” with music that explores his inner psyche.
He explains: “All the songs on the album relate to the aspect of looking back at where I’ve come from and how I’ve ended up where I am, the realities of why I’m the way I am. I know for a lot of people the lockdown was very hard but for me it was a time of reflection at the end of a long period of beautiful moments and tough ones.”
At its heart ‘When Facing The Things We Turn Away From’ is Luke Hemmings’ journey towards learning about what makes him happy. Never attempting to figure everything out, and letting the unpredictable nature of life lead him, has allowed the songwriter to take stock of his life and career so far, embracing the light and dark parts of it.
Though sonically experimental, the songwriting on the album is completely personal and direct. Talking about his approach to writing lyrics, he says: “Most of the time, if not all the time, I wasn’t going in thinking, ‘I’m going to write about this or that’. It was very much about waiting for the song to arrive. You get a magical moment when it happens, and you have to chase it down and figure what it means to you.”
He adds: “For instance, on the last song in the album, ‘Comedown’ the first verse and chorus was one string of thoughts. Similarly ‘Starting Line’, the first verse is just one thought, I wasn’t sitting down to write lyrics. Those two stand out as being something that came out and had to be uncovered as opposed to trying too hard for it.”
Creating music that’s meant to make people feel the emotions within each note, Hemmings’ foray into solo music may be hyper-focused on his own thoughts and feelings, despite this there is a universality to its message. He explains: “I think there’s things we can all take from this. What makes us happy and what we want to spend our lives doing.”
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His ability to toe the delicate line between looking inwards and connecting with others, is undeniably one of the reasons he has enjoyed so much success as 5SOS. Even as he begins to polish his individual musicality, learning more about himself and his process, he manages to think ahead on how his solo experiences will improve his input in the band.
He explains: “The genesis of the album was just was about: can I write a full song on my own? Can I finish a song on my own? I learnt about production, songwriting, even doing interviews or photoshoots on my own – there’s no one else to lean on. When I go back with the band and doing these things, I’m going to be better at it and more comfortable doing them.”
With production that he describes as “shooting for the stars” and emotive lyrics that match the all-encompassing nature of these sonics, ‘When Facing The Things We Turn Away From’ represents Hemmings exploration of the uncontrollable aspects of his own life, taking his listeners alongside. Described by him as “a world you can come back to and dive into”, at any point in your life where control seems far away, it is the natural culmination of his self-reflection doubling effortlessly as the comfort that fans need right now.
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‘When Facing The Things We Turn Away From’ is out now.
Words: Malvika Padin
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