Blue October: From 'Hate Me' to 'Happy'

“What we do is very specific to who we are today. This album is no different. We’re just in a really good place.”


Blue October has never been the band listeners turn to to feel good. Its most famous single to date is “Hate Me,” a raw, tragic scream of a song about how inner demons drive away the very people who help fight them—those we love and who love us. Like many modern rock bands of the 2000s, the band rose to prominence because it made fans feel seen. Its songs, vivid and emotionally transparent, echoed from a darker place. Paradoxically, the angst the group portrayed could also create comfort: More often than not, Blue October’s early music made listeners feel a little less alone.

Much of that angst came from the brain of lead singer/songwriter Justin Furstenfeld. His struggle with mental and emotional health has been made more or less public through the band’s career. Many of Furstenfeld’s lyrics are autobiographical. In 2009, the band had to cancel a tour after he was hospitalized following a severe anxiety attack.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when, earlier this year, Blue October released a warm, contented song called “I Hope You’re Happy,” the first single off a new album of the same name. The title is sincere, not snide. In the track, Furstenfeld addresses a departing lover, the same perspective he adopted in “Hate Me.” But instead of singing of regret or self-loathing, he advocates self-acceptance and letting the past stay buried. In soaring choruses backed by strings, Furstenfeld wishes a former lover well: “I hope you’re happy / I hope you’re good,” he sings, “I hope you get what you wish for / I hope you’re well understood.” The new song is “Hate Me” flipped completely on its head.

Speaking to Boise Weekly just before a show in Spokane, Washington, bassist Matt Noveskey said the band’s positive turn captures its current, collective state of mind. The members are all a bit older now, he said. They have families, loyal fans and a successful career that keeps kicking.

“What we do is very specific to who we are today,” said Noveskey. “This album is no different. We’re just in a really good place.”

Blue October will bring its newfound positive energy to Boise on Thursday, June 28, when it plays the Knitting Factory. The set will include three tracks off the new album, which is scheduled for release on Friday, Aug. 17.

Blue October has played Boise before. Famously, it opened for The Rolling Stones in 2006 at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. Noveskey said it was a show the band’s members will never forget. He recalled telling his wife that if his career ended then and there, if he had to “sell insurance” for the rest of his days, he would still die happy, feeling like he’d made it.

“The fact that that was in Boise will always connect us to the city,” said Noveskey.
Beyond that Stones connection, Noveskey said he appreciates how Boise has always been dependable. He’s the first to admit that Blue October has had ups and downs throughout its two-decade run. At some points, the band topped the charts. At others, it basically disappeared from public view. When that happens, Noveskey said, “There are always places that are dropped from the map. But Boise is always a city we’ve been able to count on.”

For die-hard Blue October fans, Noveskey said the group’s new outlook might come as a bit of a shock. But, he added, so far listeners have been “way more receptive to the positivity than I expected.” In fact, the loudest message the group has gotten from fans is: “I needed this.”

“It’s a dark world out there these days, and every day it seems to get a little worse,” Noveskey said. “You can’t turn on the news without hearing some crazy story about families being torn apart or people killing each other.”

He said he has hopes that the new tour will “bring people together, will make them forget their differences, if even for a little while.” He’s even heard it described as “therapeutic” and “cathartic.”

“It’s almost spiritual, honestly,” said Noveskey. He paused, then corrected himself: “No. It isn’t ‘almost.’ It is spiritual.”