After Shannon Taylor finished writing awakebutstillinbed's debut album, what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you (Tiny Engines, 2018), she was completely drained. Its songs draw inspiration from some of the darkest days in her life.
"I felt like the album was me forcing myself to look at a lot of hardships and trauma that I've gone through," she said. "More intently than I'd ever allowed myself to before. And more publicly—allowing myself to be more vulnerable with it than I ever have before."
It was a hard process, but it proved therapeutic. Taylor hopes that low self-esteem will do the same for others when they listened to it.
"It's all about really specific life experiences that were really traumatic, but I like to talk about them in ways that are vague enough that people can relate to them," she said. "Because if I just told you guys straight-up verbatim exactly what I went through, no one would relate to it because it's my own personal experience. If I talk about the way that trauma has made me feel or the ways that I've reacted to it, people can relate more to the feelings than they can the actual experiences."
The San Jose, California-based band complimented Taylor's pained lyrics and raw vocals with ringing guitars and propulsive rhythms, and low self-esteem has had a greater impact than the group expected. Pitchfork contributor Ian Cohen gave the album a rating of 7.7, calling it "a unification of sound and vision, a vivid rendering of a life spent standing on a precipice, where the weight of guilt is somehow the only thing keeping you from jumping."
The band will bring its sound and vision to Boise on Thursday, May 10, with a show at High Note Cafe. Local punk bands Slurm Flirty Worm and Crush Smokes will open.
awakebutstillinbed released low self-esteem online on Jan. 3. Taylor is still amazed at the response the album has received over the past four months.
"It's been really bewildering how everything has been going with the band," she said. "I don't know, it really kind of caught me by surprise. We've just been adjusting to it."
In a way, the 26-year-old singer has been working toward this point for more than half her life. She got her first guitar when she was 12.
"My first instrument was bass—I know that's kind of weird, but that was my first instrument—and then I picked up the guitar after that," Taylor said.
Music runs in Taylor's family—her mother plays piano and her father used to play drums. An even bigger influence on Taylor was her older brother, who studied music composition and has a vaporwave project with a sizeable following. Taylor declined to mention the project's name on the record, explaining that her brother keeps his identity a secret.
"He taught me a lot of music theory when I was growing up," she said. "When I was first starting out, I didn't know anything. He taught me a lot of the things that help[ed] me to learn how to write music. ... I always wanted to play music with him, but we've never really been in a project together."
Outside of her family, Taylor was inspired by emo-affiliated bands like At the Drive-In, American Football and The Hotelier. She cited The Hotelier's second album, Home, Like Noplace Is There (Tiny Engines, 2014), as having an especially profound effect on her.
"I first heard that album very shortly after a friend of mine committed suicide," she said. "A lot of the songs on that album deal with that subject, and I just got really attached to the album."
awakebutstillinbed's show at High Note is part of a cross-country tour that will stretch through mid-July. It won't be an easy trip, but Taylor's passion for music should help carry her through.
"We're going on this two-and-a-half-monthlong DIY tour," she said, "and so many people have been like, 'Why would you ever want to do this?' But from my perspective, this is what I'm looking forward to."
Taylor is also excited about the new songs she has been writing. Some of them have already become part of awakebutstillinbed's set.
"I'm glad that I've been hit with more inspiration," she said. "For a while, it felt like it took everything out of me to write this album. But I've been writing again recently, and it's good. It's good to be back at it."