For Born Without Bones, Pictures Of The Sun is both an end and a beginning. The EP marks the culmination of the trio’s tenure as a staunchly DIY band, but, having just signed to Pure Noise Records, also the start of an exciting brand new chapter. Four of its five songs have all been previously released, while one was written years ago but never actually recorded. All offer deep insight into the Milford, MA band’s decade-long career to date, but have been refreshed and re-recorded for this EP. As such, they’re both like an old friend you haven’t seen in years, but also a new one you feel you’ve known your entire life. “Before we even chose the songs for this EP,” explains frontman Scott Ayotte, “the idea was to have a revisionist, retrospective view of our catalog. When you hit a decade as a band, it’s pretty natural to look back on everything you’ve done. That’s a big timestamp, especially if you’re fully independent, and we wanted to honor that feat. By rerecording some of our older songs, they serve as a good introduction for people new to our band while also paying service to those who are already fans.”
The resulting collection serves as a perfect cross-section of Born Without Bones that digs deep into the heart of their emotive rock’n’roll. Not only do the five tracks highlight the band’s incredible versatility, they also chart its development over the years. Started by Ayotte as solo outfit in 2010, Born Without Bones evolved over the years—thanks to the addition of guitarist Jonathan Brucato and bassist Jim Creighton—into a bona fide emo-inspired rock outfit. There’s always been some discrepancy between how the band’s earlier songs were recorded, however, and how they were meant to sound. Until now, that is. As an example, Ayotte points specifically to the two tracks initially released on Baby, the band’s 2013 sophomore record, which was produced by legendary post-hardcore/emo/punk producer and Jawbox frontman J. Robbins. “That record specifically is where this EP started,” says Ayotte. “When we initially recorded its title track, it was basically a solo song. It only became popular for us six or seven years into the life of the band, and we had to start playing it live, because it was our most requested song. So we came up with this version which we’ve been playing live as a full band for a few years, but it wasn’t available to listen unless you came to see us live.”
Haunted by the ghosts of past relationships and the aching, desperate loneliness that comes with a break-up, Ayotte pours everything into that song, laying it all on the line with his vocal delivery while the band match his pathos with their emphatic performance. It’s easy to hear why that song resonates so well with a crowd—and also, perhaps, why his mom has told him in the past that she hates it. ‘I miss fucking you on your living room floor every Sunday night,’ he bellows. ‘And I miss the smell of your log cabin and your cute little hands grabbing for mine/I wonder what they’re clasped around now.’ Maternal approval or otherwise, “Baby” is a stunning song that, especially with this new version, really captures the heart and spirit of Born Without Bones. More than that, it’s testament to the band’s dedication to, and belief in, these songs. “When that record came out,” remembers Ayotte, “there was a sense of disappointment and failure. The first tour we went on when that record came out was no question the worst tour we’ve ever done. The shows were awful and we were barely scraping by. We’d gone out on a limb to work with J. Robbins because we believed in it, and when it came out it didn’t really make any noise. It’s heartbreaking to put so much work into something and then it not really work out the way you would have hoped.”
A few years later, however, Ayotte says people started reacting to that song and that record the way he’d hoped they would when it had first been released. “I Was In Love” is the other song included from that album, recast here as a late ’50s/early ’60s love ballad replete with glorious saxophone solo. Turning it into that—as well as a song on which Ayotte doesn’t play guitar – became a fun challenge for the band, though not one at the expense of the song’s profound emotional resonance. Indeed, while Ayotte is in a much healthier place emotionally and mentally than when “I Was In Love” was written, it still bristles with the raw emotions that inspired it. In fact, the singer seems just as shaken by and invested in the song now as he did back then, even though his life and circumstances are totally different.
“I did make some small lyrical changes that are more applicable to my life now than when they were originally written,” he explains, “because they mean something totally different to me now. A lot of these songs really are like pages from a diary because I tend to write from a very personal perspective. I’m definitely more emotionally stable now and a calmer person than I once was. So now I’m singing these songs from the point of view of making it through those experiences. I’m on the other side now and can look back at the person that I was. But I still empathize for someone in those positions—whether you’re heartbroken or home doesn’t feel like home anymore, I know those emotions really well. It’s all I wrote about in my early adulthood.”
Recorded live with acclaimed producer Andrew Oedel at Ghost Hit Recordings in West Springfield, MA, the EP features the band’s touring drummer Sam Checkoway behind the kit and Andrew Robinson on that sax solo. Its strings were arranged by The Hotelier’s Ben Gauthier, and Bill Shaner, who played cello on Born Without Bones’ debut album, Say Hello, takes up that instrument again on sublimely moving closer “Wishing (You) Well”. A more mellow reinterpretation of a song from 2017’s Young At The Bend, it once again illustrates the band’s dexterity and ability to reinvent themselves with genuine feeling. Elsewhere, the insistent chug of “Falling Asleep”, which first appeared on Say Hello, is an insanely catchy emo anthem driven by a desperate sense of loss and defiance. While the essence and heart of the re-recorded songs remains true to the originals, they’ve all been given what Ayotte calls a “chance at a second life” with this EP.
It’s the jubilantly melancholy “Disappearer” that hasn’t ever been heard in any guise before. Originally recorded for Baby, vocals for it were never finished, and instead it languished on external hard-drives for years. It’s only now, almost a decade after it was first born, that it’s finally been brought into the world. “We started writing it in 2011 or 2012,” chuckles Ayotte, “and then finished writing it in 2021. It was a major challenge to unearth a song that had literally been dead for years and attach new limbs to it, Frankenstein-style, and make it still resonate and work. That was a major challenge for us.” It’s one the band have taken in their stride and completed with flair and finesse. With all five of these songs, Born Without Bones have taken the past and expertly reshaped it into the present, but very much with an eye on the future. The result, truly, is the end and the beginning of something very special indeed.