May 11, 2018
Second Letter’s debut album, entitled ‘Cicatrix,’ is a uniquely textured, contemporary rock album that’s lyrical content serves as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the current political (dis)order and cultural climate. The lyrical content presented herein should come as no surprise given that principal songwriter, Rob Haworth, has been a voice of resistance for decades, both through his music (Farside, State of the Nation) and through his work as an author and academic (Anarchist Pedagogies, Out of the Ruins: The Emergence of Radical Informal Learning Spaces, etc.). The musical direction, however, may come as a bit of a surprise to fans of Haworth’s previous hardcore/post-hardcore bands, since it eschews volume and distortion in favor of the beautiful vocal layering of Bob Mould, subtle hints of Guided by Voices, and the piano/keys of contemporary Afghan Whigs.
Conceptually, the album explores the feeling of continuously being in broken relationships, from the opening song “Anything” to the last song “Missing You,” but it’s not meant in an inter-personal sense. Yes, it’s a breakup record, but its about breaking up “with the ill social, political and economic structures we live under,” and “constructing new subjectivities,” according to Haworth. The only point of deviation from the breakup theme is the sui generis rendition of Bad Religion’s, “We’re Only Gonna Die,” but somehow it still fits perfectly along the other songs on the album.
In essence, Second Letter came to life in 2014, when Haworth eagerly began creating music again, after nearly a fifteen-year hiatus from songwriting. After woodshedding in his basement for a few months, Haworth played a few demos for bassist Jim Kimball (J. Majesty, Retisonic), who enjoyed them so much he jumped onboard the Second Letter train immediately. A short while later, Haworth connected with Pete Moffett (Government Issue, Burning Airlines, Wool), who also took a great shine to Haworth’s new tunes, and was ready to up the ante of Haworth’s somewhat rudimentary drum programming. The next piece of the Second Letter puzzle to be locked in was keyboardist Carin Smith, who was readily able to recreate and elaborate on the keyboard and synth textures found on the demos. The role of second guitarist was perhaps the hardest to fill, but mainly due to scheduling and geography. After working with guitarist Matt Kane and doing a bit of studio work with Fred Mascherino (Taking Back Sunday, The Color Fred), Second Letter solidified its line-up with the perfect sonic creativity and talent of Chris Woodhead. Shortly after securing their permanent line-up, and playing their first few shows, bassist Kimball had to leave the east coast and the band behind, but he was soon replaced by John “Scoops” Hutchins (The Deadmen).
In the midst of finalizing the line-up, Mike Fanuele (Dashboard Confessional, the Deadmen, Further Seems Forever, and Breaking Pangea) came onboard to help the band take their early demos to a whole new level and was ultimately tasked with producing and mixing the final album. Most of the album tracking and re-tracking happened at Fanuele’s Lavabed Recording in Maryland, but a few sessions occurred at Noisy Little Critter in Pennsylvania with Mike Bardzik.
Once the album was complete, a copy was sent to John Yates, who is well known for creating iconic album covers for the Dead Kennedys, Jawbreaker, the Alkaline Trio, amongst others, and he agreed to work on the album. Haworth and Yates then worked together to build the album’s cover art and various other aesthetic pieces for merchandise, etc.