It’s a beautiful day. The sun has vanquished the July rain. The U campus is alive with tank tops. It’s all such bullshit.
This weather is heinous to any true goth, but Graveyard Club have found the antidote. The Minneapolis band asks to meet up in a site no sunshine or happiness can penetrate: the Applebee’s in Stadium Village. This seasonal jubilation is nothing a dozen baskets of boneless wings (sauce on the side) can’t fix. Sadness isn’t just a winter sport, after all. Raise your $4 margarita goblet and toast to the perennial season of depression and self-doubt.
I walk in, and there are vocalist Matthew Schufman, guitarist Michael Wojtalewicz, and drummer Cory Jacobs, holed up in a plasma-lit corner by the bar, admiring the 600 menus propped up on the tabletop between them.
You won’t see Graveyard Club at the Lake Harriet bandshell this August. You won’t hear their hypnotic single “It Hurts” pumping out of a JBL Clip as a biker zips by you on the Greenway. This is not a summer band; theirs is a sound that calls for waffle fries and an ambitious amount of skulking. But their new record, Goodnight Paradise, released June 28, shines a light on aspects of this depressive troop that have previously been hidden.
“There was definitely a point where we were like, ‘OK, we can’t be the fucking Halloween band around town,’” Jacobs says. “There was a fear of that, of being pigeonholed.”
Though they draw from a broader range of music than just the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order, Graveyard Club have a reputation as the Twin Cities’ resident new-wave revivalists. Goodnight Paradise isn’t a total departure from their sound, but it is indeed fun, and might help clear up some preconceptions about the band.
“It’s a record about losing something, saying goodbye to something,” Schufman says. “We use weather in that way, where summer is youth and winter is that isolation and that desolation of being alone. That’s throughout the record in different ways. And it’s a positive thing.”
Goodnight Paradise opens with “Witchcraft,” a darkly enchanted love song that Schulfman admits is “maybe a little cheesy.” But then comes “Red Roses,” a morose fist-pump that joins Schulfman and bassist/vocalist Amanda Zimmerman’s voices in a jubilant death rattle, and “William,” which could soundtrack the romantic denouement of the next Nicolas Winding Refn film.
Throughout the album, Schufman is more present in his lyrics than ever before. Goodnight Paradise covers a painful two-year stretch for the songwriter when he ended a long relationship and started living alone for the first time in his life.
“Those older Graveyard Club records drew more from imagery,” Schufman says. “I was like, ‘What sounds spooky?’ or whatever. It was a fun challenge. With Goodnight Paradise, I got over writing from the point of someone using imagery.”
Schufman derived his inspiration from his favorite confessional songwriters, reverting to a style he’d explored in the days before Graveyard Club came together. “I had more time, and that itch to write personally crept back in,” he says. “I’ve always been drawn to Connor Oberst and Frightened Rabbit and Joni Mitchell. They were very personal, but listening to them kind of taught you how to live somehow. There was more at stake than a song about a crush.”
The influence of these songwriters is especially apparent on “July,” where Schufman sits paralyzed by his newfound loneliness. But the hopeless refrain of “I don’t want a life with the lights around me” is not a concession to misery. It’s a beautiful resignation, with all that same melancholic sway that Morrissey used to convince ’80s kids that dressing in monochrome was an artistic statement. But there’s a jolt running through the songs that makes you want to put the top down on your ’92 Chrysler LeBaron and share them with the neighborhood.
“We could’ve had a really, really low-key sad-bastard record,” Wojtalewicz says, chewing through a mustard-drenched pretzel bite. “Great songs, but a real downer. We eventually picked up the pace a bit with some jams.”
Wojtalewicz thanks longtime producer Andy Thompson for the success of the transition. Thompson, who recorded with Graveyard Club at Instrument Landing, worked on 2016’s Cellar Door, and he’s become an honorific fifth member, playing synths and drum machine. For Goodnight Paradise, he encouraged the band to take extra time to rediscover their sound.
“We took the time to fully realize it and record it the proper way,” Schufman says. “With some of our early records, we had a little budget, and we rushed it. We tried to record live as much as we could, we didn’t have a lot of time for mixing, and we learned from that.”
Before Schulfman can finish the thought, our server interjects from across the bar. “You fellas doin’ OK?” she hollers.
It’s a loaded question, but we do our best to smile approvingly at the pile of brittle nachos between us. And that’s really the point of this whole exercise. Summertime, boneless wings, Goodnight Paradise—shit, existence itself—even the most joyous things are prohibitively sad if you think too much about them. You’ll never get to enjoy something that won’t ultimately end. But every once in a while, you have to suspend the gloom and lose yourself in the absurdity.
“There’s a lot of questioning you have in your life and problems you have that you don’t talk about with friends and family,” Schufman says. “I would never go to someone and say, ‘Hey, do you ever think things in your life are death-proof, and they last forever?’ Someone would be like, ‘What the fuck? We’re at Applebee’s.’”
With: The Ocean Blue, DJ Jake Rudh
Where: Fine Line
When: 8 p.m. Fri. July 26
Tickets: 18+: $15/$17; more info here