Tanlines—Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen—have announced the May 19 release of The Big Mess, the duo’s first album in eight years. The album will come out via Merge Records and marks their debut for the label. Today they share the first taste of The Big Mess by way of the beat-driven “Outer Banks,” a song that could easily slide next to anything on their previous records, reminding everyone why the band was so beloved.
“This song is about being a perfectionist. When I was younger, I thought that being called that was a compliment,” Eric Emm shares. “But I’ve come to realize it’s actually a liability. This is especially true in any kind of partnership. Making concessions, adjustments and letting things go are all components of a successful endeavor.” Tanlines made a video for the song and Cohen says, “I’ve spent the last few years in work environments where the deck seems to have become the primary communication tool for young professionals. I wanted to find a way to use that language to tell the story of our song, ‘Outer Banks.’ Hopefully this video resonates and tickles anyone who has sat through the kind of presentation at work where someone in a box on the screen just reads the slides out loud. Welcome to Tanlines’ hybrid work era!”
The Big Mess came together when Emm and his family moved from Brooklyn to rural Connecticut, while Cohen launched a marketing career and a successful podcast and stayed in the city. Emm continued writing songs—hundreds of them—through all the weirdness of the past few years, but he wasn’t exactly sure who he was writing them for. “I spent years figuring out in my mind, ‘What is my musical life going to look like?’” he says. “I just kept writing.”
Cohen gave Emm his blessing to continue Tanlines, even if his own contributions would be limited due to his own non-musical obligations. “I’m like, ‘Whatever you can do to keep this thing going, do it,’” Cohen says. “Eric stopped going to school as a teenager to make music—it’s in his blood, where it’s more in my brain.” And with that, Tanlines was reborn.
“That opened a new door in my mind,” says Emm. “I was like, ‘Oh, wait a second—I have this studio in my basement. I can record drums whenever I want. That’s the whole point of this.’”
It wasn’t until January 2022 that Emm felt he had a body of work that made sense as a Tanlines album, and the good people at Merge Records enthusiastically agreed. Cohen spent ten days with Emm at his Connecticut studio, along with unofficial third Tanline Patrick Ford. This was tied together with a sleek final mix from Peter Katis (The National, Interpol) at his famed Tarquin Studios, resulting in a clear vision of what Emm’s musical life was going to look like: The Big Mess.
“There’s a lot more reflection here, for Eric at least,” Cohen says, “on his past and his career as an artist, than we would have done before when we were banging out electronic pop tunes with sad melodies on top.”
“It’s in my DNA,” Emm says, “to always be questioning everything. I’m not really a nostalgic person, but there were times when these songs were coming together when I found myself reflecting or even reckoning with some of my past and turning them into teaching moments.”
Those teaching moments have created a Tanlines that has not only evolved sonically, but thematically, as well. The Big Mess is concerned with what Emm calls “introspective masculinity.” As a father and a man, what concerned Emm was a thoughtful approach to the relationship that exists between fathers and sons, between men, and the expectations society places upon them.
Photo Courtesy: Katie Notopoulos