With raw, dark sensibilities and passionate, mystical lyrics, The Fragile Corpse instantly sends an alt rock rush of blood to the head.
The Ann Arbor goth-grunge collective pierces the flesh, seeps into veins and ingests troubled souls on their new vampiric demo single, “Let Us Prey,” now available on Band Camp.
“I tried to add a little bit of vampire imagery in the song to help create a sense of the existential dread that life can feel like when you’re at a low point. Life keeps going and never stops, and sometimes you feel like you need a break,” said Matthew “Thew” Vayle, The Fragile Corpse’s vocalist-guitarist-drummer.
“Let Us Prey” deeply explores that murky internal abyss as coarse, turbulent electric guitars, gentle cymbal taps, steady drums and spirited bass submerge listeners in a raging emotional underworld.
Vayle calmly reflects, “I refine my taste on crimson wine/The ambrosial waste of god’s divine/If love is a sickness/I must be terminal/An immortal blight on the bloodline.”
“I find having that ability to relate to a piece of art often makes me feel less dreadful. The lyrics in songs like that can get pretty overdramatic at times, but I love that. Being in that state of mind can turn small things into daunting obstacles, and it can literally feel like the world is ending,” said Vayle, who’s inspired by The Smashing Pumpkins (think Adore) and Type O Negative.
“I wrote and recorded the song about three to four years ago and didn’t really touch it since. I was trying to put together a goth band at the time and wrote a few other gothy songs that are unfinished as well.”
Creating ‘Day of the Cusp’
“Let Us Prey” serves as The Fragile Corpse’s first new material since dropping their haunting, confessional 2020 debut album, Day of The Cusp. The 11-track alt rock journey slowly expels deep-seated hurt, pain and frustration in exchange for a peaceful, promising future.
“A lot of what I write comes from anger, and I was trying to channel that anger on this album. It was me working through a lot of feelings, and it was way more cathartic for me than I was conscious of at the time,” Vayle said.
Vayle slowly exhales troublesome thoughts and feelings on The Fragile Corpse’s “Bad Blood” as somber, glistening electric guitars, gloomy bass and thumping drums sway to and fro. He reveals, “When you fade/I’ll be screaming at the screen/A concentrated piece of hatred/It never wanes/It always keeps on telling me/Let it spill forth/Make it all worse.”
“For ‘Bad Blood,’ I had to really practice the vocal part, and Erin (Lyle) wrote the chorus for that. I was having trouble with the chorus, and I sent her a couple of songs. She sent something back, and I thought, ‘Shit, I have to sing that, don’t I?’” said Vayle with a laugh.
As part of that extended Day of the Cusp emotional release, Vayle erects an invisible, defensive barrier around himself on “Aegis” as lively electric guitars, propulsive drums, clanging cymbals and subterreanean bass provide a strong sonic shield.
Along with vocalist Lauren Michelle, Vayle reveals, “Tear me down and I will be your friend/Every word that I hold begins/Keep it like a secret defense/But never let them closer than I am.”
“I wasn’t inspired so much by Greek mythology, but more just by the meaning of the word. I felt it really fit the lyrics, and it’s about creating a protective little bubble,” he said.
Vayle continues to defend The Fragile Corpse on “Millennial Scum,” which wistfully characterizes the growing generational battle between Millennials and Baby Boomers.
Solemn, fuzzy electric guitars, forlorn bass, thoughtful drums and light cymbals convey the looming irritation as Erin Lyle sings, “I am Millennial scum/Can’t connect with anyone/My eyes on the phone/I’m completely alone/Makes sense, you had to get rough/You think you’ve earned your good life/No mistake you can’t deny/Your god’s special man/You’re entitled to have/Whatever you want because you’re right.”
“There’s a lot of stuff going on socially, especially when you realize some of your heroes you looked up to and idolized may actually be shitty people. There’s a betrayal in that, and there was a betrayal for a time in that Boomer versus Millennial situation,” said Vayle, whose spouse Derek Vayle added noisy, moody segues between several album tracks.
For Day of the Cusp, Vayle co-wrote five of the album’s tracks with co-producer and longtime collaborator Anthony Dutcher, who’s based in Portland, Oregon. They started writing songs in 2019 before Vayle relocated from Houghton to Ann Arbor and extended that creative circle to include other writers, vocalists and musicians.
Guest vocalists/musicians Lauren Michelle, Erin Lyle, Trenton Brewer and Yin each added their own unique flavor, style and approach to seven of the album’s tracks. Vayle provided lead or co-lead vocals on five tracks while Dutcher sang on the album’s grungy opening ode to conspiracy theories, “Theme Song (1996).”
“The working title for that song was ‘Sarcastic French Girl That Doesn’t Give a Shit about You,’ and when I sent the demo to Tony to come up with vocals he was like, ‘Do I have to keep the title?’ And I said, ‘No, not necessarily,” Vayle said.
Crossing the Bridge
Vayle started honing his musical skills while growing up near Houghton in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He developed a deep appreciation for The Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, The Offspring and Deftones and took up guitar at age 12. At the time, his mother signed up him for guitar lessons with a family friend.
“Our friend was actually a drummer, but he taught me how to play guitar. His knowledge was limited, so I used that as a starting point. I’m mostly self-taught, but I did learn a lot from him. He also showed me a little bit of drums, but I’m not a drummer on the level of being able to play live,” Vayle said.
By high school, he started writing his own songs, met Dutcher and formed a band called Annie Feed Water. They weren’t able to find a drummer in the area, so they used a drum machine to supplement their sound.
“We felt like weird outsiders in the music scene because we were the weird kids with the drum machine; all the other bands we played with had real drummers. We also played in another band called Rise of the Tumor that was our joke metal band, and we got the idea for it after watching Headbangers Ball on MTV,” Vayle said.
Vayle briefly attended Michigan Technological University, but opted to focus on music instead and formed The Underground West with Brewer. He played in that project for several years before relocating to Ann Arbor in late 2019 and revisited some previously written tracks that would lay the foundation for The Fragile Corpse.
A year later, Vayle released Day of the Cusp on Halloween and started working on the collective’s next batch of songs. He decided to step away from the mic and trade vocal duties with Michelle, who’s also writing her own lyrics for The Fragile Corpse’s next album.
“I might release a couple of songs early, and I’m planning on a 10-song album. It will be 45-50 minutes long; I don’t need an 80-minute epic album,” Vayle said.
“I also have been working with a director to make some videos for ‘In Isolation,’ ‘Theme Song (1996)’ and ‘On Fire.’ We plan on doing that in July.”