Haddon Heights, New Jersey
It’s been eight years since New Jersey’s By Surprise released Mountain Smashers, their most recent full-length album, and three years since the world has heard any music from the band. Since then, emo’s revival has waxed and waned; labels who championed the sound have pivoted to more popular genres, bands inspired by the revival have become the genre’s torch-bearers, and “emo” has once again become the word adolescents use to describe their tween years. Like most other bands labeled "emo" during the same era, By Surprise was never really concerned with that.
Though all of it, though, By Surprise has persisted quietly, unaffected, without fanfare. They released and EP here, a split there, played some shows, took a break, and worked steadily on their next full-length, unconcerned with whether their music fit a certain sound or scene. That album—titled Cosmic Latte—reveals the rewards of a band who focused inward rather than outward.
“We started writing songs for the record about 7 years ago,” bassist and singer Dan Saraceni says, “and it took over 3 years to record, mix, and master it.” Though this may seem like a tedious way to make a record, for a band separated geographically and burdened by adulthood, it was the only way. “Pat [Gartland, guitarist and singer] once described the band as a ‘bowling league,’ and I think really is a good description of what it’s like,” Saraceni adds. “We basically just get together when time allows and we just try to have fun and make it work at our own pace. We’ve all maintained this friendship/bond throughout.”
This friendship is easy to hear on Cosmic Latte, an album with far fewer angular edges than Mountain Smashers and more hummable melodies. “I Can See the Sun” hopscotches to a brisk tempo as its guitars squirm and squiggle, and “Pretend” sways in the breeze, Saraceni’s voice bobbing on the fuzzy chords beneath it. Songs like “Summer is Now,” with its excited momentum, and the anthemic “Low Hanging Wire” are the soundtrack to driving around town at dusk, debating with one’s buddies about where to steal a bite—but it’s also easy to hear those same buddies behind the song.
Even more serious songs like “Basement,” looks back on fond memories of a childhood friend, then bounces with baggy chords. “We used to hang out in the basement,” Gartland sings, “Life on the brink, pissing in the sink / Here’s my overdue apology / I’m sorry, goodbye.” Despite these somber lyrics, “Basement” is bright and full of joy—a celebration of friendship past and present symbolized by dueling guitar solos.
In many ways, Cosmic Latte is an album about adulthood, about making sense of the present from the past. And, for By Surprise, the band’s friendship—not genres or trends—has connected these dots. “When we started the band,” Saraceni concludes, “I don’t think we really had any goals other than to just get together and make music we liked and I think some 13-plus years later that still holds true. It’s supposed to be a fun, creative outlet and an excuse to hang out with your friends. It definitely feels like family and a bond that we all have that I think is pretty rad.”
Devin Carr - Drums
Patrick Gartland - Guitar and Vocals
Daniel Saraceni - Bass and Vocals
Robert Wilcox - Guitar and Vocals