Today, Bells Larsen (he/they, il/iel) is sharing another new single from their upcoming album, Good Grief, out September 9 via Next Door Records. ‘Sweater Weather’ is inspired by Andy Shauf’s style of songwriting. “I love that he embodies different narrators from song to song, weaving in and out of different voices,” says Larsen. “When I wrote ‘Sweater Weather’, I wanted to tell a story where my voice takes a backseat rather than being the one that drives the song’s primary narrative. It’s about watching someone grieve and being in awe of their ability to keep going, despite being in a lot of pain.”

The single arrives with a live performance video of the song by Riley Lamarche. “This past January, a year after recording Good Grief, the band reunited at Graham Ereauxs (Devarrow) house in Nova Scotia. Over the course of an afternoon, we shot a few live videos. I’m happy that of the handful of takes that we did, the best ones all include a cameo from Dan’s dog, Chance. Good Grief is a pretty intimate record; most of it was recorded at Graham’s house, so I hope that folks can feel like they’re right there in the room with us when they’re listening. The same goes for this video.”

WATCH / SHARE SWEATER WEATHER” HERE

BUY / STREAM SWEATER WEATHER” HERE

Larsen started writing for the album at the age of nineteen, during what would prove to be the start of a hugely transitional time in their life. In the five years since the songs on Good Grief began to take shape, Larsen has moved across the country, studied philosophy at a small liberal arts college, dropped out, and then moved across the country again. Larsen’s life was also put on pause after the sudden death of their first love. Since this person’s passing, Larsen has been writing songs that attempt to express this person’s spirit and create a tangible container for their memory. “This loss left so many people with so many unanswered questions, myself included,” Larsen admits. “I haven’t always arrived at answers to these questions, but songwriting has provided me with a way to at least ask.” 

While demoing this collection of songs at an artist residency in Banff, it dawned on Larsen that the experience of loss exists outside of losing someone; we mourn places and memories, too. “The definition of the word “loss” changes all the time for me,” says Larsen. “What does it mean to have truly lost someone? Something? If I lose something, how do I know for certain that I’ve lost it for good? As I reflected on the experience of losing my first love, I wrote songs that allowed me to explore these trains of thought.” The result was a record that bridges the gaps between I, you, and we to narrate an intentional mediation on what it means to experience grief as young queer person. 
 

WATCH / SHARE DOUBLE AQUARIUS” HERE

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The first voice we hear on Larsen’s album is that of their first love; “Ready?” she asks. As if to answer her, Good Grief then begins with an audio recording from 2013 of Larsen and their high school friends singing Sufjan Stevens‘ song “The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!” around a campfire. “Loss is a wasp’s sting,” says Larsen. “This Sufjan song has been dear to me for a long time, but I understood it very differently after my first love passed away.” 

When Larsen was recording Good Grief, they sought out old voice memos to use as interludes in between songs. “I wanted to make the music sound more human,” Larsen admits. “Eventually, I found the campfire recording from the tenth grade, and I was immediately struck by the fact that the most prominent voice is that of my first love.” Larsen edited the clip down to about thirty seconds in order to highlight several lines in the song which are, to them, the most poignant with regards to the theme of loss. Larsen shares: “When the record starts and my ex says ‘ready?’, part of me knows that she’s asking my friends and I if we were ready to sing around that fire all those years ago, but there’s also a part of me that feels like – in some way – she’s asking grown-up-me if I’m ‘ready’ to share my songs about grief now.”

WATCH / SHARE PEOPLE WHO MEAN SO MUCH TO ME” HERE

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The album quickly unfurls like a bildungsroman, touching on love, loss, growing up, growing old, moving on, and moving forward. Songs like “Teenage Love” and “Sweater Weather” conjure vivid landscapes of memory through Larsen’s lyricism, which is conversational and inviting, while being intimate and candid. Community and friendship are central to the song “People Who Mean So Much To Me”, which features vocals from Larsen’s close friend and fellow musician, Leith Ross. Larsen explains: “this song is composed of vignettes about three distinct relationships that I had fostered throughout the span of a single year. I wrote it during the pandemic, while I was really missing community.” To Larsen, the song is a reminder to them that, even when they’re feeling lonely and isolated, they will continue to cross paths with wonderful people and build meaningful relationships.

PRE-SAVE GOOD GRIEF HERE

Larsen co-produced the record with fellow musician Graham Ereaux. Good Grief was recorded at Ereaux’s studio in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, where Larsen and Ereaux were joined by multi-instrumentalist Evan Matthews. “There was such an advantage to bringing my songs to two people who are not intimately connected to my experiences. Neither Evan nor Graham listened to my songs as artifacts of grief, but rather, they heard them as compositional elements.” With the record in hand, Larsen enlisted Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire) to mix the record, back home in Montreal. 

The five years that it took to write Good Grief encompass so many aspects of Larsen’s life, capturing a coming-of-age story and documenting an ongoing process – of an artist and of a human being – as they try to navigate the terrain of their existence and that of those around them. It’s an experience of their loss but also honours the person that was lost to them. The record closes with a reprise of the “Wasps” audio recording, marrying the past and present as the old voice memo slowly fades into a newer one. Present-day Larsen sings, “I can tell you I love her each day”: a testament to the fact that their grief is –  finally – good.

GOOD GRIEF TRACKLIST

01 Wasps
02 Tongue Tied
03 Double Aquarius
04 Teenage Love
05 Sweater Weather
06 Say Something
07 Atlantic Love, A Long Distant Wave (ft. Devarrow)
08 The Geography Of Leaving
09 Cara
10 Ribcage
11 People Who Mean So Much To Me
12 Wasps (Reprise)

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