Just as becoming yourself is a life-long process, so the same is true for bands. They evolve and grow, changing and adapting alongside the people who are in them, both in search of their perfect form. Of course, neither ever quite get there, because that’s inherently impossible. But it is possible to get incredibly close, and with fourth full-length Kodak (Equal Vision, 2022), that’s exactly what frontman Nathan Hussey says All Get Out has done.
“This is, except for mastering, a top to bottom All Get Out record,” he explains. “We self-produced the whole thing. It’s the first time we’ve done that and our hopes were to make the first record that sounds like us.”
Just as importantly – if not more so – was the fact that for this record, Hussey allowed himself to just go with the flow when it came to the writing. That’s something he readily admits he’s not been good at doing in the past, but it’s something he’s been actively trying to address. A slight breakthrough came just before 2018’s third album, No Bouquet, when Hussey was invited to write and sing on another artist’s song – he had an epiphany that he could just show up and write and “not be overly precious about it.” Instead, he could do what he previously hadn’t been doing, and trust his own intuition. You can hear that loosening up No Bouquet, but freedom of that attitude really takes hold on these 10 songs. He still reworked them and rewrote them and applied as much care and attention to them as ever, but he felt a great reduction in the pressure of the process.
“I used to struggle really badly with starting writing and also finishing writing songs,” he explains. “For this record, I just wrote and wrote, and then I’d edit, and then I wrote more and edited and edited. I started trying different exercises, where I’d wake up and rewrite a song three times by 9 o’clock. But it was one of those things where I let the writing guide me to what it’s about. I’m a big fan of not walking in with a purpose, but letting it feel its way out, and maybe finding purpose in what you wrote instead. It meant there was less anxiety about it – it was just time to go do it, rather than worry about what was going to happen.”
To that extent, Kodak stands as both a continuation and a new beginning for All Get Out. Formed in Charleston, SC in 2007, Hussey is the only original member left in the band, joined for this record by guitarist Kyle Samuel and drummer Dominic Nastasi – both of whom have been involved with All Get Out for a while now – and bassist James Gibson. And while Hussey and Nastasi really fleshed out – remotely – the demos between them before recording the bulk of the songs in May 2021, a conscious decision was made this time around to also incorporate the same kind of approach Hussey had taken with the two solo albums he’s released.
“I wanted to close the gap a little between the solo records and All Get Out,” he explains. “We wanted to make a record where I got my voice, as the writer, heard first – and then we tacked on everything else. It means this is more of a songwritery record, and that’s on purpose.”
It’s a method that suits the introspective nature of the record perfectly. Having uprooted from South Carolina to Texas, Hussey recently found himself moving back to his home state, albeit to Charleston, not Sumter. He says that’s not the reason why the theme of the record is centered around the idea of small American towns like Sumter – and everything good and bad that they represent – but they’re nevertheless infused with his experiences and memories, of them.
“A lot of the record came out to be about growing up in small towns that don’t move,” explains Hussey. “It’s like they seemingly stand still in time. There are these little American towns that just haven’t evolved, and that’s on purpose – the way bubba still has a confederate flag on his pick-up truck, or how friends and members of my family have perpetuated the smalltown thing of having kids at 18 and doing drugs. It’s just this cycle that keeps happening.”
As if in direct response, Kodak begins with an escape, the character of opener “Clinical Trial” getting in a car and driving away from somewhere. But as the drive and the song and the album continue, it becomes increasingly clear that, no matter how far you drive, you can never fully escape where you’re from. It’s in your soul, your heart, your essence. That fruitlessness – of essentially trying to run away from who you were, because it’ll always be part of who you are – is captured perfectly in “Feeling Well”. It’s a song that swells from a simple solitary guitar chug into a quasi-orchestral crescendo of frustration, uncertainty, and doubt, Hussey proclaiming, as the song slows down again at the end, ‘I don’t feel right about it now.’ It’s a lyric that also begins, and is later repeated in, “DFR”, a beautiful song about nervous youthful abandon that transports you back into a past that, even if you didn’t specifically experience, you know all about. Elsewhere, the boisterous “AA Almanac” references Hussey’s religious background and shaking off those shackles, while the nostalgic jangle of “Sumter” – one of two songs that references some temporary memory loss experienced by his mother – sees Hussey offer up some self-aware self-recrimination about his attitude towards small towns.
“It’s kind of like me shitting on myself,” he chuckles. “Like ‘What makes you feel any more special than this town you’re shitting on?’”
That’s drummed in by the half-hearted declaration in that song – ‘I won’t go back to South Carolina’ – that, as it would turn out, wasn’t true. But even if Hussey hadn’t later physically returned to his home state, he still does so here, immersing himself in its history and its present with all his heart and soul. And in a weird, ironic way, it’s here – back at the start, but while trying to get away from it – that he found both himself and the closest manifestation of what he’s always wanted All Get Out to be. As such, it’s fitting that, with final song “Know Your Tell” Kodak ends where it began – in a car, with nothing answered and nowhere to go but both forward and back at the same time. And just like a photograph, it’s a physical snapshot of the past that also exists now, in the moment.
“This album is either who I am or where I came from or a combination of both,” says Hussey. “I’m very slow to evolve, and that’s part of the record as well. Not to get too meta, but it takes me a long time in life to get there sometimes. I don’t know if I manage to reconcile my past with my present, but it’s definitely been brought to attention – and that’s what was so important about this record.”