When relationships end, complex emotions begin to swirl. Resentment brews. Harsh words are exchanged. In many ways, breakups are a reckoning not just with our ex-partners, but with ourselves. For Flyte frontman Will Taylor, the end of an eight-year relationship proved to be the catalyst for an intense period of self-scrutiny. During that time, he did the only thing he could do: write. The result is This is Really Going to Hurt, a sublime album on which said relationship is excavated, examined, then laid to rest.
“I was at pains not to be that person pointing the finger,” Taylor says, speaking from his London flat over Zoom. “I think the reason the songs sound so raw is because I was writing in the moment, not stopping to wonder how it would come across. I’m definitely examining myself.” As the album title suggests, there is no tip-toeing here. But while the feelings expressed aren’t always pretty, the music itself is. Each song is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, from the tender guitar-picking on opener “Easy Tiger” to the rambunctious piano on “I”ve Got a Girl”. Throughout are crooning, all-male harmonies evoking the sun-kissed California rock sound of The Byrds and The Beach Boys.
Before Taylor’s breakup, the band had wondered how to follow on from their debut, 2017’s David Bowie and Lou Reed-indebted The Loved Ones. Taylor’s split two years ago, as well as their keyboardist Sam Berridge leaving the band, marked the start of “a very bad year”, but also a period where the 29-year-old was writing instinctively. “It was like we suddenly had a new purpose,” his bandmate, bassist Nick Hill, says. “We wanted to tell other stories.” He joins the video call along with drummer Jon Supran, whom Taylor met at primary school. They’re all reaching the end of their twenties and, as Hill points out: “That’s a lot of pain you’ve been keeping on the shelf.”
As the album demonstrates, the trio place heavy emphasis on real emotional expression, arguably still an all-too-rare occurrence for all-male bands. Artists such as Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker and Julia Jacklin – some of the few contemporary singers who inspire Flyte – tap into something deeper. “We take self-evaluation very seriously,” Taylor says. “I feel very in touch with my feminine side – I’ve been more drawn to female singers in the past few years. It makes you wonder what’s happening with the UK and male artists specifically: why is there this difficulty to dive in?”
There’s a second-hand catharsis in hearing Taylor – now in a new relationship with singer-songwriter Billie Marten – admit some of the uglier emotions he experienced during his breakup. While they’re still far from what you might deem “toxic”, it’s encouraging given the current climate, where men are being urged to be more candid about their feelings. “It’s a real time for honesty, and hopefully not just for men but for everyone,” Taylor says. “Everybody loves to point the finger somewhere other than themselves. It takes seismic shifts in people’s personal lives (and I can attest to that) to make you look inward.”
As tender as Taylor’s delivery is on album closer “Never Get to Heaven”, the impression is of a band-aid being ripped off. What remains is the scar – healed over, but still there. The album is being released right as the UK begins to come out of lockdown; “Never Get to Heaven” feels apt for its cautious but resolved sense of optimism. “We’re slowly emerging bleary-eyed into the world,” Taylor says. Amid the pandemic the band have tried hard to keep fans’ spirits’ up, whether with weekly film nights or by performing on people’s doorsteps. “There have been lots of attempts to keep the fire alive.”
Perhaps this engagement is what inspires such fierce championing. The band, who count Normal People’s Paul Mescal among their more famous fans, are constantly perplexed by the ones who inform them that they’re “underrated”. “We see comments asking, ‘How is this band not more famous?’” Taylor says, laughing. “I think some people think if you’re not one of the top 10 pop acts then you’re just a struggling alternative artist.” Yet this doesn’t seem to plague them as much as lazy labels placed on their music. They’re keen to dispel any notions that they’re an “indie-rock” band, as some publications – and even their own Wikipedia page – have described them. “People see three guys in a band and wonder why they should listen to what we have to say,” Taylor says. “But we’re just human beings with stories to tell, like anyone else.”
‘This is Really Going to Hurt’ is out now