welcome to the new punkaganda press +

welcome to the new punkaganda press +

welcome to the new punkaganda press +

welcome to the new punkaganda press +

welcome to the new punkaganda press +

welcome to the new punkaganda press +


REVIEW: “My Personal Note to Self” : Park National’s Liam Fagan Gives Insight Into Their New Experimental EP, I’m Here And This Is Real

Written By:
Ellery Clark
Photography By:
December 19, 2022

I’m Here And This Is Real is the first official release in nearly two years from the emo-indie rock band, Park National, and each song brings its own distinct feelings, sounds, and instrumentation to the EP. Park National’s newest release explores feelings of helplessness, growth, yearning, and introspection through six new songs: Dead On The Page, Set My Bed On Fire, Staring At The Sun, Just Like You, Not Much Use, and Dirty Shoes. Before its release on December 2, 2022, both Dirty Shoes and Set My Bed On Fire were released as singles, teasing the concept for the upcoming EP.

I sat down with Park National’s founding (and only) member, Liam Fagan, to talk about the growth of the band and the intentions behind I’m Here And This Is Real. Through our conversation, I found that the making of this EP was heavily influenced by the band’s history. Park National started out as a solo project for Fagan, who “wanted to put his own skills to the test.” After having been in several punk rock bands in high school, he started to realize an interest in the technical side of music and music production, and soon after, Park National was born. The band first released a studio album, The Big Glad, in July of 2020, but the response was much larger than Fagan ever anticipated.

“For a while after the album came out, I struggled to figure out what I was gonna do next because the response to the album was so much larger and different than I expected…I was just so shocked by the response that I felt paralyzed! I didn’t really know what to do next.”

Fagan finally started working on I’m Here And This Is Real in the summer of 2021, and described the process as being entirely different from the process of making The Big Glad. “A lot more intention went into picking sounds and arranging the songs and the lyrics,” he said.

Not only was the EP Fagan’s ticket back into making music, but it was also Park National’s first collaborative release. In writing the songs for the EP, Fagan worked with his childhood friend Truman Sinclair to perfect every sound, lyric, and step.

I’m Here And This Is Real wasn’t finished until the spring of 2022, at which point Fagan noted that the finished release had far more experimentation than his previous projects. “In terms of the EP versus the album that I have out, there’s a lot more variety in the songwriting, and the instrumentation, and just the overall vibe across the songs,” he said. And it’s obvious that each song reflects Fagan’s differing intentions with his music – The EP starts with Dead On The Page, in which a strong guitar and percussive mix guides the melody in a waltz time. Fagan’s melodic vocals then sing of the dichotomy between a yearning for change and the helplessness of feeling stuck where he is:

“You said write down your troubles / Draw down your pain / The feeling can’t hurt you / It’s dead on the page / I tried every option / Spelled out my name / But it still sounds the same”

Immediately, the sound changes as Dirty Shoes leads into Set My Bed On Fire. The sound shifts from a passive, slower train of thought into one that is active and confrontational (“I’m so fed up with learning how to talk / And choking on these feelings coming up lost”). Set My Bed On Fire’s instrumentals build bass harmonies on top of rhythmic guitar, finally creating layers of background vocals and exciting guitar riffs that give the song a much larger sound. Hope replaces helplessness, making this song feel like Fagan’s call to action

“I’m tired of saying that I’ll figure it out / I’m so hurt / And suck of every word that’s coming out of my mouth / I’m gonna set my bed on fire / I’m gonna tie myself down / And somehow I’ll survive”

While Staring At The Sun’s lyrics reveal similar feelings of hope and yearning for change (“I wanna do better / Than feeling this way forever / And pull myself together if I can”), the sound once again shifts with its layering of distorted harmonies between guitar and bass. This creates a mix of sounds on the third track that seem to be more of an accompaniment to the melody of the vocals instead of the guiding force they were previously. The instrumental distortion carries into Just Like You as Fagan sings of the personal effects of a toxic relationship:'

“Barefeet, on carpet / Leavin’ slivers in my skin / I’m trying my hardest / To end what you started / But no, I can’t let go of it / You’re reminding me of all the little things / I hate about myself”

Another drastic change in Park National’s sound comes through immediately following, with the start of Not Much Use. The tempo slows, and rather than using a traditional percussive mix as the driving beat of the song, Park National instead introduces the band’s familiar guitar harmonies with a maraca. The maraca fades in prominence behind Fagan’s yearning vocals, and is eventually replaced by a hard instrumental mix that is more reminiscent of the sound Park National achieved in its first album.'

​Finally, I’m Here And This Is Real ends with the most popular track of the EP, Dirty Shoes. Similarly to the first track, Dirty Shoes chooses to trade in its signature, loud, emo-indie rock-feel for a more acoustic instrumentation that instead places the focus on melodic vocals and an empowering backing track. Fagan’s love for technicality comes through in this song, with little guitar riffs making a flowering appearance around his lyrics. This final track feels like letting go, with the lyrics telling a story of change, memories, and moving forward:

“The path I’ve walked has worn my feet away / They’re burdened with the weight of getting older / We’re getting older / So cut me loose / And trade me in for your dirty shoes / And if the scars in your memory will change how you see me / I’ll try to forget you too”

All of the experimental choices that Fagan noted in my conversation with him are evident in the obvious stylistic differences between each song on the EP. It’s equally important to note, though, why this album came out when it did. As Park National’s re-introduction to the music scene, I’m Here And This Is Real represents Fagan’s choice to move forward with his music regardless of outside expectations:

“I really see this whole EP as some sort of reminder to myself that I am still me, and I can still focus on what I’m doing, and just make music without thinking about how it’s gonna be received. It’s like my personal ‘note to self.’”

Ultimately, even with a sound that is less cohesive than I originally expected, Park National’s I’m Here And This Is Real sets the stage for a strong new era of music in the coming year. Whether Fagan chooses to hone the technicality of his instrumentation or focus instead on developing a signature style for the band, this record seems to me to be a breath of life for Park National, bringing with it a feeling of passion and exploration that the band will benefit from in the future.

Listen to I’m Here And This Is Real on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp, and find Park National on Twitter (@parknational_). Read my full interview with Liam Fagan below.

about the author

Ellery Clark

Tucson, AZ