Where They Belong: An Interview with Quiet Company’s Taylor Muse
Since I first interviewed Taylor Muse, the lead singer/songwriter/founding band member of the Austin, Texas-based band Quiet Company (American Atheist, 2nd Quarter 2013), his band has continued to produce and perform music, and receive accolades for it. With the release of their latest album, Transgressor, I followed up with Muse for a conversation about his songwriting and living a secular life in the buckle of the Bible Belt.
Photo by Leah Muse
TheHumanist.com: You've described your 2011 album We Are All Where We Belong, on which you chronicle a departure from Christianity, as a breakup album. How would you assess this breakup two years later?
Taylor Muse: I'm still working on it. Like any other breakup, it's really traumatic at first. Then after time passes, you really don't think about the person anymore. I feel like I’m pretty well adjusted and just moved on to normal life where religion is just a thing that I don't think about anymore. I've adjusted to a secular life I guess.
TheHumanist.com: Do you find it's difficult to adjust to a secular life in Texas given its reputation for being the buckle of the Bible Belt?
Muse: Austin is a super liberal town. I feel like [Texans] get a reputation for being religious fundamentalists from Northerners mostly. I don't feel that's necessarily the case here. In my view, I don't think Texas is that different from most places I've been to.
TheHumanist.com: What are your thoughts on Quiet Company's evolution over the past nine years?
Muse: We're a much better band now and have come into our own. Matt, Tommy, and I have been together for several years. There's real trust there on a creative level as we've moved further into a rock and roll kind of place.
TheHumanist.com: How did you evolve from indie pop to rock and roll?
Muse: The songwriting moved from something I did in my room into something that we did collaboratively in rehearsal space. When you get together and you're able to be loud, the songwriting becomes a lot more fun.
TheHumanist.com: Explain the title of your sixth album, Transgressor.
Muse: We had a terrible year going into writing this record—creatively, professionally, and personally. Most of the record is born out of that. I wanted to explore different aspects of the personality and the duality of the personal life versus the professional life. It's not so much a concept record but it definitely explores those themes. It ended up being kind of an alternative personality or an avatar for a side of a personality that makes all the bad decisions. Kind of the bad wolf, I guess.
TheHumanist.com: Unlike We Are All Where We Belong, this latest album doesn't contain any specific faith-based songs. Why?
Muse: I feel like we did a concept record and wrote fifteen songs about losing faith, and I kind of said everything I needed to say. While we still feel the same way we felt when we wrote We Are All Where We Belong, we don't want to make the same record twice. I don't want to be a songwriter who is constantly retreading the same content. It was definitely a deliberate choice to move away from the topic of losing our faith into exploring other themes.
TheHumanist.com: There's a definite spiritual synergy present in the songs on Transgressor.
Muse: There are a few references to things that seem spiritual but they're not actually spiritual. It's just imagery I've always enjoyed. There are a few songs that are written from the point of view from when my wife and I first met, so they're kind of period pieces in a way. At that time I was a Christian, so there are a few lyrics which reference that. But there are no actual spiritual ideas being explored here.
TheHumanist.com: Your songs seem to run the gamut from despair to redemption. What were the driving forces behind compiling this particular list of eleven songs?
Muse: We whittled it down from thirty songs into what we thought would make the strongest record. We put more thought into the feel and the melody of the songs in terms of what went together rather than the content and the theme. There wasn't a whole lot of thought put into a narrative for the album.
TheHumanist.com: One of the songs is titled "Seven Hells." What does this title signify to you?
Muse: That's a bit of a Game of Thrones reference. It didn't really represent much of anything else to me other than an expletive from Game of Throne that I thought worked cleverly in a song.
TheHumanist.com: The song "Kindness" represents a definite musical deviation from your previous works. How come?
Muse: I've been known to write sweet little acoustic ditties from time to time. It's not something I spend a lot of time doing but it does happen every so often. We've had a few throughout our career: "Shine Honesty" from our first album, "Red and Gold” on the second album, and "Midnight at the Lazarus Pit" on We Are All Where We Belong.
TheHumanist.com: What's next on the horizon for Quiet Company?
Muse: We're excited that this record is out now and we're going to touring a lot this year to promote it. I've started songwriting again for whatever our next thing is and we're going to start making some demos of that stuff. But for the most part, the next few months is just playing a lot of shows and doing some tours. We hope to make some new fans and keep some old ones, and we hope to sell a lot of records.