The Hails released their long-awaited debut album What’s Your Motive. In ten tracks, the Florida five-piece perfectly display their penchant for well-polished experimentation and all-consuming storytelling. The LP is an orbit of grief and reconciliation over growing pains, both individual and with each other – Stream.
Building their own DIY studio in Miami a couple of years back, the band curated their creative environment from installing the flooring to collecting furniture potluck style. Much of the album was written and recorded during consistent gatherings in this space, a surprising setting for the refined sonics of What’s Your Motive. Out of The Hails HQ their debut album was born, surely making enemies out of their retail neighbors.
Describing What’s Your Motive as an album born out of necessity for the band, their frontman Robbie Kingsley said, “We have very strong emotions towards each other. Sharing a common goal doesn’t mean that you always see eye to eye. There are days when we legitimately hate each other and there are other moments where we couldn’t imagine a life with anyone outside of the five of us. It’s a weird brotherhood that we’ve adopted. This is a key theme in telling the story of the record because we’ve gone over so many bumps in the road emotionally just to get here.”
What’s Your Motive is a progressively zooming-out view of what happens when you break the cycle of complacency, an album with a worldview that expands as you listen further. Beginning with the opening track “Caligula,” titled after the famously cruel Roman emperor, the enemy at hand is introduced – you. Naming himself Caligula by the end of the song, Kingsley sets up the question of why am I killing myself and still not happy? He notes, “It’s weird how you can almost work against yourself in a way that actually progresses you forward.”
Moving into the next few tracks, the focus grows outward from the self into examining romantic relationships. Bleeding yourself dry to hold onto a sense of familiarity isn’t enough to keep things together. A major tone shift in the album takes place at the halfway point with “They Seem Wrong.” Sonically stripped down, especially in comparison to the stickiness of the previous track “When You Were Bored,” “They Seem Wrong” is an open wound of a song, a scab you can’t stop picking at. This crossroads in the album also marks a content shift from romantic relationships to friendships. Tenderly, the band documents the permanent misalignment you can feel when you don’t grow alongside people you once knew.
“It’s sad to think about, but you do outgrow people and they outgrow you too,” Kingsley laments.
The next portion of the album sees hints of personal progress, but the unseen leash of waiting for permission keeps yanking things back. Shedding more and more of what no longer serves the protagonist, this freeing lightness is reflected in the energy of this grouping of songs until we hit “Time Never Sat So Still.” A song that asks what you do after you’ve realized the things you’ve outgrown, this is the album’s eye of the storm; the calmness in calamity. All this leads to the album closer “In Moments.” Cinematic, sultry, and sonically massive, the album’s resolution is a point of clarity. Fleeting things can still be precious because you are the sum of all your parts, even the ones you give up over time.