Unlike most of my musical self-discoveries, I can pinpoint the exact moment I found Home is Where’s debut album, I Became Birds.
I was scouring through the stories on my Instagram when I found that Oolong, another amazing band, had posted Home is Where’s album with the caption, “Home is Where has ended emo music” or something along those lines.
Aside from the praise, which was a major reason I checked out the album, there was another thing that caught my eye: the cover art.
As Brandon MacDonald, the band’s lead singer, would later explain to me, the photo was from the Enfield poltergeist, one of the most famous cases of recorded paranormal activity. I, being a massive wuss and choosing to not indulge in horror stuff, clearly missed that memo.
What I found, however, is that in less than 20 minutes, Home is Where creates not only a coherent and thematic plot but also offers commentary towards gender, police, and even death, all wrapped in a raw, emo blanket. It’s sad, fun, and a piece of art that could only exist in 2021.
Oh, and did I mention there’s a harmonica in it?
For MacDonald, Josiah Gardella (drums), Trace George (guitar), and Connor “Fat Slaps” O’Brien (bass), the album is a culmination of a multitude of elements.
Perhaps it’s because of the album’s storytelling, which begins with the acoustic guitar and horns of “L Ron Hubbard Was Way Cool” before shifting into the harmonica-driven energy of “Long Distance Conjoined Twins,” but MacDonald explained how the album developed into a reflection of years of her own self-revelations.
“I began writing this record when I was 16 or 17 in 2012 during a terrible haze of mental breakdowns where, when I slept, I had vivid dreams where Edie Sedgwick would visit me,” she explained. “As time went on, the record became less and less about Edie and more about a pair of conjoined twins separated at birth by the Church of Scientology only to escape to sew themselves back together.”
Though MacDonald’s remark is understandably peculiar, the concept of being removed from a part of oneself before rediscovering became an overarching theme of not only the album’s lyrical development but also her gender identity.
“When I started dating my girlfriend, the thought of ‘I’m not a boy’ kept creeping up, but I still ignored it until there came a point before we began recording where I came out to my girlfriend and my band members,” MacDonald clarified. “It became so obvious to me when I wrote ‘Assisted Harakiri’ that not only this song, but the record was me begging myself to deal with it.”
The creation process of I Became Birds was described as harder than how most bands write their music. Writing the lyrics, often without regard to future melody, the band worked around their singer, despite many choosing to do the opposite.
This results in instrumentals that are not only colorful but also allow the lyrics to be given the attention they deserve. It’s an album that begs to be listened to again and again, and because of its shorter duration, I often play it on repeat, discovering additional parts that I hadn’t noticed before.
The band keeps a raw presence in traditional fifth wave emo fashion, but unlike similar bands, the grittiness of the tracks actually benefits them. Where it’s possible to get distracted by that, Home is Where accept their own chaos and use it to their advantage.
That chaos, that inner struggle that can be something as simple as expressing the flammability of police officers to the discovery of one’s gender, are genuine; beyond everything I Became Birds brings to the table, it’s that authenticity that has and will keep me coming back to it.
Aside from getting the fuck away from COVID-19, MacDonald and her bandmates plan to use their platform (including their incredible Twitter game) and presence in the D.I.Y community to help other trans artists succeed.
“It’ll be really liberating playing now that I’m out because I want to show other trans people, especially younger trans kids, that you can do this and you can do it better than all these mediocre cis dude bands who only talk about how shitty life is when you don’t have a girlfriend,” she said. “There are so many amazing bands with trans folks in them that I can’t wait to play shows with. They’re the reason I feel so okay being out in the D.I.Y community.”
Musically, the band is already working on new music, which MacDonald jokingly said will be even more personal than I Became Birds. Despite their continued success, they’ve stayed true to their roots for their future plans, leaving with the legendary band phrase, “big things are coming.”