Blue October

In this age of quotidian nihilism, of pervasive and boundless
jadedness, you might be forgiven for being taken aback when
someone says to you: “I hope you’re happy.” It’d be easy to load
that phrase with acerbic meaning, to interpret it foremost as
coming from a place of spite and sarcasm. And nine times out of
10, you’d probably be right. But in the case of seminal musicians
Blue October, the statement is disarmingly sincere.

It’s a surprise, to be sure. But “I Hope You’re Happy,” the title
track representative of the Texas outfit’s latest body of
work in both word and sound, is the first burst in a salvo of
overwhelming positivity—a sonically abundant, rich, lusciously
atmospheric, lovingly produced record.

Early fans of the band’s work, those who haven’t kept track of
the band’s journey in its latter years, might be hard-pressed to
recognize the foursome—comprised of Ryan Delahoussaye, the
band’s multi-instrumentalist; Matt Noveskey on bass; and
brothers Jeremy and Justin Furstenfeld, the band’s drummer and
front man, respectively. The group, once known for its stormy
dynamic and self-destructive tendencies, couldn’t be more
distinct, today, from the band it once was. And the members of
Blue October want everyone they encounter to know the great
place they’re in, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. “We’ve
had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and we’ve come
out the other side,” says Noveskey, who describes the record as

Such is the subject matter of a soon-to-be-released documentary, Get Back Up,
detailing the band’s transformation from sordid to solid, from
ravaged by the tempest of addiction to blessed by the joys of
family life. Just like any other relationship, the band’s dynamic is
multifaceted, and what we’re privy to on camera is but a
snapshot into the group’s complex world.

While the documentary documents the band in its stormier days,
today, it looks like smooth sailing for the boys of Blue October.
With their last record, the band’s 2016 effort Home, behind them,
the band was ready to start writing their follow-up album. “We
were in a great spot, coming off of a great record. We were all in
a great place,” says Delahoussaye. But one thing was going to
be different with this record: The band’s frontman and guitarist,
Justin Furstenfeld, would be at the helm—his first time producing
an album.

“Justin had a specific vision; we trusted he knew what it needed
to sound like,” offers Noveskey.

And even though I Hope You’re Happy was the first record Justin
Furstenfeld produced, he still managed to push the envelope,
leading his band to new heights in terms of sound and
production. “I really had to take the training wheels off this time,”
he says. “In today’s day and age, as a producer, you learn so
much from people; like, I’ve worked with Tim Palmer and Steve
Lillywhite.” Furstenfeld’s production style was the result of years
of studying the craft and taking notes from storied producers—
then stepping out of his comfort zone to experiment in a way that
would yield a truly lush soundscape. “If it works, it works,” says
Furstenfeld. “I don’t care if you practiced it or it’s perfect, if it’s
hooky, I’ll make it work and use it. It’s art for me.”

The rest of the band was fully on board with Justin’s vision,
placing their faith in him to produce a record above and beyond
what Blue October had done before. “Justin’s got this gift where
he can envision, like a movie, what the entire song is going to
sound like before he even plays a note,” says Jeremy
Furstenfeld. “Like, the song is already written completely, part by
part. It’s a gift, how he can hear everything. Like the song’s
there, it’s done.”

A major component of the new record can be found in the
massive string arrangements composed by Delahoussaye. “If
you’ve got a string player that plays all these instruments, you
get in the studio and see what he’s got,” says Justin Furstenfeld.
“It’s beautiful and when you hear it, you’ll be touched.”

“One of the things that I love about this record is that Ryan can
provide an entire orchestra by himself. He can bring in this whole
cinematic aspect to a song; it makes it feel like it’s a film. He can
really shine on this record,” says Noveskey.

The record itself seemingly can’t be categorized, according to
Blue October. “I don’t even consider us a rock band in the first
place. This record has no genre,” says Justin Furstenfeld. Per
Furstenfeld, the post-production process for the new record
entailed “having an urban mixer mix an alternative band
produced like art rock.” Perhaps that’s why Blue October’s canon
is so eminently accessible, because the band defies genre—and
what’s more, because their message is so relentlessly positive
as to doubtless brighten the effect of fans and listeners, new and
old alike.