ALBUM PREMIERE: Scranton sci-fi rockers Goodnight, Captain take off with ‘Departures’
These days, it’s easy to look around and want to give up on this planet. It’s something people joke about, but what if you could actually travel through outer space? Would you start re-entry and go back to all of your problems (along with all this world’s issues) or decide to depart for something new… something unknown?
Goodnight, Captain begins that perilous journey in “Departures,” a new EP of indie, alternative, and pop music premiering today exclusively on NEPA Scene. The Scranton-based songwriters are floating further way from their previous project, indie/Americana band Blinded Passenger, and discovering new life in science fiction rock that describes a compelling adventure across many songs and stars.
“We decided to call the EP ‘Departures’ because all of the songs have to do with someone who is moving on from something in their life. It is actually part of a concept storyline that we developed, which we hope to have play out through several different EPs. In ‘Departures,’ the first four songs deal with our character being someone who is at the end of their rope and looking for a way out. It closes out with his exit, ‘Drive Away,’ as he blasts himself into space in search of something better,” Patrick McGlynn explained.
“We had the idea for the concept that this protagonist was departing from this planet in more than one way – physically checked out, mentally checked out a long time ago. Also, we thought the title was fitting for the unprecedented times we were currently living in. In so many ways, everyone had to depart from what was once considered normal. It’s also a departure for us from the way we would write, compose, and record, and also a departure from the type of music we have put out in the past,” Stefan Ogonosky continued.
“Now we are leaning more towards a conceptual storytelling genre. We, I think, still really want to play with the idea of telling a story and keeping it interesting that way because it’s something that we haven’t really tried. Pat is a great storyteller, and I think that together, along with my brother Nick Ogonosky, we can continue to make some really cool music.”
In their first-ever interview about Goodnight, Captain, the songwriters debuted their first single, “Drive Away,” on NEPA Scene in the fall of 2019, and now they’re ready to complete the first part of that narrative with a third member.
“We’ve spent the past two years kind of figuring out a process for Goodnight, Captain. We recorded, mixed, and mastered everything on our own. On top of that, about midway through the writing process, we decided to add live drums to all of the songs. During that time, we also recorded a couple songs, ‘Outerspace’ and a cover of Saves the Day’s ‘Rocks Tonic Juice Magic,’ which I kind of look at as our training projects,” McGlynn said.
“After we last spoke in 2019, we’ve been working on and off on what was originally going to be six songs. As we continued and the concept for the album became more clear, we realized that five of the six would fit the specific story we were trying to tell. We started off with all intentions to just have Pat and I creating drum tracks digitally. As things progressed, we realized that having a live drum sound would add more life and make the songs sound bigger – that’s when we decided to ask my brother Nick if he would be interested in writing drum parts for the songs that we had fleshed out,” Ogonosky noted.
“Back in August of 2020 is when we floated the idea to him. I remember it was a surprise birthday party for my wife Erin, and Pat and I had talked about wanting a bigger sound for the songs and felt that only really live drums would be able to get the sound we were looking for. When it came down to it, we could have easily just used pre-loaded beats and drum machines in the songs, which we started out using in the beginning for a lot of the writing process, but those tracks were sort of cold and lifeless. We knew too that for the genre of music that we were tapping into, Nick had extensive experience in. We also have been playing music with Nick for almost the same amount of years that Pat and I have been playing music. He was our drummer for the first band we’d ever had. Granted, he hadn’t played drums in years, I think since possibly playing with our friends in Esta Coda and had since sold most of his set, so when we asked him, he was really receptive, but I think his initial response was, ‘Shit, now I’m gonna have to go out and get some drums.’ The rest is pretty much straightforward from there.”
“The three of us had been jamming together just prior to Stefan and I starting GC. [The opening track] ‘The Ashes’ was actually a song we had all been working out together back then, so when we started working on the songs, we just really felt like having real drums to go along with the electronic samples we had been using would be something that could give lift songs into a bigger sound,” McGlynn added.
The coronavirus pandemic had a major effect on the way most musicians approached and created music in 2020, but Goodnight, Captain was always pieced together through email exchanges after their kids went to bed, so their operation remained largely unchanged.
“I think the pandemic actually helped us be more productive. With the lack of gigs or anything else, we really had some extra time to put into writing and recording,” McGlynn said.
“One of things that I really wanted was to have a dual vocal element, with Stefan and I splitting lead vocal duties. For me, that aspect was a breath of fresh air creatively to be able to step back on the tracks where I’m not singing lead and approach making a contribution from a different angle.”
“When we started out writing ‘Drive Away,’ I think we intended on getting together in more of a group setting, or at least Pat and I having one another over to ping-pong ideas back and forth. However, when the world sort of boarded up, we realized that with the equipment we had, we could still continue to write, but separately. We would email ideas and parts back and forth, and we also had the luxury of really taking our time and writing for the songs because neither of us were in a big hurry to release anything right away. There would be times where I or Pat would walk away from the songs for sometimes weeks on end to kind of let the songs or ideas breathe, and then come back to give them new life with refreshed minds,” Ogonosky recalled.
“We also were writing and playing instruments that we haven’t particularly played in past projects. I started to sing more. Pat would play the bass more. We both would mess around with synthesizers. I wrote a lot of my parts on a synthesizer/piano that I have never typically done before, which was cool because it really opened up the door for more creative parts rather than writing everything on the guitar, which I would normally do.”
With titles like “Apocalypse Girl” and “When the Dead Come Back,” listeners should be prepared to explore the darker side of humanity, as sci-fi often does.
“I think there are some dark elements to the songs. For me, some of the inspiration for that came from the writing process that Stefan and I used for this project reminding me of the days when we used to play together in Losing Caufield,” McGlynn noted.
“Sonically, for me, I took a lot of influence for this project from Smashing Pumpkins, David Bowie, David Byrne, Phantom Planet, The Killers, etc. I think we were able to create a different unique vibe within each song, which is something that I love.”
“In a way, we wanted to find a way to convey our frustrations from everything we were experiencing and seeing happen in the world at the time but also have that glimmer of hope. We toyed a lot with creating happier sounding music as the backdrop for some heavier darker lyrics,” Ogonosky said.
“For me, it was anger and disgust with what I was constantly trying to avoid seeing happen to humanity but just couldn’t escape because it seemed like that was all the media seemed to focus on. Instead of coming together as a society – which, don’t get me wrong, there were times where that did seem to happen – but paled in comparison to showing the true nature and ugliness of people, which I think is finally paving the way for positive changes.”
Some elements of the songs are left up to interpretation, though when asked to pick their personal favorite tracks, they offered a bit of insight into the themes and where they originated from.
“For me, ‘The Ashes’ was a song that I had the guitar riff written forever and just couldn’t find the right fit for it in a song, so to finally make it work felt really good. Lyrically, the song is about how people can become obsessed with money, sometimes by choice and sometimes not, and the idea of destroying that mindset,” McGlynn shared.
“I really enjoyed writing and listening to all of them. There’s a time when I really thought ‘Apocalypse Girl’ just came out better than I could’ve imagined, but then we fleshed out ‘The Ashes,’ I fell in love with that song as well and just how big we were able to make it sound,” Ogonosky commented.
“During writing, I was listening to a lot of Muse, Jeff Rosenstock, John Carpenter, also a lot of music from the ’80s and ’90s that inspired the music. There’s also this short film by Ruairi Robinson called ‘The Leviathan’ that heavily influenced the story.”
Leading up to today’s release, the band uploaded artwork and song clips to their social media accounts that allow fans to further immerse themselves in the experience.
“The artwork in the beginning had the science fiction feel that we were trying to go for. Pat and I are big fans of that genre, and we had the idea to create a concept album, so the idea was going to be about this astronaut who basically sees the destruction of his world around him and kind of comes to terms that there’s no more life left here, so he decides to adventure out into space to try and find that connection with life again. In his travels, he finds himself in some way floating in space and comes face to face with this huge creature that ends up swallowing him, which is the creature you can see in the reflection of the astronaut’s helmet in the one image we had,” Ogonosky described.
“After that concept and more songs came, I started toying around with this space theme more and wanted that to shine through with our individual headshots, so what I did for each person was incorporate some element of space and that ended up being blended with our faces. So, for instance, in my brother’s, you see a black hole. In mine, you see swirls of Jupiter from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. In Pat’s, you see what’s called the pillars of creation, which is a collection of gas and stars that are light-years in length. Then, with each one, I really wanted us to have bright color schemes. Being a huge fan of the movie ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow,’ I really wanted to incorporate triangles into the artwork as well. You see it in every picture we have since the astronaut pictures. I even incorporated it in the album cover, which is actually a picture that my late grandfather painted, which was given to me by my grandmother after his passing in October of 2019, just weeks before the birth of my son Miles. So there is a lot to unpack when it comes to the artwork. We wanted to go for the full package when it came to the concept.
“My brother Nick also contributed heavily to the teases we have put out ahead of the release on social media. The ghost in ‘When the Dead Come Back’ and the brain in the ‘A.I.’ tease are works of art he created that I thought fit perfectly with what we were trying to do. His artwork is consistently an inspiration to me, and he is so talented when it comes to the way he can convey through art what he sees in life.”
The harrowing story will continue in future transmissions from Goodnight, Captain (and possibly a few more Saves the Day covers). “Departures” is on Bandcamp now for any price you choose, and it will be available on all other major streaming platforms next week.