Photo: Jered Scott

Telemonster explore resilience born from heartache and hardship on “Your Life Begins Today” [BPM Premiere]

There are miraculous things in this world. But for the past few years, we’ve mainly seen the ugly underbelly of societies pushed to their limits, attempting to cope with things far beyond their grasp. On a smaller scale, we’ve all personally been doing the same thing to one degree or another. COVID, divisive politics, and the ever-present specter of uncertainty has hovered over our lives with a clockwork regularity. It’s been hard for people to find their way, physically, emotionally, and professionally. But among all the terrible things we’ve endured, there have been moments of pure joy, undiluted creativity, and hope that the future may yet provide something of worth to us and those that follow in our steps.

Musicians have not been immune to our recent common catastrophes and have weathered these difficulties as well and as poorly as can be expected. For those able, this period of terrible consequence has been shaped into melody and rhyme, an outlet for horrific experiences and cruel realities. For Tennessee indie rock outfit Telemonster, music has been one of the only outlets through which any sense of catharsis has been possible since the pandemic began. It’s been a few years since their last record, 2018’s Introspector, Pt. 1, was released, but they are now back to show that there still exists some room for wonder in our admittedly darkened world.

For lead songwriter Ben VanderHart, the past few years (and the few before that) have been marked by significant upheavals in his personal and professional lives. Right before Introspecter, Pt. 1 was released, he left a corporate job to found Yellow Racket Records and make a push for that record’s success through his own imprint. Between working as a farm hand, stuffing envelopes, and sending out birthday emails to members of a trucking association, he was constantly working to get his label off the ground and to keep the band moving forward. And to cap it off, just a few months before most of the world shut down due to COVID, he signed a lease to open a brick-and-mortar record store in Chattanooga, TN.

“These [past few] years have undoubtedly been the hardest of my life,” VanderHart explains. “Family members died. Lifelong lies were uncovered. Relationships were strained. I even had a tooth break, and I kept it a secret for over a year because I couldn’t afford to have it fixed. It got to the point where terrible things would happen, and my wife and I would shake our heads and laugh. You can only shed so many tears before you are just completely empty. When you find yourself incapable of grieving any more, you sometimes force yourself to laugh because it’s the only way you can cope.”

Despite this turmoil, he has not forgotten the joy that can come from musical creation — it may have had to take backseat for a time, but that spark never really went away. And by using the memories that he’d collected over the past few years, he set out to show that there can be both darkness and light in life, that things aren’t always happy and peaceful but that a particular grace can be felt when embracing the good times and the bad, and drawing from each what you need to keep pushing ahead. And it was during this time of reflection that he began to work on the foundations for a new song.

“It was in these circumstances I pivoted away from my typical songwriting process,” he reveals. “‘Your Life Begins Today’ is the result. At just under four minutes, it’s a concise pop song that is a deliberate effort to find joy and hope amidst disappointment and hardship. I wanted to make something that was uplifting, but not trite or shallow. I wanted to be honest and genuine: to tell the truth about how terrible life can be, while highlighting the resilience of the human spirit.”

The track is a boundless indie pop gem, the kind of song that lounges in your head for days just to remind you that we live in a fairly fantastical world, even if the shadows obscure our perspective from time to time. It possesses the same kind of upbeat insight I hear in the works of The Boy Least Likely To and Allo Darlin’. Between sparkling acoustic guitar plucks, celestial vocal harmonies, and a fair selection of gorgeous keyboard flourishes, the song is an ambitious and euphoric call to all to stop and realize that we are surrounded by magic and fairytales and all those things we might have once believed in when we were younger. They might not look like what we expected or remember, but they are there just waiting to be discovered.

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