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The Sunflower

REVIEW: Introducing Helko Spillovey, who are lost in thought with ‘I think of you too much’

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Photo courtesy of I Feel Like Helko

A perfect collaboration of groovy indie rock and confessional emo punk is Helko Spillovey, a band straight out of North Dakota. They have released their first musical project and EP, “I think of you too much.” All the things for us to think about are spread out among five tracks, including a minute interlude. For a debut EP, I think a small crop of songs totaling to 17 minutes is a tasteful introduction to the band and their career. It’s not too much, and it’s not too little; it’s enough for me to dwell on. 

The EP has a persona based around it. It tells of a man stuck in the town he lives in. He wants to move on and go somewhere else, but the past keeps him there, specifically certain people. The track “Cheap Trick” talks about one of these people who is romantically invested in the man. People like her are keeping him where he is, but he knows this place isn’t meant for him. It’s a crash of emotions for many people who are stuck between a rock and a hard place, who are torn because they don’t know which direction to take. In the outro verse, the man chooses to stay and be with his girlfriend out of altruism. 

But it’s not only her he thinks about. There are also his friends and enemies who live here. In the track “Welk” the listener is introduced to the main character’s situation full-front. The chorus line here explains the magnitude of his situation the best: “Maybe if we thought about this / maybe we could’ve done something about it.” He and his friends are allowing themselves to stew on their dead-end lives. 

The worst thing about this is that these guys seem to never escape their current predicament. There is a minute-long acoustic, “Interlude (my brain),” where it talks about how his brain doesn’t want to cooperate on a given day. Assuming from the rest of the album, this self-sabotage happens most days. With the final track, “Swervin’ on the drive back,” the singer admits he thinks too much but doesn’t offer himself any ways to get better. 

This album as a whole feels like a short journey to acceptance, where a man admits his internal struggles but is not ready to face them. His situation is like a cycle of self-sabotage: He hates where he lives, which in turn makes him miserable, but his past causes him to never leave but, at the same time, makes him hate where he lives all over again.

With their first step, Helko Spillovey introduces this personal story of restrained fire. It feels like Ben Braunagel (vocalist and rhythm guitarist) is trying to keep this torment inside while not releasing the full extent of the anguish. An interesting point I would like to make is how similar his voice sounds to that of The Mountain Goats singer John Darnielle. The difference with Braunagel’s voice is that it has a more raw and drunk-sounding appeal. Considering the album’s subject matter, it works perfectly with it. The album’s first lines elaborate that he is “drunk with love / drunk with power.” 

The raw tendencies of the EP show that this is Spillovey’s first trial run in the studio. Despite Braunagel’s vocals (which can be a like or dislike for listeners given Braunagel’s presentation and sound), some of the mixing and ideas are not up to par. The vocals on “Elevator” are undermixed and blend into the instrumentation too well, where it is difficult to understand what Braunagel is saying without reading the lyrics. I don’t know if this was the intention or not, but it does give the song a unique standout on the album. 

The biggest standout, though, is “Interlude (my brain),” since it is only an acoustic strum with vocals. Here, Braunagel’s voice is quiet and even meditative sounding, as if despite his brain refusing to cooperate with him, it doesn’t seem to bother him that much, as if he is so used to it at this point. 

The rest of the songs do kind of sound similar, but there is enough variety in the melodies and instrumentation that each song stands on its own. For instance, “Swervin’ the drive back” changes tempo and steps up and down on the alternative rock palette to make it feel like three instrumentation ideas are made and put together well. 

Braunagel, along with his bandmates, Dylan Bender (drums), Sky Froelich (lead guitar) and Ansen Boehm (bass), produce a solid first swing at the pitcher’s mound. I am excited to see what they can come up with next because with some fine-tuning, I can see them ascending to midwest emo stardom. 

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About the Contributor
Tyler Guthrie, Columnist
Tyler Guthrie is a second-year columnist with The Sunflower. He is a creative writing major with a Spanish minor from El Dorado, Kansas. Guthrie uses he/him pronouns.

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