On the title track of Deaf Poets’ newest E.P., Change & Bloom, Sean Wouters repeats the chorus line, “My wasted years trying to change and bloom / My future is written and it’s not with you.” This one lyric captures the sentiment of the entire track collection. Inspired by the band’s recent move from Miami to New York, Change & Bloom reflects excitement for new beginnings, the shadow of growing pains, and a promise that some things will always remain the same.
Deaf Poets is comprised of singer and guitarist Sean Wouters and drummer Nico Espinosa. The two met in their art class at Miami Beach Elementary School and have now been friends for almost 15 years. While their friendship began with just sharing art in class, they slowly began to focus on music, and formed their first band together in early high school.
To say that the artistic talents of these two friends are complementary would be an understatement. In an interview with the Voice, they talked repeatedly about how their songwriting process is entirely a team effort. Every song is a mashup of their ideas, edited and enhanced to make the best possible music. Espinosa said, “Nothing is ever 100% completed, it always goes through the process of taking it apart, dissecting it, jamming on it, playing it live, and all that stuff. Everything we do is 50/50.” The results of this are astounding.
Every single song on Change & Bloom is a headbanger, full stop. Traditional rock elements will captivate audiences; raw, heavy drum sets and gripping guitar riffs resound loudly on each track, forcing even the most controlled listener to tap their foot along to the music. Yet, Deaf Poets go beyond just the classic components of grunge rock by incorporating their own creative forms of musical structure. For instance, both “Monarchs” and “Change & Bloom” feature long pauses that make it feel like the song is over, but pick back up after 5 or 6 seconds with a new rhythm or melody that feels different in tone. The technique makes the songs feel improvised, as if Wouters and Espinosa are writing them on the spot.
Perhaps even more captivating than their exhilarating music is the story that Deaf Poets is trying to tell with this E.P. When asked why they decided to move from Miami to New York, Wouters and Espinosa gave me an answer that perfectly mirrored the E.P.’s name, Change & Bloom.
Espinosa explained the “change” component. He said, “Throughout the years, it’s always been fun to play with the same bands and for the same people, and the same venues in Miami, but honestly after a while you just feel like ‘How do you progress? How do you grow from playing the same few venues and the same atmosphere constantly? So we definitely needed a change of pace, a change of scenery, just a complete start fresh and over.’”
Wouters elaborated on the “bloom” aspect, speaking about the progress they’ve already experienced since arriving in New York. He said, “I feel like even personality and character has changed, just because the big city does that to you. This personality of like ‘I want to make things happen. I want to pursue my dream. I don’t want to give up.’ It makes you persistent and maybe even relentless in a way, especially for something that you care a lot about.”
This narrative is weaved seamlessly into the lyrics on each of the 7 tracks, especially on “Bad Way” and “Change & Bloom.” While the latter is the title track, making it slightly more obvious how it fits into the story, the message behind “Bad Way” takes some digging. A little high and half asleep, Wouters sat down with his guitar in a nook of his hallway and began writing a song about a dream he had about a man who wakes up disoriented and stuck inside of the trunk of a car. Espinosa later added his own spin to the story by trying to create a dialogue between two people who wanted to figure out why this guy was trapped. He describes it as a story about being taken hostage.
Wouters explained that the “bad way” or the “wrong way” being described in the song is “like not following your gut feeling, your intuition to what something could be in the future.” In the context of the E.P., it seems like the duo is going the right way by following a gut feeling to progress and change in New York, despite how difficult it was for them to leave their hometown of Miami.
Change & Bloom also features Deaf Poets’ more mellow single “Cigarette,” a love story favored by Espinosa for the unique way in which the duo implemented technology by recording riffs as audio files to help write this song, and the dark closing track “Fumes.” “In “Fumes,” Wouters’ vocals take on a beach rock feel that overlaps a distorted heavy metal sound as he sings, “Let’s make a plan / let’s run away.” Despite this track’s energetic, upbeat qualities, the nature behind the making of the song is heartwarming. While most of the E.P. was written before the move to New York, Espinosa actually moved about three months before Wouters. “Fumes” was written over Facetime sessions and text message exchanges while Espinosa was in New York and Wouters was still in Miami. Writing songs together over Facetime after having lived 5 minutes apart for years? That’s true friendship.
Deaf Poets may be ready to change and bloom—they have certainly made this point clear with their E.P.—but there are some things that will never change. Espinosa emphasized that Miami had been great to them for many years. After all, it is where they grew up. Even the dazzling music scene of New York City will not change that. And, if there is one thing that will almost certainly stay the same, it is their passion for music and their dedication to Deaf Poets. Wouters said, “Nico and I have donated near more than half of our lives that we’ve been on this planet to this band already. We really put our heart and our soul and our energy into this, so it’s definitely something we’re going to take, and, you know, we’ll do everything we can in every direction possible.”
When asked about the meaning of the symbolic line, “My future is written and it’s not with you,” Espinosa said, “It’s a person, it’s a place, it’s the moment, it’s being. It’s having that moment of anxiety of ‘Oh my god, if I don’t move, or if I don’t change something in my life, I’m going to just blow up. And I know the only way that I’m going to get through this is if I understand that I need to get rid of this thing that’s really bothering me.’” That is undeniably the core of Change & Bloom.
Yet, Deaf Poets’ future may not be entirely written, as the song suggests. Wouters and Espinosa left plenty of room for surprises. Espinosa reflected on their situation, saying, “Let’s live in the city, let’s write this E.P., let’s tour. Let’s play as many gigs as we can, let’s discover new music, and then let’s just see, when we close the doors again to start writing something new, let’s see what we come up with. Because that’s always exciting. Everything is always up for debate and change.”
Change & Bloom is Deaf Poets’ way of making sense of a completely life-changing event. The energy of the music is palpable and never slows down, much like the artists themselves, who are unafraid of taking risks and letting life lead them on a thrilling new journey that will allow them to truly bloom.
Image Credits: Olya Repalovskaia