Change can be exceedingly difficult. Sometimes we live with our worse habits for a number of years, clinging to them while the world around us slowly moves on to the next phases of its evolution. Comfort from a different time also gives solace, but eventually, we all have to move on and find out how to become better for ourselves. Where does one find those answers? For the Dollar Signs, that question lingers in their minds as they tackle that very process in bright, show-stopping fashion with their newest album, Hearts of Gold.
Sitting on the tail end of the “Blip” year of 2020, one could trick themselves into thinking that this new album is a semi-reaction to how the pandemic made many of us feel and reflect on. In an interview about the album with The Alternative, front man Erik Button stated that the album technically was finished about a week prior to closures across the world. Even still, if not about the things that happened during that time frame, this entire collection, from start to end, animates a story about one person’s deep dive into their life and the catalysts that show while it can be extremely difficult, we’re all capable of finding ways to be more awesome versions of ourselves, like a Power-Pop version of “It’s a Beautiful Life”.
The opening set of tracks, between “I’m Afraid I Make YR Depression Worse” and “B.O.M.B.S.”, really establishes that place where we all know about the problems we live with, but almost do so willingly while putting road blocks in the way that stops any change. That doesn’t make any of these tracks not hilarious while being completely relatable though, especially in being super sweet to make up after a night of running from the cops, or using a random, possibly fragile object to do some home repairs (if it works, you’re a god among the household).
“B.O.M.B.S.” blends nicely into “Bad News”, like taking a cycling set of problems and manifesting them at the bar to a random stranger, in an awkwardly humorous set of ill-advice. “Fistfight!” covers the time after that, while “Nihilist Gundam” capitalizes on the night on the ground being that wake-up call needed to end the loop of problems. “Falling Off” then takes the reflection of looking back to evolve. “All My Skin Is Falling Off” is an awesome way to depict that in the chorus, although it makes us all sound like lizards (also awesome), but all of this leads into “I’ve been working on myself”, bluntly putting out there that it isn’t easy to do. A cool audio note here is where the fuzz kicks in in both “Gundam” & “Falling Off”, like someone kicked an old CRT Television in order to snap it back into good shape, completing the mobile suit metaphor (don’t try that with flat screens, kids).
All of these tracks, and the hard lessons in them, culminates into both a warm closing scene, including a duet with Phoebe from Dandelion Massacre, and a general 4th-Wall break to wrap in that no matter what, change is possible, and it is ok if it takes time. The reason why this album is so important now than it would have been before 2020’s issues is the fact that many of these issues compounded for people, and the message made by Hearts of Gold is something that directly targets the chest, hitting at the shadows of doubts we’ve all been fighting through at one point or another.
Truly, it was by chance that the album took so long to drop, but in the end, the band’s warmth and understanding, while still hitting occasional bumps, make this collection their finest work yet. If you are looking to laugh, cry, and feel like you’re amongst friends even while being miles away, the Dollar Signs invite you to put in some earbuds and be taken away on a wild journey, one that might prove to be a favorite of 2021 while never even having to leave home.
~ While putting the album on constant rotation to reflect on, we got up with Erik over the internet to dive a bit deeper into what made HoG tick ~
Q1.) For those in our audience that might be new to you, who are the Dollar Signs?
A.) Dollar Signs is pop punk band with lots of folk punk influence from Charlotte, North Carolina. We use punk music and humor to talk about anxiety and a bunch of things that stress me out! If you like punk music with a good bit of horns and synths and laugh at yourself to hide your pain you’ll probably like it!
Q2.) Listening to the album, it’s easy to relive a few of my memories from not at far in the past. How much of the scenes written in the tracks have actually happened?
A.) Most of them. I will bend the truth or write from the perspective of someone else’s story but all of it either the truth or a lie to tell the truth in a more concise way. The only outright lie I tell is about weed stuff. I don’t smoke because it makes me lose my mind in paranoia.
Q3.) Each album or EP that the band has released up to & including HoG, there is an honesty laced in that listeners can strongly relate to, even among the comedy of it all. How has your music, in turn, helped you pass through bad habits and grow?
A.) Songwriting for me has always been a kind of diary so it’s helped in the way that therapeutic journaling helps people. When I write a song about something that happened to me it become easier to see it from every angle and helps me process the problem or thing that happened. I usually can’t write about something super heavy until some time as passed which is good because then the song is this way of me clearly establishing how I feel about something.
Q4.) “I Love You” was actually a surprise collaboration by the time it played near the end of the album. How do you choose who to bring in when it comes to certain tracks? Who would be your top pick, artist, band, or otherwise, for a future upcoming track?
A.) Well, Phoebe and I have been friends for a really long time and when I decided I wanted to do a duet for the end of the record Phoebe was the first person I thought of. Hilariously, when I asked her if she’d do it she said yes and I was like cool I’ll write something in the next week or two and we can get started. Then 3 days later she sent me the bones of “I Love You” and I knew immediately I wanted to take the lyrics I wrote for a duet and put them into basically Phoebe’s song. We collaborated on the basic idea but after that we just worked to mesh the lyrics I wrote with what she wrote. I have very little experience with writing with people outside of the band so it was a really fun time doing it with Phoebe! If I could collab with anyone it would probably be someone that does something totally different from me, so maybe a music producer like Kenny Beats.
Q5.) Reading the insert easily stirs up a lot of feelings, as I think we’ve all had our “Treasury” (without the envelopes of cash sent there, that might have been cool). You spoke of the “Next Chapter”, can you give listeners and fans a small peek at what that might entail?
A.) Well, COVID greatly changed the game plan but we’re all adapting. I’ve spent the last year learning piano and MIDI and finally actually taking the time to really learn music theory. Before I was mostly just piecing together knowledge I learned as I wrote stuff and had questions. I have an idea where we are headed but I won’t mention it in case I change my mind 5 songs into writing! It’s been fun to learn the more technical side of songwriting so hopefully everyone will enjoy our slow transition into becoming a math rock band.
Q6.) For the people that are hardcore fans, newly listening, and in between, what do you hope they take away from the music?
A.) I hope people take away that life is hard, but it’s fun too. I feel like a lot of music either only revels in misery or just tries to be party music with no human emotions in it at all. I always want what we do to be honest, like there’s more than one to process feelings and situations and while our way is not always the best it can be helpful and cathartic. Especially this record is about recognizing your struggles and about how you have everything you need to make changes in your life but it’ll be the hardest fucking thing you’ll ever do.
Q7.) If you were going to put your Mobile Suit creation in the G Gundam universe, which country would it represent?
A.) Oh shit. I feel like it wouldn’t represent a country. It would probably be crowd funded by anarchists and shit posters.
Q8.) Last Question; RF20XX is half ‘n’ half music and gaming. What are your favorite games, or what was something you loved to play back when? *Bonus.)* I know Tommy has a copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. How would ya’ll feel about putting on a virtual show on a random island?
A.) I’m really into horror games, my favorite recently being the AMAZING top down game Darkwood. Other than horror games like Resident Evil (not 5 or 6) I’ve been playing through the Bioshock series and really enjoying that and my girlfriend and I will play Overwatch a good bit. I mostly avoid multiplayer games because I will never be able to dedicate the time required to be good at them and getting beaten by 12 years olds still bruises my 31 year old ego. An Animal Crossing show could be fun!
The Dollar Sign’s New Album “Hearts of Gold” is available now on every streaming service, including Fallout 4. You can support the band by picking up a copy today, and by following their moves on social media
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Thank you for tuning into your world, for this… is 20XX.