“Listening to the song with fresh ears after this traumatic past 48 hours, I feel like this is a political statement about the disenfranchised,” says guitarist/vocalist Aaron Perrino. “How the tables have turned and that without kindness and hope we are doomed to repeat our past mistakes.”
While this recent election has given the impassioned track a newer perspective, vocalist Luke O’Neil says the song’s basis were past aspects of a person’s life that have since deteriorated.
“I don’t think it’s exactly a secret to point out that the song is told from the perspective of looking back on a relationship that fell apart,” says O’Neil, “but to me, the most meaningful part comes with ‘at the end of an honest decade.’ It’s a great line, mostly because I stole it from W.H. Auden, but turned it around a bit. September 1, 1939, is one of his most famous poems, which he wrote at the dawn of World War II: ‘I sit in one of the dives/On Fifty-second Street/Uncertain and afraid/As the clever hopes expire/Of a low dishonest decade.”
In “This Living Wage,” like the Auden poem, there is an element of hopefulness deep within. O’Neil adds: “The war/love metaphor isn’t novel, but I found that about-face heartening, and, I hope, you can hear it in our song. He’s steadfast throughout that there won’t be a ‘next time,’ but by the end he’s convinced himself there just might be. ‘We must love one another or die,’ Auden wrote. More importantly, I just like the way the harmonies sound.”
It’s probably lazy to write that the listener can hear elements of each musician’s prior or (as of now) more popular band in the sound of No Hope/No Harm, but that’s part of its initial appeal as something new, yet slightly familiar. “This Living Wage” feels almost like a second act to the Good North’s long-lost 2004 ballad “The Weight Around Your Neck”, and Perrino’s unmistakable vocals and razor-sharp guitarwork — which have elevated Sheila Divine and Dear Leader tracks over the past two decades to the status of indie royalty here in Boston — really shine through over the song’s five minutes. Meanwhile, traces of modern emo and post-hardcore can be aligned with the best work from Sebio (bassist James Forbes) and the Field Effect (drummer Adam Hand).
No Hope/No Harm do not currently have any live gigs announced, but one or two could materialize before the end of the year. The Sheila Divine, meanwhile, play Great Scott on Saturday.