Why Don’t We breakdown their transformative new album featuring Heath Ledger and Percy Jackson
14 January 2021, 11:29 | Updated: 14 January 2021, 11:36
"Once we had that confidence, it just became about writing the best music we could possibly write” - Why Don't We breakdown their new album The Good Times and The Bad Ones track-by-track.
Why Don’t We have undergone something of a transformation since their debut album three years ago.
Perhaps best known outside of their own fandom for being a teen pin-up boyband, Daniel, Jonah, Corbyn, Zach and Jack decided to take their time and take matters into their own hands for their follow up, The Good Times and The Bad Ones, released tomorrow (Jan 15).
Driven by a desire to prove they are more than just an average boyband, and to make the kind of music they would listen to themselves as young guys in their late teens and early 20s, they wrote, recorded and produced most of the album by themselves, with a small handful of contributions from some notable friends and producers including Travis Barker, Skrillex and Timbaland.
On a Zoom call, it’s obvious the sense of pride they feel as songwriters, relishing the opportunity to talk about their lyrics, revealing how their songs came to life and their creative process. They frequently break out into 5-part harmonies when one of them mentions their favourite pre-chorus hook, or explaining how melodies evolved through different stages of the songwriting process.
The band have finally found their voice and are thriving in an environment where they can run free with their creativity. “Our biggest goal was to prove to ourselves that we could do it," says Corbyn, at the beginning of our chat. "We surrounded ourselves with a team that really helped to push us and give us the confidence we needed. Once we had that confidence, it just became about writing the best music we could possibly write.”
They’ve undoubtedly taken a riskier path by shunning tried and tested hit-makers but TGTATBO's merits and plentiful bops confirm that Why Don’t We are on the right track.
Below, we dissect each track from The Good Times and The Bad Ones and discover the stories behind Why Don't We's transformative album.
PopBuzz: Why did you pick this as the first song on the album? And is it tricky picking an opening song?
Zach: Usually it is but it really just wasn’t this time. I feel like we all had the same gut feeling about this song. And it’s funny because it’s the last song that we made for the album and we were like, this is the one we needed to pull it all together.
Jonah: I just feel like it just kicks the door down for this album, and it’s so in your face.
Zach: We all just knew. It was a collective feeling.
PopBuzz: Who’s idea was it to include the Smashing Pumpkins sample? And did you receive any backlash from Pumpkin fans?
Jonah: We got to shout out our mixer Jaycen Joshua. We worked with him on this album and he had the idea. He was like, 'Yo, there’s this loop that's iconic, if you guys could somehow write something over this it would be insane.' And he played it for us we were instantly having melody ideas. So, then we recorded it and then there was the moment of truth of sending it to Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins. Billy listened to it and approved it and let us use it which is a crazy moment.
Jack: We loved the song we had made so much, if he didn’t approve it we would have been so sad.
Corbyn: I haven't really seen any [negativity] but my mum has texted me about a comment or two of people being like ‘oh they stole the sample, how could they do this and act like it’s theirs’, but the reaction overall has been overwhelmingly positive.
Daniel: And you can’t veer away from the fact that their version is the version. It’s magic. We just thought it would be fun to make our take on it and I would hope that their fans would like it, but I respect that it's a special song to their fans, so it’s up to them. But we’re just really appreciative that they would even let us take a spin on it.
PopBuzz: Where exactly is the Lotus Inn? Is it a real place?
Jonah: So, the Lotus Inn was based off the Lotus Hotel and Casino from the Percy Jackson series. I grew up reading those books. It’s basically a place where they go and time is very warped. They eat these lotus flower treats, and they think they are there for 3 or 4 hours and then they come out and it’s been a whole week. It’s a place where they can get stuck their whole lives. We wanted to write a song about being in that place and time, never wanting the night to end. It was a fun aspect of that song, trying to fit it into that concept.
PopBuzz: This one I think has got quite a sweet story behind it. Jack, I hear Daniel wrote this one for you?
Jack: Yeah, so basically 2020 was a hard year. And I’m a dad, a very young dad, so I was going through a lot of stuff and I ended up telling the guys how I was having really bad anxiety. It was getting hard for me to go to the studio at some points because it was really stressful to be there. When I told them, Daniel kinda took that and wrote a song about it. I know Daniel was having his own thoughts about anxiety, which he probably didn’t like either, and wrote with that in mind too. But I think it stemmed from me opening up about it and he wrote a beautiful song.
Honestly, it just shows you that you’re not the only one dealing with it, which is nice because a lot of the time when you’re dealing with it, you’re like 'am I the only one experiencing this?' It’s some good reassurance that you’re alright.
PopBuzz: I love that lyric too: “We're dancing on the edge of anxiety's ledge"
Corbyn: It’s funny because Daniel came into the studio the next day after he had written it and he was so unsure about the song itself, wondering whether it was good. I just remember looking at him like…that’s really good. You should believe in this. It’s one of the first songs that we’ve put out which is not a love story, which feels personal too.
PopBuzz: I am obsessed with the high notes on this chorus line.
Daniel: It’s like a yodel. This one is a banger. It’s my baby.
PopBuzz: It’s called 'Love Song'. It’s about writing a love song for someone. So, I have to ask, has the person who the song is about heard it yet, and did they like it?
Daniel: Oh yeah. They liked it.
Zach: [teasing Daniel] Nah they hated it…
Daniel: No, they loved it! This song is special. It’s straight to the point, just the feeling of love that hopefully everyone’s felt at some point. The hook to me is just so magical. Every time I hear it there's just something about it to me that feels so special.
Jonah: We actually played this one to Khalid and he gave us a little tip on the melody resolving on the end of the hook. He said, ‘You’ve got to resolve the melody then it will be perfect!’ He just kept singing it over and over again.
Zach: We played him a couple of songs but for whatever reason ‘Love Song’ stood out to him the most. Remember in the studio when he stopped by?
Daniel: Yeah he played us the Ed Sheeran one with him (‘Beautiful People’) like a month before it came out, and I was like, please put that one out I need to hear that again.
Jack: I think he played us ‘Talk’ before it came out too.
Daniel: Honestly, he’s one of the nicest artists in the world of artists. He’s always messaging everyone Happy New Year and checking up on you. He’s such a standout guy.
PopBuzz: 'Grey' is the only traditional ballad on the album. Why did you decide to include it?
Daniel: Me and Jonah wrote 'Grey' a year ago. Lyrically, it was really special. It was really real and honest about where some of us were at in our relationships. We wanted one of the songs to be in that vein of a slower songs and kinda switch it up and ‘Grey’ just keeping coming back around. But when we wrote it, we had a session with Michael Pollack [Justin Bieber’s ‘Holy’ and ‘Anyone’] that day and he’s amazing. One of the coolest writers I’ve met out here. Well, we wrote ‘Grey’ before that session, so Pollack came in later that day and we played it for him and asked him what he thought, and he started crying. By the end of the song, we looked back and he was in tears. He said, 'This is exactly where I’m at in life, the lyrics really touch right on the heart of what you’re trying to say so well'. So, after that moment it was always in the back of our heads that this is special.
PopBuzz: The production on 'For You' is very different from your previous material. Were there any artists or songs that provided inspiration for the sound of this one?
Jonah: We had just watched Travis Scott’s Astroworld documentary right before we wrote that song. We were in Dallas on the Jingle Bell tour, it was a fun night…
Corbyn: Oh, I remember that. My hotel room that night was upgraded to a suite somehow, so we went to the suite and watched the documentary and then wrote the song.
Jonah: It was dope. Skrillex hopped on the production for that one, which is really crazy.
Daniel: Dude, also ‘Takeaway’ by Lennon Stella and The Chainsmokers. That was huge at the time. The vocal was one of the most beautiful things I had heard in a while. That sparked the song too, like we need to make something so eerie and iridescent sounding.
Jonah: That’s the more EDM on the album. It feels the most Coachella, festival-y on the record. We grew up listening to Skrillex so that was super cool.
I’ll Be Ok
PopBuzz: Who wrote the lyrics for this one?
Daniel: Me and Jonah wrote 'I’ll Be Ok’. It’s a fun one. I wrote it in this Tumblr journal a fan bought for me, and I was trying to find a use for it, and I finally wrote something in it and it’s the ‘I’ll Be Ok’ lyrics. We wrote a terrible song before it though.
Jonah: Yeah, it was…not good.
PopBuzz: When you bring lyrics to the rest of the band, do you divulge what it’s about directly, or talk about them together?
Daniel: If something doesn’t make sense, one of us will notice before we come out with it. That’s one of the pros of being in a band. You can be like 'oh, that makes no sense, let’s fix it before the world hears it'.
Look At Me
PopBuzz: This one starts with that evil laugh, which reminds me of something Billie Eilish would do. It’s a good example of how much your sound has changed since 8 Letters. The lyrics are a little spicy too. Can you imagine releasing a song like this 3 years ago?
The whole band: Noooooo!!!!
Jonah: We wouldn’t have had the experiences to write that one three years ago actually. That laugh at the beginning is actually Heath Ledger as the Joker.
Corbyn: I’m excited for our older fans to listen to that song and get their reaction. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people.
Daniel: We’re just making the first move. It’s like we’re flirting with our fans.
Zach: It’s the most different on the album for sure.
PopBuzz: How did the final song on the album come together?
Jonah: 'Stay' has gone through 3 or 4 different songs. It started out as a song called ‘Lemonade Candy’, then it turned into one called ‘Why Should I Still Love You’, but the pre-chorus stayed the same throughout the whole time.
Corbyn: Timbaland actually did a little bit of production on that song too. There’s some beatboxing layered underneath the drums. So, he just threw a little extra sauce on there. It’s like we had the milkshake and the whipped cream, and we just needed the cherry on top.
Why Don't We - The Good Times and The Bad Ones is out tomorrow (Jan 15).