The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die Bio
As the COVID-19 pandemic spilled into 2021 and THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE & I AM NO LONGER AFRAID TO DIE wrapped their fourth album, ILLUSORY WALLS, the Connecticut-formed indie/post-rock quintet had no idea when – or if – they’d get to bring their most ambitious set of songs to audiences.
“I actually assumed we wouldn't play this stuff live,” guitarist Chris Teti says matter-of-factly. “Being a live band is really important to us, but we still felt like we had to make this record as personal fulfillment.”
So they waited, watching the calendar as tours got scheduled, postponed, rescheduled and canceled. Eventually, the band (Teti, vocalist David F. Bello, keyboardist and vocalist Katie Dvorak, bassist Joshua Cyr and drummer Steven K. Buttery) knew they had to take matters into their own hands, setting out on a headlining tour in October 2021 amidst the greatest personal and professional uncertainty they’d ever faced.
The resulting Epitaph Records live album and documentary, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE (Live), is a revealing look at a band hailed by Pitchfork as “a generational voice” in the underground and by Alternative Press as one of the greatest Epitaph Records bands of all time. It’s a rock doc, yes, highlighting the band’s raved-about live show – a blissfully cacophonous swirl of energy, anxiety and catharsis – but also a historical time capsule, capturing America’s tentative re-awakening from the most surreal events in modern times as well as the lengths TWIABP is willing to go to continue their life’s passion.
Featuring a career-spanning live set, including four songs from the highly lauded Illusory Walls along with a full-length documentary, the collection is set against the backdrop of ever-growing uncertainty and high-stakes travel: the strict set of rules the band set internally, constantly changing protocols across the country, and the perils of international travel.
“We had the entire tour package – 20 people – at one CVS getting PCR tests to allow us cross into Canada,” Dvorak remembers. “They couldn’t verify any of our identities. It was a really stressful time, not even sure if we’d be allowed to cross the border.”
“Every day was a gamble,” Cyr adds. “You’d wake up not knowing if you’re going to be able to play the show that night, or if there's even going to be a show to play. The whole thing could’ve gotten canceled at any point.”
Translating the dextrous, multi-layered Illusory Walls into arrangements the quintet could physically play on stage posed another challenge – especially given the pandemic forced the band to record much of the album from separate locations. Of course, they’re no strangers to stacking their musical Jenga tower to the point of toppling: Throughout their acclaimed career, on beloved albums like 2013’s Whenever, If Ever and 2015’s Harmlessness, TWIABP have swirled richly textured Midwestern emo, snarling post-punk, driving alt-rock and droning new wave, seemingly all with ease. But adapting Illusory Walls songs like “Afraid To Die” and “Queen Sophie for President” quite literally in real time, in front of eager crowds, gives THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE a looseness and spontaneity that cements TWIABP as a must see act. (“What a time to be recording our shows,” laughs Dvorak, “during the most technical material we’d never even played before.”)
But naturally, they delivered in spades, turning in captivating performances that only further illuminated the unbreakable bond forged between grateful artists and grateful audiences coming together to celebrate life and the spirit of live music. “The fans were really thankful for the precautions we took,” Buttery says, “that we gave a shit about them and wanted them to be safe.”
Thus, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE: a title less a polite platitude and more a profound appreciation from both the band and those who packed clubs for nearly 30 nights in October and November 2021. Not a single show was canceled – proof that all the struggle was ultimately worth the stress. “After two years of not being able to do anything, I think we all just realized how much we missed it,” Bello says.
Adds Teti: “It was a really cool time of revitalization in the band. Illusory Walls was unlike any record we’d done, so being able to document bringing it on tour, in both video and audio, was really special. I know so many bands that just folded during all this stuff, but we were never going to let that happen. In fact, I feel like we do most things out of spite – like we enjoy making things harder on ourselves. ”