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Telethon Gets Lost on the Internet, Faces the Apocalypse on New Rock Opera 'The Grand Spontanean': Premiere
Telethon needed to shake things up on their third album.
The Milwaukee pop-punk quintet cleverly mused on the mundane anxieties of everyday life on their previous full-lengths, 2015’s Witness and 2016’s Citrosis, but were determined not to retread similar territory this time. Instead, they checked their inhibitions at the door and wrote The Grand Spontanean, a 90-minute, 30-song, five-act punk rock opera about scouring the Internet and preparing for the end of the world -- and today (Sept. 26), we’re premiering it.
Lead singer, rhythm guitarist and lyricist Kevin Tully describes The Grand Spontanean’s epic, Biblical-scale plot:
It all revolves around a normal, millennial-era dude -- like me or I’m assuming you -- just a person who’s slightly screen-addicted. And he’s going through tough times in his relationships with people, and various anxieties and worry and pushing away people around him. That’s how it begins. So he starts going to therapy in around the third or fourth song. And he hears some stuff that’s hard to hear, gets some stuff to work on, and ultimately he winds up where he always winds up at night, which is on the internet, just looking at nothing in particular. And he stumbles upon a website that is “The Page at the End of the Internet,” which is a mysterious website prophesying the end of the world in only a couple weeks, in a sort of grisly fashion. And it sends him spiraling, because for some reason or another he believes it, as we do when something triggers our imagination and anxiety at the same time. We believe it. And he keeps it to himself, and eventually the rest of the world finds it too, through some means that isn’t really explained. And that sets off a series of apocalyptic events that comprise the second half of the record.
Sound intense? That’s putting it mildly. But despite its fantastical, sci-fi bent, Tully admits much of the record’s first half was inspired by current political events, as the band started writing in April of 2016. “Even before the shit went down with the election and everything, it was the idea of just -- not even just fake news, but just the instant kind of reactions that we have to things these days, whether that be the public shaming cycle or just the entire fake news aspect that’s all over the Internet right now,” he says. “We’re quick to react without letting things incubate for as long as they need to, and that was starting to make me feel particularly anxious, on a sort of apocalyptic level.”
Rather than wallow in its own existential dread, however, The Grand Spontanean soars with robust emo anthems that take cues from the twin-guitar attack of Thin Lizzy and the heartland sentiment of Bruce Springsteen. Produced by black metal and indie-punk veteran Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Jeff Rosenstock), the record also features cameos from The Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay and Less Than Jake singer Roger Lima.
“If you put in the subject line of an email, ‘Hey we’re making a rock opera and we want you to play a cult leader,’ it tends to catch attention,” Tully jokes. “I was talking to [Lima] on Facebook Messenger at the time, and I was like, ‘I cannot believe this is happening.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah man, I just sang that shit!’ And it was insane. Those are some of my best memories of making the record.”
Telethon’s The Grand Spontanean comes out on Sept. 29 via Halloween Records. They’re also releasing a limited edition box set that includes a monster playbill replete with liner notes, individual artwork and lyrics for each song. Pre-order the album on Bandcamp and listen to the full stream below.