FUNERALHOMES’ HAUNTS EP cover (design by Josh Mason)

Let me tell you about this Brad Heyne guy, this Everett guy, this bartending while basically playing a show at the same time guy, this FUNERALHOMES guy. But here’s the thing: I can’t, not really. This is what happens sometimes when two introverts inhabit the same spaces, even over the span of several years. I’ve seen him in Preacher’s Wife/TELLERS, but I haven’t really zeroed in on him until now. But right now? I feel kind of laser focused, and it feels good.

FUNERALHOMES’ freshman offering, the HAUNTS EP, is a self-contained song cycle, each track supporting the others while revealing the facets of a shattered relationship filtered through the scouring sands and bleaching sun of the Californian coast. The result may initially resemble the sonics of an abandoned John Hughes film (as a friend so incisively observed), but I’d argue that if that’s true, it’s a story that comes later in life, after the horny teenage longing of Sixteen Candles and Pretty In Pink. There is a resignedness to HAUNTS that bleeds through the nostalgic beauty of the (mostly) electronic music, adding a poignancy that no high schooler could embody. It’s this juxtaposition that makes EP completely fascinating and worth repeated listens even after the urge to simply enfold yourself in the melodies has faded.

HAUNTS opens with “Monterey,” with successive songs named after various California beach towns scattered up and down the coast. “Monterey” instantly evokes the feeling of ocean waves breaking over your bare toes while the sun gets in your eyes and the breeze blows your hair back toward the mainland. Heyne’s voice is even-keeled and calm throughout the bloodless rehashing of events and regrets on HAUNTS; he recounts feelings of anger and of loneliness in the same soothing tone for the duration of the album. He repeatedly uses water imagery to signal loss, being adrift and far from home. You get the feeling that he’s moved past the pain, and that these songs are a way to lay all the hurt to its final rest.

“Big Sur” is easily the peppiest track of the bunch, and deservedly the advance single. A drum machine drives the track along propulsively as Heyne intones that “you and I were meant to die/ in someone else’s arms.” Waves of nostalgia and memories ebb and surge with the lyric, and TELLERS/I Will Keep Your Ghost’s Sarah Feinberg provides warm backing vocal echoes. Washes of saxophone by Stephen Sky and flourishes of acoustic guitar flesh out this gorgeous song full of longing and moving on.

“Lucia” is an ominous, foggish instrumental that serves as a bridge between “Big Sur” and “Morro Bay,” and their order is concurrent with their locations on a map. “Morro Bay” tackles the mental turmoil and processing of heartbreak amid successive layers of synths. “Santa Cruz” is a slow burner; self-reflection while lying on the floor of a motel room never sounded so shiningly beautiful.

“Venice” closes out the EP, and it’s here that the breakup is actually happening, and it’s heartbreaking to listen to the words as he sings them in his perpetually matter-of-fact, chilled out voice. Heyne is still full with the possibilities of the relationship when he is told that it’s over, and that he “wasn’t so easy.” The hurt is palpable, despite the deadpan delivery.

If you visit FUNERALHOMES’ Bandcamp page, there is a sticker selling for $50, and it reads “FUNERALHOMES IS SAD.” And if you’re judging by the lyrics, it’s a simple jump to agree with that sentiment. But the whole of HAUNTS is awash in the hope contained in the music, and it’s a feeling so strong that it’s like a hug. You know it’s gonna be okay.

FUNERALHOMES has a cassette release show this Saturday, 10/24 at the Everett VFW Post 2100 opening for Oliver Elf Army and I Will Keep Your Ghost. The show is presented by the three bands’ label, Palmer House Tapes, with an afterparty at Lucky Dime. Oliver Elf Army is belatedly celebrating the release of their first full album, Oliver Elf Army are sending thoughts and prayers as well as a cassingle release through Palmer House that includes the new songs “Heavy Metal Attack” and “Hussey.” Palmer House is an Everett label named for the Laura Palmer house on Rucker Hill, and is helmed by I Will Keep Your Ghost’s Bryan Bradley. Bradley grew the label out of a love for cassette tapes as well as an acknowledgement of the high prices and long lead times for pressing vinyl. In Bradley’s mind, tapes are a fun and cost effective merch option for smaller, local bands, which makes sense.

Listen to HAUNTS below:

Christine Mitchell has been poring over album liner notes pretty much since she acquired the skill of reading, and figured out the basic structure of rock songs at an early age. Whether it’s the needle popping into the first groove of the record, the beeps that signal the beginning (or end) of a cassette tape, or digital numbers ticking off the seconds from zero, music brings Christine happiness, ponderous thought, opportunities for almost scientific study, and sometimes a few tears. When she started attending live shows two decades ago, a whole new piece of the puzzle clicked in and she has been hooked ever since.