Finch have a complicated relationship with the concept of “legacy.” The Southern California band has undeniably created a lasting, formidable body of work with their two studio albums and EPs - singer Nate Barcalow acknowledges that 2002’s What It Is To Burn all but “defined post-hardcore early in the decade”, while 2005’s Say Hello to Sunshine continued to shape its direction. At the same time, Finch witnessed their influence manifest in scores of imitators. The band dignified the demand for a celebration of What It Is To Burn’s 10th anniversary by reforming after a hiatus and playing select sold-out shows across the country. They also saw the potential for it to be a nostalgic dead end; would they simply be another act feeding off the goodwill of their past work? Inspired by the creative surge brought on by these shows, Finch rendered these contradictions moot with Back to Oblivion, their long-awaited third LP and a new, bold chapter in the band’s legacy.
Back to Oblivion itself is a paradoxical idea. This is Finch reinvigorated, brimming with the inspiration of their earliest days; the opposite of the negation implied by “oblivion.” But as a songwriting unit, they’re challenging themselves by going deep into the unknown - this is by far Finch’s most introspective and demanding work from a lyrical standpoint, and songs such as “Murder Me”, “Anywhere But Here”, “Play Dead”, “Two Guns To The Temple” give the listener fair warning of where Barcalow is willing to venture. Back to Oblivion is also Finch’s first record since signing with Razor & Tie, aligning themselves with fellow punk stalwarts such as Yellowcard, The Sword and Chiodos.
But these challenges are nothing new for Finch, a band that has always met uncertainty head on. Forming in the late 90s, prior to the democratization offered by the internet, the band then known as Numb was fueled by the immense amount of self-belief required to make it out of Temecula, California - a city whose A-list residents are the current Miss Teen USA, several retired athletes and zero rock bands of note. Marooned from both the industry epicenter of Los Angeles and Orange County’s punk cachet, Finch evolved as a motivated, fiercely independent band that escaped easy categorization - too beholden to those funny things called “songs” and “melodies” to be lumped into the hardcore scene, too raw and jagged to catch onto the variants of pop-punk, emo and post-hardcore became essentially synonymous with “alt-rock.”
After the chart and critical success of both Burn and Sunshine, it seemed as if Finch was winding down an accomplished career - a self-released EP in 2008 proved Finch’s continuing relevance amidst the MySpace era, and also a proper stopping point. Barcalow had started new projects, guitarist Alex Linares had gotten deep into a culinary career, one not all that far removed from the sleep-all-day, work-all-night grind of recording and touring. Meanwhile, guitarist Randy Strohmeyer moved across the country to Atlanta for a change of scenery and to forge a different musical path; “I did graphic design and DJ'd and promoted a Brit Pop/glam/indie weekly. I also started playing in a band called XO with my friends who were just as obsessed with My Bloody Valentine as I am.” The love for Finch ran deep, but as each of the members began to explore their diverse outside interests, it could only resurface given the right elements.
Surreptitiously serving as a quasi-matchmaker, Finch’s manager reached out to individual members to propose a single reunion show in Pomona; this would be the first time they were joined on stage by drummer Alex Pappas since 2004. This started the process of Finch falling in love with Finch again. “Whenever the five of us get into a room together with our instruments it's almost inevitable that we will start playing little riffs, getting excited about them and transforming them into actual songs,” Strohmeyer explains. “Writing songs is never something we plan on. It's just pure pleasure for us.” As the What It Is To Burn tour proceeded, they started incorporating new track “Back to Oblivion” into the setlist, their first new song in nearly five years. It’s now the title track and the opener of the album that resulted after sessions with Grammy-nominated producer Brian Virtue (Deftones, Jane’s Addiction).
Bassist Daniel Wonacott recalls how these shows reminded the members of Finch what it was like to burn with the same passion that marked their first recording sessions - “I distinctly remember coming home from the first set of anniversary shows in CA and picking up the guitar to begin writing a new Finch record, the songs came fast. It turned into a yearlong obsession of writing material for what would become Back To Oblivion.” Pappas was likewise rejuvenated in the presence of his old bandmates, adding, “Coming back to writing a new record with this band just felt natural, even a few years later. We kept writing and writing until we knew we had something we could be proud of.”
While Back to Oblivion hits with the same intensity and force of their earliest work, Finch has matured as both human beings and musicians. Linares notes, “I’m not as technical of a guitarist as I used to be, but we’re better songwriters. Nate‘s voice has never sounded better.” Barcalow laughs and simply attributes it to being smarter about how he uses his energy, feeding off the energy of the audience to give new meaning to their most beloved songs.
This past summer, Finch returned to the Warped Tour as a respected veteran; this was once a scene where they had been the newcomer with something to prove. Strohmayer recalls, “I think back to when we were first on the Warped Tour and we were just blown away by seeing Brett Gurewitz and Bad Religion in the catering line.” Finch are that band for many of the up-and-coming hardcore acts, ones who grew up listening to What It Is To Burn, but now get to hear them as peers with Back to Oblivion. Wonacott sees things similarly, adding, “I guess it’s a reality that we are a bit of an older band and the kids coming up can look to Finch records. But we have our eyes on the future. We have much more to give musically” And so Finch managed to find the best way possible to honor their legacy: by creating a new one.