It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times for the Scarlet Ending. The six-piece Syracuse-based indie rockers released a new album, The Things You Used to Own (Fierce Little Records), last month with producer Steve Haigler, who has worked with groups like Brand New, The Pixies and As Tall As Lions. They’ve got a high-profile management company, Sunshine Sachs, whose other clients include Usher and Bon Jovi. And they’re booking shows in New York City as well as Syracuse.
But after nearly 12 years of making music together, adulthood is slowly creeping into the lives of founding members Kayleigh and Kaleena Goldsworthy.
“I’m sometimes nostalgic about how simple it was when we were all
together playing and living in Syracuse,” says Kayleigh, who moved to
Brooklyn a year-and-a-half ago to further a solo career, and now lives
on Long Island. “But everyone in the band is moving to different places,
Kayleigh’s twin sister, Kaleena, lives in Oswego, where she pursues her own musical side projects while grinding out 40 hours a week at a local bank. “It’s not very rock’n’roll,” she says. “They make me wear flair.”
Bassist Aaron Garritillo recently moved to Pennsylvania. And the remaining three members—Jon Tedd, Nick Streeter and Jess Hafner—are scattered throughout Central New York.
On Friday, Sept. 7, however, all six members will make their way to the Lost Horizon, 5863 Thompson Road, for a 7:30 p.m. CD release party. (Black Throat Wind and Rejouissance open the evening. Tickets are $10; call 446-1934 for details.) And despite the band’s long-distance working relationship, their music rages on as hauntingly powerful as ever.
The Goldsworthy ladies formed the Scarlet Ending during their school days at Baker High in Baldwinsville, graduating in 2004. And even then the industry proved rough.
“Girls didn’t like us because they thought their boyfriends wanted to date us,” Kaleena Goldsworthy recalls. “And guys didn’t like us because no guy wants to admit he likes a chick band.”
Since then, various incarnations of the band have enjoyed steadily growing success. In 2006, they won a Syracuse Area Music Award (Sammy) for best pop recording. In 2008 and 2009, they toured with Armed Forces Entertainment in Europe and Asia. Their songs have been featured on MTV’s The Hills and VH1’s Tool Academy.
The Scarlet Ending still makes records and plays one-and-done shows between Syracuse and New York City. Yet both sisters are looking ahead to what’s next. “We’re at a growing-up crossroads,” says Kaleena Goldsworthy. “We’re juggling jobs with playing shows and recording albums. We’re certainly not done with the music, but we’re kind of in limbo.”
The new album’s title, The Things You Used to Own, is a veiled reference to the group’s looming adulthood. Kaleena describes it as an allusion to growing up and facing universal themes of love, loss, resentment and anger with a newfound sense of nostalgia. “It’s a very mature progression for us,” Kayleigh adds.
And on top of it all, the title is a Fight Club reference. “The things you used to own, now they own you,” reads a line from Chuck Palahniuk’s cult classic novel upon which the Brad Pitt movie is based.
As with their previous album, Ghosts (2010, Fierce Little Records), the band’s latest release is shrouded in a sinister darkness completely at odds with the sweet, chirpy dispositions of the sisterly duo. Biting lyrics such as, “If you’re getting tired, just load the barrel, aim and fire,” litter the album, but there’s no trace of any such vitriol in conversation with either sister.
“The Scarlet Ending is very theatrical, almost like some sort of cabaret carnival,” Kayleigh says with a chuckle. “And lyrically, we’re very cryptic and dark.”
The bouncy palm-muted guitar jaunt that opens “Skeletons,” the album’s second track, best encapsulates the vaudevillian gloom Kayleigh describes. Dissonant keys, haunting melodic vocals and ample crash cymbals quickly overpower the muted riff generating a sound that’s half punk rock ballad and half Danny Elfman score.
“We cloak common themes in fancy embellishments, making it very dark and creepy,” Kayleigh says. “It’s almost like a Tim Burton film.”
With the album completed and no upcoming tours planned, both sisters have undertaken projects beyond the Scarlet Ending. Kayleigh’s solo career is blossoming in Brooklyn, where she’s opened for acts such as Chuck Ragan and Against Me! The latter band’s drummer—who happens to be Max Weinberg’s son—is playing on Kayleigh’s debut album, Burrower (Fierce Little Records), scheduled for release next month.
A self-proclaimed “music nerd,” Kaleena’s musical outlet revolves around composition. Currently, she’s working on scoring a rock opera. . . about zombies. “It’s a love story,” she says cheerily. “I want to combine classical music with rock, kind of like Phillip Glass does.” She’s spent hours “researching” the opera, primarily studying the films of zombie godfather George A. Romero. “I want to hold true to the classic Romero zombie,” she says. “And that zombie can’t talk, so there are lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs.’ I’m really nerding out about it.”