Danny Davis knows the galvanizing power of an anthemic, hair-raising song. As the co-founding songwriter behind the long-running Oklahoma City indie rock outfit Husbands, he’s been meticulously crafting breezy and emotionally potent tunes about finding your place in the world. His writing always strives to break free from monotony and routine, aiming for meaning and clarity through massive choruses and colorful arrangements. Cuatro, Husbands’ adventurous and triumphant fourth album out Oct. 13 via Thirty Tigers, marks a turning point for Davis. It’s the first LP he’s released without his longtime bandmate, collaborator, and close friend Wil Norton. It’s also an album that Davis made during a time of relative personal stability after quitting his nine-to-five and moving with his wife to Costa Rica. Across 11 arena-filling and richly-produced tracks, the full-length is a document of his growth as a human being and a testament to finding peace in relationships evolving.
Throughout his career, Davis’ songs have tackled the soul-crushing grind of day jobs and his unwavering desire to be a full-time musician. Now that he got his wish and was happily living in Costa Rica to focus solely on music, he needed to reframe his relationship to songwriting. “Before I quit my job, music was an outlet to channel negativity into some sort of release,” says Davis, citing the grind of his one-time software engineering job and growing up in Oklahoma’s bible belt as his reasons to let loose. With one of the major conflicts in his life now resolved, he decided to go back to the basics of why he loved music in the first place by writing universal and inviting songs you could easily grab onto. “I grew up with popular music—it’s what my dad listened to—and I still love it as an art form,” he says. “I just wanted to make an album for people to be able to sing along and feel a connection through it.” Davis points to watching a video of Coldplay on tour playing “Fix You,” initially as a joke but then being brought to tears by their sincerity, as an inspirational flashpoint.
With this “big songs only” mentality, Davis found moments of resonance and catharsis. The sunny opener “Super New China” takes its name from a local grocery store run by Chinese immigrants Davis and his wife walk to on the beach. Over a funky, Prince-evoking bassline, Davis sings, “Focus on the positives, settle down your nerves / A sun warped plastic swimming pool chair / Sea salt and white sand in your hair / Who couldn’t love you, babe?” It’s a song about letting go of the past’s baggage and embracing happiness when you can. Another track, “Face Molt,” a crunchy Weezer-inspired single captures a similar euphoria when you embrace independence. Davis sings, “Molting in the undergrowth / When your hair is down and the sun is low / You can find peace in an anecdote.”
As Davis welcomed this new chapter in his life, Norton’s amicable departure from Husbands marked a bittersweet closing of another. For the past decade, the two were inseparable bandmates and collaborators but where Davis’ dream was to be in a band and make music for the rest of his life, Norton found as much meaning in starting a family and a new career. This is life and this is how longtime relationships can evolve but Davis needed to process how circumstances and people can change. Cuatro is an album about being in transition for better or for worse: what happens when you get what you want but it’s not exactly as you imagine? Davis captures this melancholy in the bombastic lead single “Can’t Do Anything.” Over atmospheric synths and rich harmonies, Davis sings, “It’s a pointless small thing that means everything to me now.” Despite the exultant chorus, the song is about knowing what you want, even if those closest to you have different priorities.
While most of Husbands’ catalog has been recorded at Davis’ home studio, for this album he brought his touring band bassist Zach Zeller and drummer Alberto Roubert to Chad Copelin’s Blackwatch Studio in Norman, OK to flesh out Cuatro. “Having Zach and Berto involved in the recording was just ultra-positive,” says Davis. “We’d just drink beers and have a great time. I love what they have to say musically and it felt like we were just hanging out.” The result is Husbands’ most dynamic and variegated LP yet: the songs soar with the technicolored ambition of bands like Tame Impala and MGMT while maintaining crisp hooks and memorable melodies. Songs like “Lost Weekend” maintain a propulsive jangle-pop energy while others, like, “Old Town” nostalgically evoke classic sunny pop.
For as much vitality as Cuatro can boast at its most powerful moments, there are no easy answers or resolutions in these. Beneath the golden serotonin-inducing rush on singles “Used to Surf,” which is partly inspired by Kirk Hammett’s hobby from Some Kind of Monster, is a yearning and a warning about losing yourself in the daily, universal anxieties. Davis understands this and is ready to take life as it comes. With all the changes that inevitably happen unexpectedly, you have to roll with the punches and breathe when you can. Sometimes the big revelation comes from something as simple as a communal chorus in a well-written tune.husbandsokc.com/