Credit: Casey Pinckard

“Good music written by good people.”

That’s how Versus the World’s lead vocalist, Donald Spence, would describe the kind of music that he’s into. And that’s what their upcoming album, The Bastards Live Forever, is — a confessional punk album created by genuine musicians who want to talk about real pain and real experiences.

It’s been a while since we last heard from the Santa Barbara–based band, as their last album Homesick/Roadsick was released in 2015. Featuring members from Lagwagon and Good Riddance, Versus the World is finally back to tell the world what they’ve been up to for the past eight years. A record that’s been three years in the making, The Bastards Live Forever details Spence’s personal reflections and afflictions of his recent divorce.

“[It’s about] being alone. Breaking something. Owning up to it — that it was your fault that it broke. It’s a mirror,” Spence said in regards to how the divorce affected what the album was about. “The only way to get rid of demons is to first notice that you have them at all. So this record is kind of like an admission of guilt.”

These themes of guilt and pain are entwined in the first packed and punchy single for the album “Roadsick/Roadsick” — a callback to their previous album (available to stream here: Detailing the hardships of trying to save a broken relationship, the song is a bridge from the last album to the next. But instead of exploring the struggles of balancing tour life and home life, Spence is returning from the road and coming to terms with the fact that there is no home left for him.

As he powerfully and painfully belts “I’m afraid that I’m an atom bomb / Set off with the best intentions / But I just hurt everyone” in the song’s chorus, you can feel the heavy blow delivered by the confession of such a raw and deep-seated fear. Realizing that you may be the one to blame for hurting the ones you love is a hard pill to swallow, but Spence simultaneously regrets and accepts the heartbreaking truth of it all. When it comes to writing, he doesn’t ever sugarcoat the ugly details — he always delivers with raw honesty.

With this new album, it seems the band has had time to hone in on their skills and pay attention to the details. Spence and bandmate Tony Caraffa write every song together, and with new producer Cameron Webb on the scene, it seems like the supergroup has expertly crafted an album full of compelling lyrics, complex riffs, and high-energy drumming.

“The record got a little more intricate than the last one,” said Spence about the musical process. “We had more time to mess with it, and we had a year to write it, so I think the whole thing is more realized.”

For Spence, a standout track on the record is “Frank Sinatra.” As the opener of the album, it’s a hard hitter that gets straight to the point and introduces the album sonically.

The Bastards Live Forever is out May 26, and U.S. tour dates for fall 2023 are soon to be announced.


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