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For their debut album, the seven members of CLIFFDIVER wanted to make a record that really represented who they were. That’s because, although the band have previously released two EPs – 2018’s Small Hours and the following year’s At Your Own Risk – Exercise Your Demons is the first record they’ve made that features what they now consider to be their final line-up, following the permanent addition of vocalist of Briana Wright. Already an outfit that was both proudly genre-defying and unashamedly emo, after Wright appeared on their 2020 single “Gas City”, they knew she had to join the band properly.
“This is the first recording that really captures us,” says co-vocalist Joey Duffy. “It was a cool opportunity to change, reinvent and just get weird with it.”
“We definitely haven’t painted ourselves into a corner musically,” says Wright, “but we also wanted to establish that we’re an authority on emo – especially for me, from a representative standpoint.”
Produced by Seth Henderson and mastered by Will Yip, the result is a record that not only captures the musical essence of the band – completed by guitarists/vocalists Matt Ehler and Gilbert Erickson, bassist Tyler Rogers, saxophonist Dony Nickles and drummer Eliot Cooper – but which also builds off their homegrown success. That’s something which has seen them share stages with K. Flay in Tulsa and the likes of Hot Water Music, The Wonder Years, Spanish Love Songs and more at last year’s iteration of Fest, as well as get airplay on Tulsa’s esteemed radio station 104.5 The Edge and sign with SideOneDummy Records. They’ve also played a lot of disc golf.
A deep exploration of grief inspired by a recurring dream Duffy had about a late ex-fiancée, the nine songs that comprise Exercise Your Demons fling the door wide open musically for the band while also making important statements about mental health. Both Duffy and Wright have survived suicide attempts in the past, and they want this record to offer hope and strength to anyone who hears it. It is, by its very existence, a testament to what happens if you don’t let your demons win.
“Neither of us should be here,” admits Duffy, who was diagnosed as bi-polar at 25, and who recently celebrated nine months of sobriety, “We know what it’s like to be alone with the thought that the world would be better without you, and we’re proof that it can get better. You, too, are resilient. The things that were breaking you a year ago aren’t breaking you now.”
At the same time as pushing the importance of resilience in the face of adversity, the album is also a much-needed reminder that life is still beautiful and worthwhile – and always is.
“We feel that responsibility as people who have been there,” says Wright. “So we’ll sit in the mud with you and talk about it, and we hope our little bit of courage can explode to something that’s bigger than us. Because it’s not about us, it’s about what we’re talking about and the connection that we call the fabric, because it creates strength. We’re just trying to make a bigger net to catch more people.”
CLIFFDIVER is: Joey Duffy (Vocals), Matt Ehler (Guitar/Vocals), Briana Wright (Vocals), Gilbert Erickson (Guitar/Vocals), Tyler Rogers (Bass), Dony Nickles (Saxophone), and Eliot Cooper (Drums).