Forever Night, the new album and Dangerbird Records debut from Night Shop, is out today on all stores and streaming platforms. Listen/share HERE.

Two singles preceded today’s full release: “Let Me Let It Go” and lead single “Forever Night.”

Forever Night is the latest album from Night Shop, the songwriting project of Justin Sullivan and his first full length album on Dangerbird Records. 

Before launching the band in 2017, Sullivan’s primary musical contributions came from behind the drum kit. A frequent collaborator with Kevin Morby —playing with Morby and Cassie Ramone in The Babies and then performing on Morby’s first four studio albums and playing steadily in his touring band until 2016—Sullivan has also performed live with Waxahatchee, Hand Habits and Anna St. Louis, and continues to play in LA post-punk outfit Flat Worms. 

But while those musical experiences created a musical education of sorts for Sullivan, the genesis of Night Shop was found in stepping away from music for a time. “I lost a good friend and former bandmate under tragic, heartbreaking circumstances,” recalls Sullivan, “and I had been missing a lot of life events back home, which culminated in me having a panic attack in a tour van in Portugal. I needed to take myself off the road and tend to my mental health and relationships. I also had to accept that I might not tour again — that I might not be able to sustain that kind of life anymore.” 

That period of retreating from music as a full time affair, working a steady job and addressing his health resulted in a renewal of sorts. “It was really transformative; music became simple again,” explains Sullivan. “It was the thing I couldn’t wait to do when I got home from work. It allowed me to reconnect with the joy of just creating.” 

It was also the first time he had picked up a guitar with the intention of writing songs. 

“From my first high school punk band,” says Sullivan, “I was always writing lyrics and would sing while playing drums, but I never picked up other instruments. For me, drums felt sort of safe — like the most ‘practical trade’ or something. A lot of the journey of this project, and me playing music in general, is overcoming shame. Namely the shame that music was something for other, more special people to do.” 

The latest signpost on this journey is Forever Night, a record that begins with the titular song, moving with the jacked-up pace of a long forgotten power pop anthem being hummed on a city avenue outside the late night cafe. As Sullivan puts it: 

“It’s a song about feeling grateful and inspired by the pace and lessons of the city and the pace and lessons of getting to experience a life spent playing music.” 

From there, the album flows through various sonic moods and tones while the lyrics invoke literary themes and imagery, like a back-pocket paperback brought to an all-night diner, where an old jazz standard plays. 

There’s the slow burn ballad and Ulysses-referencing “For a While”, which Sullivan says is about making peace with the past: “What if ‘coming home’ really just meant acceptance?” 

The Divine Comedy inspired-“Let Me Let It Go” is an exuberant rave-up that sets its early-rock-and-roll rhythms and shining horn arrangements to a “meditation on courtly love”, referencing the moment when Dante saw his muse Beatrice in the town square. “A journey to hell, the pursuit of art, the Shangri-Las, and finding peace in what is, not how we think things should be,” Sullivan says. 

A life spent on the road is reflected in the frequent geographical name checks on the record—from Pensacola to Paris to the New Jersey Turnpike—as well as Sullivan’s jubilance in revealing influences that range from classic film noir to Andrew Lloyd Weber to to the seedy underbelly of Old Hollywood to Ani DiFranco. 

The disparate influences are held together by common earnestness and even optimism, especially striking when Sullivan is foretelling of certain doom. To wit, “The End of Time” which he says is: “an attempt to capture what it feels like when the world feels like it is cascading towards oblivion and yet, somehow you can still feel such unbridled excitement when you see a certain person walk into the room.” 

While the lyrics are clearly the driving force of the experience, the sonic vision of the record was also one that was thoughtfully considered. 

Forever Night features a reunion with Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), a long time touring compatriot in the Kevin Morby band and their first time on vinyl together since Morby’s City Music. Duffy provides bass to most of the songs and sings on “Just to Get Home”. Another frequent collaborator Jarvis Taveniere (Purple Mountains, Woods) co-produced the album, which also features Evan Weiss (Sparks) on guitar, drummer Tiffanie Lanmon and Alex Fischel (Spoon) as well as backing vocal performances from Jess Williamson on “For a While” and Anna St. Louis on “Let Me Let It Go”. 

The warm feeling of a tight-knit band playing music together late into the night is an authentic one. The primary sessions for the album took place over a three day period at Valentine’s, a classic ‘60s Los Angeles recording studio that had fallen into disrepair and had only recently been revitalized, with the original recording console, cavernous room sound and aesthetic touches preserved. The band tracked live with Sullivan singing much of the vocals in a first take along with the band. 

“Previously — due to the constraints of costs and time — I would build records from the ground up,” explains Sullivan,” and work with whatever schedule best accommodated the friends who were playing on the song. I like working that way, but my favorite recording experiences were always when the band is truly locked in, playing the songs together live in the studio. That feeling of total, unspoken connection.” 

And while Forever Night is clearly his most realized work and the sound of a songwriter fully coming into his own, it’s this sense of continuum of working with others that Sullivan says is the through line that defines all of his endeavors: 

“This is a special album to me but it is also merely part of the continued joy of making music with my friends. If we’re still here, after all these years, then we’re very, very lucky. So let’s enjoy it and let’s do it to honor those who couldn’t make it to this day, for whatever reason. Let’s not take it for granted.” 

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