The Madison band finds space for joy with its new single and video.
Photo: In a still from the “No Burden” video, the four members of LINE ride in a convertible. Members Esther Chun and Austin Lynch ride in the front seat. Members Maddie Batzli and Will Ault sit on top of the back seats, in the middle of playful dance moves.
The fizzy synthesizer that opens LINE’s new single, “No Burden,” propels the Madison band out of the restive shadow of its 2020 debut EP, Choosing Sides. Drawing on the emotional subtlety and themes of difficult personal growth that made Choosing Sides a standout release, “No Burden” harnesses an elusive, pent-up energy and uses it to capture a sense of hard-won joy and release. It’s not a brainless, happy-go-lucky joy, but a joy that sneaks up on you in the midst of struggle.
“I’m done with working / Been doing that for too long / I’m done with hurting / I know, I keep making the same old songs,” songwriter/vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player Maddie Batzli declares as the track picks up momentum. The “No Burden” music video, directed by Alex Grant with assistant director Ji Sung Kim, makes it clear that this song is about letting go and seizing the freshness and possibility of a new day. It starts with Batzli singing plaintively in their apartment window, waiting on bandmades Will Ault (drums), Esther Chun (vocals), and Austin Lynch (bass). Soon the four are dancing in fields and zipping down country roads in a blue Miata. There’s also a detour to a skatepark. (Another video for “No Burden” captures friends of the band dancing to the song.)
During the ups and downs of the pandemic, the band went for long stretches without getting a chance to practice or write together. Batzli began spending more time learning the production tools in Logic, and incorporating more electronic elements into their songwriting process.
“Non-binary folks and women are hugely underrepresented in electronic music production and I realized I was falling into the trap of not thinking I had what it took as an AFAB non-binary person to become technically skilled at making my own beats or synth parts,” Batzli says. “So this was a bit of a rebellion against that lack of representation as well.”
Batzli had a day—in the midst of pondering their personal struggles and the massive injustices all around us—that inspired them to make what they call a “joyful and honest” dance track.
“I took a week off of work in mid-May to give myself more time to work on music and spend time with family, and I wrote ‘No Burden’ on the first day of that week off while I was on a walk—a near-daily habit I adopted during Covid—because I woke up with this lightness and joy that I usually don’t feel right when I wake up,” Batzli says. “I struggle with anxiety, so that’s usually the predominant feeling I have when I wake up in the morning.”
The songs on Choosing Sides build on a mix of folk and pop elements, and these days it’s not a huge leap from there to using synths and drum samples. The band’s previous arrangements have been tasteful and restrained, and so is this electronic one. The biggest change is pacing. Earlier LINE songs like “Monday Morning” and “Changing” move to fraught rhythms that pull between tension and resigned lulls. “No Burden” stays resolutely upbeat, and even the quieter moments build up gentle anticipation. Imagine coming out of an hour of fussy city traffic and onto a nice clear straightaway, and the video’s scenes of convertible joyrides make perfect sense. The sheer letting-go makes the song both a departure from and a good companion to the rest of LINE’s material.
“The songs in Choosing Sides are really aching and angsty and definitely describe that tug between experiencing pain and still feeling hope, but ‘No Burden’ centers the vulnerability of joy more than the vulnerability of pain that Choosing Sides centers,” Batzli says.
The band has had a few months to work together on new songs and even play a few shows, including one coming up on September 30 at Delta Beer Lab. Not all of the new stuff will sound like “No Burden”—”I am definitely not done writing songs about struggle, ha,” Batzli says. But it will be exciting to see LINE grow into its expanding emotional and sonic range.
There’s more where this came from.
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