The finality of death often spurs a reevaluation of life. For 8-Inch Betsy’s Eli Burke, the loss of bandmate Meghan Galbraith to illness was both shocking and devastating, but the record they made together, The Mean Days, proved to be a vehicle for the catharsis of grief.
8-Inch Betsy has been scraping by in the underground for more than a decade. The erstwhile Chicago queercore band toured with the likes of Gossip, Marnie Stern, and Jucifer, but never really had quite the impact outside of Chicago that they did at home. By the time Galbraith became ill last fall, The Mean Days was already recorded — the process had started in 2010 — and the band had even re-tracked the drums after their drummer quit for a second time.
But it was during a hospital visit from Burke, in which Galbraith gave the go-ahead to make the final push to release The Mean Days, that the album came together in earnest. When Galbraith’s condition didn’t improve and she passed in January of this year, the release took on new significance for the people she left behind. “At that point, it was like, ‘It has to happen now, I need to do this,'” Burke says. “Then grief kicked in, and it was really hard for me to let go of it. I knew I had to release it, and I wanted to. It was really important for me and her family and Steve Albertson, who’s one of her best friends, to get it out there. But I was having this sort of… once I get it out there, it’s over. And I don’t have that.”
The Mean Days is brash, loud, and personal, exploring the human condition, relationships, and the chaos and absurdity of life. As Galbraith once told Ohio State newspaper The Lantern: “Our songs are inspired by life experiences, relationships and everything that you can’t say out loud.”
The track we premiere here, “Water,” is a bit of a departure from 8-Inch Betsy’s brand of earnest, queercore pop punk. A slow burn, it builds from a sparse arrangement into a screaming crescendo; by the song’s third minute, you can almost hear the pain pouring out from her into the microphone as she closes it out:
“And I have songs that make you sad. And they never run out, they never run out like you.”
Burke recalls the power of Galbraith’s live performance of the song, memories of fleeting moments that were sadly never recorded. “It was amazing live, just her energy,” Burke says. “It was really personal, about a relationship that she had, and it showed when she would perform live. It was really intense.”
The Mean Days is out November 13 on 307 Knox Records.