Ferocious Designs, the music project of central New Jersey-based songwriter Brian Kelley, has released its debut EP, A Matter of Time, a five-song collection of material Kelley has recorded over the past few years. The EP is available now via Bandcamp and will soon be on most streaming/download services via DistroKid.
A Matter of Time features five songs Kelley recorded as demos with GarageBand over the past decade, and has cleaned up a bit for this release. “Between the pandemic and recently turning 50, I just figured it was finally time to get some of my songs in reasonably release-ready condition — to the best of my limited abilities, anyway — and put something out into the world.”
Although he has spent most of the past 35 years as a songwriting hobbyist, Kelley is not a complete stranger to the New Jersey music scene. He collaborated with singer-songwriter Christian Beach in a band during the late 1980s and early 90s that played the long-gone and much-missed Green Parrot Rock Club in Neptune, NJ, multiple times. Kelley has played keyboards, accordion and percussion in Beach's backing band since 2007, playing a number of iconic Jersey Shore venues in the process, and has recorded with Beach as well.
“My stuff is completely different than Christian’s, of course,” said Kelley. “My personal musical style has always tended to be more electronic, pop and prog.”
Kelley said he is using the project name Ferocious Designs because it is a lyric from a Marillion song — “Cover My Eyes (Pain and Heaven)” — that always stuck with him as a possible band name. “Also, the guy from Florida Georgia Line who has the same name and even spells it the same exact way just released a solo EP this year, so I wanted to alleviate any confusion.”
The lead track, “What a Time to Be Alive,” was written in January 2020 as a response to the climate-change debate. But then the pandemic hit and the words took on a whole new meaning. “I listen to it now and forget it wasn’t written about the pandemic, because the lyrics still apply— perhaps even more so ,” said Kelley.
The second track, “Get Back into Line,” was originally written in reaction to the Tea Party-led federal government shutdown in early 2013. Sadly, the lyrics still resonate today. “Musically, I was going for something a bit cold and stark,” said Kelley. “I had just seen Midge Ure live for the first time in ages back in January 2013, and I think you can hear a hint of Ultravox’s classic ‘Vienna’ in the overall vibe of the song.”
“Years Go By” is the third track on A Matter of Time and serves as a faux title track. It’s also the most accessible song on the EP. “I wrote this in 2019 and it’s literally about my anxiety about class reunions,” said Kelley. “I’m generally a nostalgic person by nature and love the idea of reminiscing with old friends. However, I likely have nothing in common with those people anymore so it’s probably best to just leave those memories in the past.” Musically, the song was initially inspired by Tame Impala’s “Patience.” “I was listening to that a lot at the time and wanted to try my hand at writing something like that,” said Kelley. “But I’m not Kevin Parker so it never really got to that point.”
The EP’s fourth track, “Lay It on the Line,” started out as a collaboration with Kelley’s former Technology and the Arts podcast co-host John LeMasney. “During the final season of the podcast in 2015, John and I were going to spend most of the series working on a song so viewers and listeners could follow along,” said Kelley. “The original idea for the song came from that project, but it was really just a chorus that I wrote and a verse that I built around a guitar riff John came up with.” The lyrics were inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of Ferguson in 2014. “The combination of the pandemic and the wider BLM protests around the world after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in 2020 led to my revisiting and completing the song,” said Kelley.
“You and Me Against the World” is a sweeping, 8-minute song about a couple overcoming a number of challenges. “I had read about the victims of 2018’s Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., and how they were basically trapped by flames, geography, and flawed city and emergency planning,” said Kelley. “And the song envisioned a couple who may have been on the verge of breaking up, but now had to work together to escape and survive. However, that got real dark real quick so the couple instead rallied to take on various unknown external forces working against them.” Musically, it draws inspiration from Keane and Lo Moon, especially their late 2018 single “For Me, It’s You.”
Ferocious Designs - A Matter of Time
1 “What a Time to Be Alive” 4:58
2 “Get Back into Line” [Explicit] 5:38
3 “Years Go By” 4:13
4 “Lay It on the Line” 6:04*
5 “You and Me Against the World” 8:00
All songs written, performed, programmed, produced and mixed by Brian Kelley, except:
* Music by Brian Kelley and John LeMasney; lyrics by Brian Kelley