Love Letter: Defeater & Verse Co-Founders Discuss Their New Band, Debut Album

Photo: Jessie Mass

Released a couple of weeks ago, Everyone Wants Something Beautiful is the debut album from Love Letter, a new band featuring the founding members of Verse and Defeater. The LP finds the veteran musicians delivering elegant melodic hardcore and post-hardcore-driven songs with lyrics that hit hard.

Everyone Wants Something Beautiful was produced by Love Letter, with guitarist Jay Maas and bassist David Alcan handling the mix. Maas initially connected with Love Letter vocalist Quinn Murphy when the latter was fronting Verse, producing that band's 2008 Aggression album.

I spoke with Maas and Murphy about Love Letter's origin story, their debut LP, and other things personal.

Jay, your personal connection with Verse goes back a long time. Tell me a bit about how you entered each other’s orbit and why you connected with them.

Jay Maas (guitar, background vocals): Quinn and I stayed in contact after completing Aggression for Verse but probably didn’t start becoming closer until a few years after. Even though we only live about 90 minutes apart from one another, it would be more likely for us to run into each other nearly four thousand miles away in Europe at different festivals.

Without going too deep or specific, it became apparent that we both shared chaotic and unstable upbringings, and subsequently related to one another as adults in this corner of music who were still working on processing our pasts.

Over the years, it was just nice to be able to talk to someone who wasn’t made uncomfortable by that kind of subject matter, as it’s honestly really rare. Since then, we have found ourselves in each other’s corners time and time again when life throws its inevitable curveballs.

What was the initial spark behind forming Love Letter? Was it a lot of talk before you actually started getting to work together, or did it happen quickly?

Jay: I’d say there were probably 5 years in a group text, with some random sporadic phone calls before we really decided to get serious about the band. For me, it was when Quinn and I went to see Silent Drive’s first show in 17 years and we ran into our guitar player Matt [Spence].

Matt and I speak about as directly and unapologetically to one another as anyone could imagine (always with respect and love) and he just looked at me and basically said “We haven’t done anything yet because of YOU” and he was 100% correct. I’m not sure if he was secretly masterminding kicking me into gear, being his authentic self, or a combination of the two but either way, it definitely made me finally want to turn all of the talk into action.

Photo courtesy of Iodine Recordings

Did you discuss what specific stylistic direction you wanted to take the band during the early phases?

Jay: No, not really. I think we are all extremely aware of each other’s influences and writing styles. If anything, I think it was more that we knew by forming the members of the band would lead to a specific sound.

Every musician in Love Letter has a sound and what makes a band special is when that intricate combination of colors, textures, and dynamics come together to make something special and unique that couldn’t have existed in any other formation.

Getting into specific songs on the album, “Misanthropic Holiday or Vacation” was especially powerful, with the following line truly hitting me over the head: "Social media feeds feed you memes with bullet points wellness-pushers armed to the teeth pushing placebo supplements and bullshit remedies.”

Quinn Murphy, vocals: “Misanthropic Holiday or Vacation” is just based off of my own bullshit. The experiences I had trying to figure myself out and learning to navigate the U.S. healthcare system after repeated psychiatric hospitalizations. Like, you want to fix yourself and be ok and be ok for other people. That’s the goal, but the wildass mountain of confusion in front of you feels impossible to climb at times. If you’re low-income ,like I was/still am, it’s a nightmare to figure out how to get the help you need.

I don’t want to write a novel here so I’ll try to keep it short. A lot of people are born into some terrible environments: poverty, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, severe neglect, etc.. The chances of escaping that unscathed are nil. You can live in denial or dissociate yourself into oblivion but it’s going to catch up with you in some way. It’s going to spill over into everything and it’s going to affect others and ultimately, it can be endemic.

Some people will never recover from their trauma and it stems from a larger issue of inequality, exploitation, and oppression at the hands of power that is affecting the majority of the world. 

The album cover is a perfect fit for the music it's representing. Is there any story to that image?

Quinn: Well, it was basically a random fluke that was discovered later on when Jessie had some film developed after a little trip down to Florida for Fest. Jessie (Maas) is a huge part of Love Letter and basically considered a member of our band/collective of folks - without a doubt the glue that keeps us focused and united. The gratitude and respect we all have for Jessie is unmatched.

Forgive me for being so sappy, but I owe so much to Jessie and the Maas family. When I say they’re a major part of why my dumbass is still kicking around, I truly mean this. They’ve been there for me in the darkest times of my mental illness struggles and never hesitated to give me some light to escape those times. 

Essentially, Jessie was just taking a photo because they “liked the lighting” and was trying to document the trip. Nothing forced, just an organic moment. They didn’t realize I had just had a panic attack and was just trying to calm down and catch my breath. None of that was even put together until after the film was developed. Jay saw the photo and it clicked immediately—he knew that was the cover of the record. I didn’t agree at first [laughs].

It was tough for me to accept having myself on the cover regardless of the connection of that moment captured and the lyrical content. It made sense but it played into a lot of insecurities I have about myself and how I’m perceived. I’ll be honest, up until now I was hoping to dodge every possible question about the cover, or to defer the question to someone else because I was so conflicted about it no matter how much sense it made.

I’m still conflicted and self-conscious about it, but I think that’s the very reason it should be the cover. Part of us doing this band is dealing with uncomfortable situations all the while also facing ourselves. Our pasts, our worst moments, our best moments, exploring vulnerabilities and the like. Jessie captured an important moment - that photo is very me.

Panic Disorder is a major part of my life and I’m glad it was randomly captured by a best friend. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect and conducive moment to be captured that encompasses Everyone Wants Something Beautiful.


Everyone Wants Something Beautiful is out now via Iodine Recordings (digital/LP & cassette).

Tagged: defeater, love letter, verse