A Day Without Love’s ‘A Stranger That You Met Before’ is a Love Letter to DIY

October 13, 2023
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“I sing in houses
And you sing for corporate
I know that one of us sucks
I can say and do what I want
DIY or die to me!”

Touring in the DIY / house show scene is a constant set of extremes. The transcendence of building these temporary communities through unfiltered artistic expression in a liminal space is constantly at war with the pragmatic concerns of gas money, car repairs, where to sleep, where to get food, and what the fuck to do about the show that fell through in Richmond on Friday. Every day brings about 5 moments of life-changing awe and 3 moments of complete dehumanization. If you’re not a white able-bodied cis straight man, both those numbers are doubled. But despite the low of the lows, the highs continue to make it worthwhile. On their new record A Stranger That You Met Before, Boston folk punk outfit A Day Without Love captures both extremes in all their glory. The album plays like a love letter to DIY culture.



A Stranger That You Met Before works so well because it’s deeper than your garden variety “up the punx!” Like any real love, ADWL’s Brian Walker sees the scene and the lifestyle’s faults and comes away loving it anyway. On the album’s centerpiece “DIY Or Die,” Walker introduces the “I sing for…” motif that weaves throughout the record. He perfectly captures that what matters about DIY culture isn’t the art, and it’s not the community, it’s how the tenuousness of the whole thing forces a vulnerability that deepens both. “Show Friends” and “Good Friends Are Hard To Find” both look at that community from different angles. “Show Friends” singalong chorus “everywhere I go I make new friends” cuts against the way “Good Friends” deals with how hard it can be to be so vulnerable all the time.

Throughout the record, ADWL pulls off making songs that are designed for the living room but performed for headphones. The songs are built with hooks that demand audience participation (just try to listen to anthem “Caffeine” without at least mouthing “car needs gasoline and I need caffeine” by the end), but recorded with a huge range of sounds that run from the stripped down acoustic “How Did We” to the hardcore punk of “Caffeine” to the stunning strings on “Rise.” It’s the rare DIY record that exists as both an album and a document of a live experience and doesn’t try to force one into being the other.

Anthems about the meaning of DIY and punk rock are evergreen (and to be sure so are Crass-esque indictments of both), but what makes A Stranger That You Met Before stand out is the way it captures the full breadth of the experience. It’s fun, it’s sincere, it’s not afraid to be contradictory, but most of all, it’s honest. The heart of DIY is the way a different rented hall, living room, or public park becomes the center of a new community for one night only, every night, through a bunch of people choosing to bare their souls together for a couple hours. It’s about forcing yourself to do something hard. You don’t love it despite the bad parts, they’re crucial to the thing too. On the album-concluding “Storyteller,” Brian Walker sums it up: “people wanna find a place to feel safe \ I just wanna find a place to feel brave.”

A Stranger That You Met Before is out now. Follow ADWL on socials @adaywithoutlove for more.