Ben Liebsch’s personal struggles have been fairly well-documented. A slew of issues related to alcoholism, addiction and depression have made things difficult for You, Me and Everyone We Know, the band that brought him great promise in the music scene. After turning into a solo project in 2011, Liebsch made some EPs under the moniker, but shifted his focus towards redrawing his path. Four years later, after years of tribulation and instability, Liebsch and You, Me and Everyone We Know have found their ways back on track. As a full-fledged band once again, the group’s newest EP, Dogged, takes the past few years and channels them into powerful songs that spell new beginnings.
Despite falling under an old, familiar name, this incarnation of You, Me and Everyone We Know is essentially starting from scratch. With brand new members come new influences and dynamics, and Dogged is a testament to this. Liebsch takes the energy from his previous work under the name and carries it over to this new crop of band mates. Their distinct jubilant and quirky pop rock charm feels fresh and nicely aged. It is not as punchy as the group’s previous work, but that is simply a product of maturity, as it still possesses the energy and universal appeal that has defined them. The sound is not overly-produced or exceedingly raw, but rather sophisticated and precise, a subdued attack of indie rock chords and pop rock choruses that are concise and freely flowing.
This EP is accessible to pop rock fans of all trades, even more so than the group’s earlier work. It is equal parts catchy, exciting and distinct, treading a line of pop rock that is most akin to Say Anything. While the group has received these tired comparisons in the past, there’s really no other way to look at them. Max Bemis’s knack for stylistic shifts from song-to-song, even verse-to-verse, is not unlike anything found on Dogged. The songs range from up-tempo sugar rushes, to yell-along campfire songs, and a fair share of oddball pop rock tunes.
Liebsch’s decision to focus on his personal struggles gives the EP more depth than his previous work. His words are unfiltered and true to life, running the gamut of falling apart, working towards recovery, and ultimately, finding hope. On “Does It Amaze Thee”, Liebsch lets us know what he’s seen. For all the “words that dissolved my [his] mental dam”, he finds himself amazed at his ability to “be this banged up and still thrive”. It is self-referential in every sense of the word. “Eat My Hands” speaks to the difficulties behind finding solace, his desire to “cancel all my [his] plans to fight” turns itself into a sing-along about those times when the will to fight is so present yet so weak.
For those who have experienced internal turmoil at the hand of mental illness, Dogged molds itself as an inspirational treatise, teaching its listeners to find their road to inner peace. Mental illness brings a slew of barriers with it. If the internal strife isn’t enough, trying to keep the little things together, whether it be paying the rent or maintaining relationships, can become a means of debilitation. Ben Liebsch knows these struggles first hand, but he doesn’t look to hide from them, making it clear that these trials are what “made me [him] who I am [he is] today”. He uses his internal fight and recovery to inspire something new. Not only does Dogged reads like Liebsch’s personal journal, but these songs are as catchy, if not catchier, than any of the band’s others, and at only 20 minutes long, it only takes so many listens before these songs implant themselves within the ears of the listener.
After years of ups and downs, Ben Liebsch is looking to re-establish himself as the promising musician and songwriter he was meant to be. Instead of letting his demons overcome him, he has channeled them to make an EP that brings maturity and deep personal value. As someone who knows what it feels like to be tattered by depression and the ever-erratic mind, Dogged has the power to inspire the many who suffer each and every day. It’s a small EP, and one recovery can only do so much when it can be hard to just get up in the morning, let alone find a way to get better, but with the return of You, Me and Everyone We Know comes with hope that someone, somewhere, can find their way back on track somehow, just like Liebsch does here on Dogged.