ufo ufo frontman Clay Borrell didn’t pay much attention in high school English class. At some point, the class was assigned Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – a dystopian social commentary about the dangers of going against the grain. Something about the story’s foreshadowing message stuck with Borrell. Years later, he found himself writing a song about it. “Barely Alive” employs fluorescent synth pop to bring the story to life. Yet, it's an eerie reflection of our current reality and a subtle warning of what is waiting around the corner.
“I think it’s just the idea of being someone who is sitting in the corner, looking outside at the world, and not agreeing with anything that’s going on and trying to think outside of the box and feeling like you’re completely different,” says Borrell. “I think a lot of people might be able to resonate with that idea – just feeling like you’re different. And that’s not a bad thing. There’s a comfort in knowing that you’re different and that everything is going to be okay.”
“Barely Alive” ponders whether we’re even living or if we are just riding down life’s assembly line, going through the motions, and doing exactly what we’re told. It seems like the easy thing to do, with the least risk involved. But Borrell (and Huxley) seem to think that the life beyond the conveyor belt is well worth the risk.
Borrell teamed up with bandmates Reid Guidry (bass) and Brandon Iverson (drums, vocals) to record “Barely Alive” with production help from Dom Craik (Nothing But Thieves). Craik had just acquired a new Juno keyboard and was ready to turn Borrell’s demo clip with pulsating bass into a multidimensional, shimmering track. “Dom spilled coffee all over his laptop and he had to get a brand new laptop in the next two days before we started recording,” recalls Borrell. Thankfully, Craik managed to get a new laptop and help them finish the song.
The trio are perfectionists in their work (which is in part why they have only released one single per year). Borrell wasn’t happy with his first vocal take on “Barely Alive.” He re-recorded his vocal in his girlfriend’s mom’s home office, and this is the version we hear on the track. The band also meticulously double-checked Huxley’s storyline on Sparknotes. Eventually they sent a nearly complete song to Nick Mac (who has worked with Post Malone) for mastering.
The band has checked the box for their yearly single, but their goal for 2021 is to have another single out before the year’s end. They have a song in mind that they’re eager to record. Borrell hopes that ufo ufo can be in the same room soon, drink whiskey (his favorite “used to be Makers, but lately it’s been gentleman Jack”), and stay up all night making music.