Rise Ye Sunken Ships, the debut album by We Are Augustines, is a raw meditation on the loss, pain and hardships that have encompassed the band members. Guitarist Bill McCarthy and bassist Eric Sanderson began penning the songs for what would have been the sophomore album of their previous band, Pela. While writing and recording the tracks, the band feuded with management, the record label and with themselves while McCarthy tried to cope with news that his little brother, James, had committed suicide at a psychiatric hospital.
The strife eventually ended Pela and their record deal, but McCarthy and Sanderson emerged with an album’s worth of material that would eventually become the debut of their new act, We Are Augustines. The turmoil that encompassed the last days of Pela is apparent on Rise Ye Sunken Ships. Narratives of loss, isolation and a feeling of helplessness serve as the emotional core of the album. In “Headlong into the Abyss,” McCarthy screams and howls in pain, his lyrics often slurred and unintelligible. “I ain’t gonna wait around for some pill to kick in,” he sings.
Two tracks in particular reference McCarthy’s late brother. “Book of James” serves as a tribute to James’s troubled life. “I tried the Bible, tried the bottle, tried the needle, tried to love people/ and in the end there ain’t much to say,” McCarthy laments. In “Patton State Hospital,” the loudest and most aggressive rocker on the album, McCarthy lashes out at the hospital that failed to help his brother. He quotes failed promises from the hospital, saying “we’re gonna get you cleaned up, James.” “Barrels of Leaves” deftly sums up Rise Ye Sunken Ships. McCarthy recognizes that he can’t do anything to change the past and can’t save those he has lost. “But I can give you my voice here,” he says. “It’s all I have to speak.”