“How Can I?” is the debut single from newfamiliar, who are a band consisting of members Ryan Johnston (vocalist), Will Booth (guitarist) and Danny Hepworth (guitarist). They made their big debut at Radio 1’s Big Weekend last year, and have made us wait until now for their first release! The single was released on February 3rd 2021, and serves as a taster for future material that we’re promised is to be unveiled soon… But, is this song worth checking out? Short answer: Yes, but buckle yourself in for the emotional rollercoaster you’re about to ride!
It’s pretty clear to me that Ryan, Will and Danny have written this from the heart based on their own personal experiences in a raw and emotive way. That much is obvious from the get go, with the opening lyric “Wide awake and I’m dreaming of the past again, going back to the places we’ve already been”. This hits you right in the feels and you feel an instant connection, especially in this current situation of the global health pandemic where we’re all craving our freedoms and the past lives we all took for granted! But this song isn’t about the pandemic, it’s about a loss of some sort – maybe a break-up, maybe the death of a loved one, or maybe a broken down friendship? I think that’s down to the listener, as individually you’ll find your own connection with it, especially if you’ve lived the lyrics in any capacity. But for the boys behind the song, it’s definitely a personal story for them and has been written and crafted from the heart.
Personally for me, this song reminded me of a beloved family member who I lost when I was just 12 years old and the pain I felt at the time of her death and continue to feel all this time later — how can I do it all without you? It’s a heartbreaking song and I fully connect with it, especially thinking back to how I felt back then, scared of a life without someone I loved so much, which I still struggle with now in my adulthood. Ryan’s beautifully calming vocal croons the poignant lyrics stunningly, giving the listener an emotional ride, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried many a tear writing this review just thinking about my own personal connection to the song. I usually love it when you can connect with a song on a personal level like that, but this one has truly broken my heart in ways I can’t even begin to describe, so as beautiful as “How Can I?” is, I think it may be too much of an emotional trip for me to listen to again based purely on the connection I felt with it. I can’t cry every time I hear it, and I don’t want to feel the way I felt tonight reviewing it again in a hurry, either.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad song, because that is far from the case — it’s an amazing song! The boys have such an incredible talent as vocalist, instrumentalists and as lyricists, and they’ve definitely found a new fan in me, providing they stop writing songs that make me an emotional mess! But honestly, I’m extremely torn on this song. I loved it a lot, but it broke my heart and I don’t think I could cope with another listen.
That being said, this song probably is about a break-up, and not the death of a relative, but connections come in different ways for each individual listener and just because that’s what I’ve associated the song with doesn’t mean that you will. So if you’re contemplating listening to it but have reservations based on my review; just go for it, but have a tissue at the ready just in case! But if you’re a fragile soul who’s experienced a lot of loss in life, I would skip this one if you can because the memories of said losses may come back and overwhelm you.
Overall, I’d give it 10/10 still and my final word is to say that it’s such an amazing, raw, emotional, cinematic song, and those 2 minutes 58 seconds will have you feeling all kinds of ways. Be prepared.
Also, if you’re interested, Siân did an interview with the newfamiliar boys which can be found here: