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Review: 9/10

 

WOLVES AND MACHINES is an alt-rock band from Saginaw Michigan. Their new album “Since Before Out Time” was released on March 14th 2014 and is the band’s (technically) fourth release.
 
The songwriting, the melodies, the ups-and-downs, and all the little things in between make this an absolutely great alt-rock album. Not too heavy, not too light, high quality and brilliantly executed on all fronts. Let me just take a minute to try to put into words how I experienced the first time I listened to this album. Here goes…
 
The album opener “Only Drowning Men” starts you up floating over a foggy sea of noise. After a few seconds the feedback flows into focus and distant drums start a rattling cadence as the feedback grows stronger until suddenly you break through the fog and everything comes together with impeccable clarity. Now, the mixing and production on that exact moment is perfection and immediately grabbed my full attention. The low end comes in so huge and the dual appreggiated guitars are balanced separately right and left harmonizing with one another and then the chimes ring brilliantly. All this within the first 1:00 of track one. The subtle vocals mesh beautifully when singer Aaron DeVries comes in to calm the noise and while the drums carry on and the guitar chords ring. After all, the vocals and additional instruments recorded and engineered by Nicholas Diener (of The Swellers) for the perfect recipe.
 
Key Tracks: “Only Drowning Men“, “Bury The Bones” and “Many Happy Returns“.
 
I had to reach out to these guys to get to know more about the band. Here’s a few questions I got with singer Aaron Devries:
 

As my first listen to the album the thing that stood out is how the songs flow so smoothly together from one to the next – I didn’t even know I was on track 2, 3. And the tones at the end of the last track feed right back into the very first note on the opening track. I think that is truly brilliant. Did you piece that together before or after the songs were written/recorded?
 
Thanks! The idea for the songs to all flow together had been floating around pretty much the entire time we were writing for the album. Some transitions were very conscious decisions, while others just kind of evolved and made sense based on key/tempo/vibe. The biggest thing to keep in mind was kind of giving each song a puzzle piece on each end so that we could put the whole thing together rather simply. The goal was really to have songs that came together as an album, but could also stand alone as songs without all of the added context. For some of them, that involved changing keys in more elaborate ways than we’re used to, but it was a fun challenge and something that I think we may try again in some capacity for future releases.

 

How do you feel about all the impending death of the ‘album’ in this age of iTunes/Singles?

 

I’m okay with it. I’m an album guy and I like to hear a cohesive collection of music most of the time, but sometimes I’ll hear a song on the radio or something and I just want the song. Especially in popular music, I definitely see the value of having an entire album as opposed to a few singles decreasing, but I think that’s fine. Not everybody listens to music the same, and the public attention span has decreased to the point that some people just want single songs that they’ve heard and know that they like instead of sifting through albums to find something. We’ve always written for our albums to be heard as a whole, but if somebody just wants one or two songs that they like, I’m okay with that being an option. I don’t think the album will die out, I just think that the digital renaissance is inspiring bands to give people a reason to hear the entire album instead of just songs.

 

What type of story do you think that this album tells? If this album were turned into a film, what would the synopsis be?

 

That one is tough! I think the main vibe lyrically is nostalgia. A lot of songs deal with reflecting on things and reacting to that. There are a few recurring parts on the album, both musically and lyrically, but there isn’t really a start to finish story in the way that we’ve done on past albums. Figuring out a film synopsis? I couldn’t even say. It’d probably be a big incoherent mope fest with a convoluted plot. It’d star Steve Zahn. It would not be picked up for a sequel.

 

Looking back, how do you think the band’s mindset has transitioned between “Remedies” and “Since Before Our Time”. How do the two albums compare and how do you feel the band has grown?

 

Well, Remedies was more or less just a little fun project-between-projects for us. There were a few new songs on it that I’m very proud of, but we recorded it in about two days and just did it for fun. I’d say the real growth was between “Since Before Our Time” and “Ailments”, because after Ailments was released in 2010, we were already starting to slowly write stuff that eventually made it on to SBOT. I think the biggest thing was realizing what we liked and didn’t like musically from Ailments, then pushing more in those directions. The new album was a lot more structure based, and a little less riff-heavy. We focused a lot on making good songs with strong melodies and structure before adding any of the hammy instrumentation.
 
As for comparison, I’m still very proud of Ailments. I was 20 when that album came out and there were songs on that album based on ideas written when I was 18. It was a huge moment for me personally, as well as the rest of the band. We wouldn’t write that album again because we’ve changed as musicians and people, but I can appreciate that it was probably the best album we could have made at that point. I feel the same about Since Before Our Time, and I’m sure anything we do in the future will be the same.

 
wolves-and-machines

Can you elaborate on how the album cover art came about – How did you get in touch with Mitchell Wojcik and why did you choose that photo? How does the artwork represent the album title?
 
Well, we knew that we wanted a photograph or something completely different from the style of Ailments and Remedies. I am terrible with visual concept stuff like that, so I was kind of shopping around different photographers and artists who interested me. I asked Jono from the Swellers who had done artwork for them, and who would work within our limited budget, and he suggested Mitchell. He’s done album art for the Swellers, the Wonder Years, and a bunch of other great bands, plus promos for pretty much everyone, so I got in touch with him. I sent him some rough mixes and told him to do what he wanted. Our only stipulations were that we wanted it to be kind of dark and washed out, and we didn’t want any people in them. He sent us a bunch of photos that he took just driving around, and from there we picked the ones we liked best. We used his photos for all of the pages in the album booklet and the back cover, and they turned out great. We really just picked what we thought looked cool. There isn’t an underlying theme connecting the art to the music other than the tone of the art kind of matching that of the music. I think it’s very cool and fitting how it turned out.
 
Who are some of your musical idols that you look to for inspiration?
 
That’s always changing. Like I said before, I’m an album guy, so I have favorite albums more than bands. One that inspired both Scott and I while writing was “And the Glass Handed Kites” by Mew. They do a lot of cool stuff with rhythm and transitions, and I think we did just about everything shy of ripping their music directly when writing some parts. Another one is Anathallo, who we have all listened to and enjoyed for a while. Their album “Floating World” is incredible and definitely influenced us. I also listened to the Appleseed Cast’s “Two Conversations” and Cursive’s “The Ugly Organ” because I think those are very cohesive, strong albums. Lyrically all of those inspired me, and then I tried to dig into some new influences that I had never tried before. I’m not a huge Leonard Cohen fan musically, but his lyrics are probably my favorite of anybody. He is definitely an inspiration. Each of our proper releases reference lyrics Cohen at some point, which I started doing just for fun to pay a little homage to him.
 
What are some of your favorite books/movies or authors/directors?
 
If I said favorite books, it would probably just be the small list of books I’ve actually made it through in the last few years. I am not much of a reader, which is terrible and should probably change. I do like reading short stories, poems, lyrics, and scripts when I’m trying to find inspiration though, and sometimes those bits find their way into lyrics. As for movies, my favorite director is Charlie Kaufman and my favorite movie “Synecdoche, New York”, which was his directorial debut. He is known better for writing, but his movies are excellent and always thought provoking. There are a ton of references to Synecdoche on SBOT, most obviously the song “Hazel” being named after one of the characters. The song isn’t about the movie directly, just another small homage to something that inspired me. His work as a writer includes “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Adaptation”, and “Being John Malkovich”, which are all excellent.
 
Who are some other independent bands people should be paying attention to?
 
Michigan has some great music happening. Secret Grief is gearing up to release some new music soon, Small Parks are relatively new but making great music. A bunch of our friends just started a band called Dalinian, they are already doing cool stuff. We just played not long ago with the Most Dangerous Animal, they are awesome and all sweet dudes. American Opera is excellent and recording a new full length record right now that will be incredible. There are lots of bands out there who are doing great, interesting things.
 
 

https://www.facebook.com/wolvesandmachines
http://wolvesandmachines.bandcamp.com/album/since-before-our-time
 
 
wolves and machines
 

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