A year and a half after dropping their reverb-doused debut album, the San Francisco-based rock and rollers of The Spyrals are ready to release their sophomore LP, Out of Sight, and this time around, they did things a little differently.
While the first album was made over the course of a longer recording process, resulting in an steady, expansive record, the band has moved away from its familiar drawn-out style and into a realm of more compact compositions. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jeff Lewis explains, “Once we started recording this new album we wanted it to be more direct. There’s still a couple longish songs but most are tighter, short ones.”
We got our first taste of this tighter sound with the release of the record’s title track last month, but The Spyrals have been winding their coils and simmering in new territory since the recording of the first album. “As we were recording those songs we started working towards tighter arrangements,” describes Jeff. “I also wanted to strip back some of the reverb that was on our first album and give the instruments, especially the drums and vocals, some more power and clarity.”
Although the band took only a few small steps closer to modern technology by laying down the new LP on a tape machine, compared to the eight-track reel to reel The Spyrals was recorded on, it mastered the retro art and ended up with a collection of songs that are crisper and more urgent than anything on its debut.
“There are a few songs that have a more frantic pace too and there are more back up vocals and repeated chorus parts,” he explains.
After reading an interview Jeff gave at South By Southwest, where he first described Out of Sight as faster, bouncy and stripped back, I was immediately intrigued by the idea that The Spyrals made a poppier record, since the first one is so patient and spaced out. In a music scene where the lines between genres are blurred beyond the point of distinction (does “indie” even mean anything anymore?) and every genre is a derivative of five others, “pop” is a funny word to associate music with. It can be a dirty or endearing way to describe a sound, but when it comes down to it, music becomes popular because it’s infectious. It’s damn catchy.
When I asked Jeff if he was opposed to describing the records as having more of a pop sound, he admits, “This record does have some more pop elements,” adding, “As poppy as we were comfortable with. It’s got some sing along parts which maybe the first record didn’t have. It’s pop structures mostly, rock and roll, blues, etc.” True to The Spyrals’ form, however, the record is not strictly a psych record and its definitely not a pop record. It lies on the same foundation that all rock and roll derives from: “I’d say blues is the root of it all.”
For those who haven’t had the chance to listen to and digest the LP in its entirety, here’s what to expect: Jeff’s vocals are fully distinguishable, confident and as sinister as ever. The guitar work is assertive, the percussion janglier and the bass more engaging. Everything is more present. Out of Sight is unapologetically poppier–catchier, addictive, but not polished. Its still raw, and still unequivocally rock and roll.
Though this shift in sound seems to correspond with the band’s recent personnel change, it had nothing to do with the departure of bassist Brandon Wurtz and the acquisition of Dylan Edrich, who has played bass for some of San Francisco’s rock and roll chiefs, including Thee Oh Sees and Mikal Cronin. Dylan was added into the mix after the album was record. These sonic changes can be explained by the inherent nature of artists to evolve.
“It was more of a natural progression to be a bit different. We don’t want to repeat ourselves,” explains Jeff. “It still sounds like The Spyrals. We didn’t try to mold the songs into a category, they just evolved into what we liked. It’s always hard to know exactly what someone listening to us would think about it. We just made what sounded good and exciting to us.”
The evolution of The Spyrals is evident, of course, in the way the new LP sounds, but in an even more conspicuous way, its written clearly in the record’s title: Out of Sight. “The title sums up the theme in a broad way,” he attests. “We’re all trying to get to some place that we can’t see. It’s a struggle. What do we do once we get there? Will we still want to be somewhere else? I think the album raises some of those questions.”
You can here the album in full over at The Spyrals’ bandcamp, and if you dig what you hear, (and you will), come support the band at its record release show tonight at Brick & Mortar, along with Deep Space, Disappearing People, Al Lover, Max Pain and DJ Darragh Skelton.
The Spyrals, Deep Space, Disappearing People, Al Lover, Max Pain, DJ Darragh Skelton
Brick & Mortar
June 26, 2013
8pm, $7, 21+