(photo: Emily Hayward and Marta Dymeck

The story of the Berkeley band Bows starts out with tragedy, but continues with desperation, fear, and a post-apocalyptic colony outside of Earth.

Wait, what?

We’ll start with tragedy: Bows started with a break-up more physical than most musical projects. Before leaving to play CMJ with their other band Big Tree, singer and keyboardist Kaila McIntyre-Bader broke both elbows in a bike spill. Because playing her instrument, the piano, was impossible while she healed, she experimented making sounds on her computer and challenged bandmate Luke Bace (who conveniently plays the bass) to recreate them with synthesizers. Through her healing, they’ve kept up making music and are now releasing their debut concept album The Day We Left.

Today, we have the treat of premiering the minimal yet textured track “Should Have Known” from the record. Starting out with McIntyre-Bader’s vocals steeped in ambient sonics and accompanied with a steady beat, it grows into a cacophony of voice and sound that comes by surprise. Her vocals are wonderfully layered and the chorus is a masterful mix of folk elements with futuristic beats. The ebbs and flows of the song bring these eruptions back with each cycle until the end’s sonic climax, which she calls the song’s “most emotional moment.”

The band proclaims themes of post-apocalyptic space travel and lost love, and the track manages to combine the two well. You feel the song’s main character floating in space, longing for something, and her eerie, looped vocals give the song an almost “Space Oddity” quality: alienation in sonic form.

Creatively and un-accidentally so, the sounds are truly metaphorical matches with the story that the concept album explores. McIntyre-Bader explains to us that because she wrote the album chronologically, she was at this point deeply and “almost obsessively” attached to the plot of the album and how to convey her protagonist’s plight in the songs. Her character hears voices in her head, and earlier in the album tried to share them with members of the colony, which doesn’t go over so well. As the character is locked up by officials, she feels dejected and alienated.

McIntyre-Bader says that the song gave them “a ton of opportunities to collaborate with weird noises to set the scene,” which she let Bace go wild with. He tells us that the “constant, plodding” bass line is a chopped-up sample of his electric bass played over. And over. And over. We agree with him that it matches the “conformity and control” the protagonist is faced with.

Beyond the genius link between sound and narrative, the song manages to hold another, perhaps simpler, emotional weight for McIntyre-Bader.

“I always get a little sad at this point in the album because it means it’s almost over!”

They release their debut record The Day We Left on May 27, which “Should Have Known” appears on, and celebrate the big release day with a show at the Starline Social Club. More info on that show is below!

Guy Fox, Bows, Brass Magic
Starline Social Club
May 27, 2016
8pm, $10