A balmy August evening. Civil Recording studio in Denton. The unthinkable has happened to Denton band Power Objects: Lucy the cat has gone missing. Vocalist and guitarist John Gillespie describes it as, without a doubt, their darkest hour.
But Michael Briggs' notorious feline assistant was thankfully found. And Power Objects were able to proceed with the production of Frosted Tips, which just dropped a week and a half ago. The triumphant EP waves the flag of post-punk with a tinge of math rock, adding technical virtuosity to tracks without making it too hard to approach. With these songs tracked and produced, the band looks to keep the momentum up and continue writing new material.
Each visceral blast of guitar and sonic assault of percussion on the album builds up to an explosive fever pitch. Even when the pace is slowed, the songs retain the same victorious charge, akin to Fucked Up or Titus Andronicus.
Cat capers aside, the recording sessions for Frosted Tip went off without a hitch. Gillespie says he's incredibly pleased by the end product, although perfectionism left him second guessing himself
"Every time I work on a project there's always something I want to do differently next time," he says. "And when you're recording in one day, you don't have the time to tweak your tone."
Gillespie usually pulls his riffs out of random guitar playing, then constructs lyrics and a song around that idea. He usually starts off songs acoustically to avoid creating a sub-par guitar part that's being bolstered by volume and effects. If a guitar part truly stands out on acoustic guitar, he reckons, adding accompaniment and volume will only make it even better.
Although some members have had influences of math rock, the sporadic nature of the genre doesn't take hold on Frosted Tips. Instead, each song retains melody and a steady beat, not switching time signatures too often and instead being guided by the thundering drive of guitars and drums.
The album's opener, "You Don't Make Sense," sets the tone for the EP, leading with a furious guitar riff and booming beat. The song mostly sticks to the scale of the song, with a few notes bending into the atonal region and dipping its toes into the math-rock styling. Gillespie says, for him, adding an off-key note is paramount in creating tension in a song. The contrast between dissonance and melody keeps a song from being repetitive or predictable.
"If everything is smooth as silk, that's not going to move me," Gillespie says. "It's hard to feel passionate about something that feels completely flat. If there's no tension, you can't resolve anything."
The band strategically strays from math rock influences in certain parts of song composition. Most math rock songs are formed from several disjointed riffs from different instruments, and the parts are melded together to where they just barely work, adding to the chaos of the genre. Gillespie wanted to take a different approach to Power Objects' songwriting, and instead strove to make songs that were composed with a unified sound in mind.
"It's like we were creating a painting or a cohesive story narrative rather than a collection of strung-together riffs," he says.
Beyond tension between sweet and sour notes, the band itself exists as a tension between a more pop-oriented style and the complicated riffs of math rock. The push and pull of simple, melodic parts and complex, conflicting riffs keeps the listener on edge. "It's sort of like an amalgamation of all our influences," Gillespie says. "And we listen to some weird shit."
For Gillespie, finding a sound engineer to produce the album was the easy part: He lived with Michael Briggs, who runs Civil Recording, for several years back around 2004. He says Briggs has come a long way in developing his production setup, and that the day-long recording session was a breeze.
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That said, Gillespie admits he's ready to move on from the songs on the EP and look forward. The five tracks have been written for more than a year. "I've listened back to enough mixes of them, I'm done," he says, laughing.
Power Objects just wrapped up a series of four or five shows in the last month and in its wake is already putting together new songs. Here's hoping their next release goes just as smoothly -- provided Lucy the cat doesn't throw out any more surprises.
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