this is mike from strange temptations.
first off, i'm excited for whoever ends up reviewing the new lionize album! i first saw them at the warped tour kick-off party in 2011. i was playing with mc lars, and lionize opened the show. they were one of the most intense walls of sound i had ever heard, and my first thought was, "there's no way we can follow this," haha. during that summer, i probably saw them 30 times. there's no way to tell how "good" a band is at warped by just looking to see how many people they have in the audience watching them. there are too many factors that affect non-mainstage bands, and some days you might have 1,000 people and other days you might have 20. the way you can get a handle on who's making the most waves is by looking for how many band/crew members are watching them from the back of the stage and the wings. believe me, after about a month out in the heat, the last thing anyone wants to do is leave the air conditioned bus unless it's something really special. lionize was a "can't miss." i caught them last month at a headlining gig, and they played pretty much this entire new album. it's a beast. i'm jealous you guys get a copy early!
for the strange temptations project, i'm never sure if more or less information is better, but here's some background for anyone interested:
we recorded this in 4 days with j. robbins (jawbox/burning airlines, and producer/engineer for clutch, dismemberment plan, the sword, jets to brazil, etc, etc) at magpie cage studio in baltimore. besides being one of my top-5-favorite musicians of all-time, j's got a reputation for being able to capture a band's sound in as "live" a way as possible. we are a 3-piece band (guitar, bass, drums and vocals), and we managed to get all of the rhythm tracks completely live and about 65% of the guitars live. it's the way that so many of the bands that influenced us recorded (90's indie acts like archers of loaf and superchunk, for example), and in an era where people can be quick to over-polish and feed whatever into a computer we are trying to make a case for just setting up mics and playing your shit, haha.
and we had some great help on our side. our bassist, jon sullivan (formerly of jack's mannequin, and now also playing with kid is qual) locked in with the drums to form a solid bedrock of a rhythm section for the guitar (my role in the band) to have more of a free reign over. the moments where just the bass and the drums sync (like in the second verse of, "the reaping") are some of my favorites on the album.
another huge thing was having j. himself sing all of the vocal harmonies. hearing THAT voice made the whole project worthwhile, even if no one else ever heard a note of it. in the song "your hands and knees," he hits a 3-part harmony during the ending halftime section that just makes the whole song.
conceptually, the ep loosely follows the disintegration of a marriage, occasionally from the perspective of the father trying to explain everything to his young son (particularly the song "strange temptations"). the first line of the album is, "i see what's coming - no, i'm not confused," and the final one is "it's gonna happen; i'll see it happen." the songs in-between fill in the guts of the story.
the last 4 songs are part of what will become a larger album called "soundtrack to the great divorce." parts are missing here, because the story is still being written as this all plays out in a very real way in our lives. writing this record was a way to try and deal with something that way too many people can relate to.
in a larger sense, "the great divorce" also references the book by c.s. lewis that deals with the separation between mankind and god. it centers on the inability of us to let go of our egos, resentments and guilts - the things that lead us to sabotage our lives (our strange temptations), and that keep us from being able to move on to the next stage of our lives. songs like "take me with you" follow this idea that "the grass is greener" and we can just run away from our problems and start fresh. but, of course, we all know they follow us no matter how far we run.
i guess the point of all this yammering is to say that - while this ep is an introduction to the band - this is not just a haphazard collection of songs. they can certainly be listened to in any order or for any reason, but if you want to look more closely there is a thread throughout the tapestry. musically, we tried to cover as many bases as we could within our 3-piece setup, from 90's-era-merge records ("the valley's underwater") to poppier fare (like the ending of "summer of breaking up"), to the johnny cash ("the darkness") and the u2-ish ("strange temptations") - even a bit of metal ("the reaping").
i hope you guys are willing to give it a listen.