Without Waves – Limitless CreativitySunday, 19th March 2017
Chicago, IL is a Mid-Western city known for coldness in the winter, bustling activity in the summer, and what some may consider the best deep dish pizza in the United States. It also happens to be home to a thriving music scene, including metal in its landscape. The following quartet Without Waves hails from this area – coming together in 2010 and already issuing independently a full-length Scab Platter in 2011 plus an EP follow up The Entheogen in 2014 while getting their bearings on the wide-open set of influences that makes the band unique.
First hearing the band through their latest release Lunar (and first for new label Prosthetic Records), everything from progressive intricacies to jazzy fusion and all out extreme metal assaults can take place one song – only to change things up into this atmospheric, post-metal, alternative rock concoction the next. This openness and limitless creativity makes for some breathtaking passages where often the foursome push things to the brink- and then bring things back around in melodic splendor. After massive spins for Lunar, the need to learn more about these musicians came by way of guitarist Zac Lombardi and a weekend Skype interview. We talk about everything from how fire and loss shapes future songs, the strengths and skill sets that each member brings to the table, as well as frank discussion regarding the state of the music industry – plus a fair amount of Lunar chatter.
Dead Rhetoric: Incorporating so many different styles of music into the Without Waves framework, how do you know when something clicks, because it’s got to be a feeling out process in the development of your songwriting? Is that why your drummer Garry Naples coined the term ‘evolution through experimentation’ on your Facebook page?
Zac Lombardi: (laughs). Cool, good question! It definitely comes down to what clicks. We always try to make it a point to have actual songwriting and intent be in the forefront of our music. And when it’s all said and done, it’s about emotional expression and trying to communicate over the gymnastics and technicality if you will. And there is a fair amount of feeling things out, and realistically the best songwriting that we’ve ever done is when we come together collectively.
Dead Rhetoric: So, do the ideas start out individually and then you come together to refine things in rehearsals?
Lombardi: Very much both. There are songs where (Anthony) Cwan or myself have walked into rehearsal with almost a complete song, and then there are other ones where we start improvisation around at practice. We do a fair amount of improv every time at practice, especially when we are warming up we noodle around a little bit. But to a large degree, it is a collective process.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of evolution, where do you see the growth or changes of the group from your debut album Scab Platter and the follow up The Entheogen EP to the latest full-length Lunar?
Lombardi: Oh man. That is an interesting question. We definitely have evolved and changed during that course, but it hasn’t been anything that’s been too intentional. Kind of the point of this band to a large degree, especially for Anthony and myself, was to be able to write and play whatever we want. I think that’s yielded a lot of the changes over the years and trying to stay true to ourselves in the songwriting process through that course.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it on purpose that you choose to do a Ministry cover on the EP, paying homage to a band that influenced you?
Lombardi: We do like Ministry, Anthony especially has always been a big fan of theirs. We were talking about doing a cover for a while, it’s always tricky to figure out a good cover song to do because you want to do your own interpretation. I always have hang ups about doing a cover that people can see from that same band better live (laughs). I always really liked that song- that particular song always reminded me of like an evil James Brown song – like ‘give me an UH-UH … tell me something I don’t know!’ (laughs). I thought this would be really cool to do live, and we’ve hashed it out. It’s a lot of fun, I definitely have felt a little bit more dated now that we’ve played that song on the road. Sometimes no one in the crowd has any idea what the song is. But when people do it’s a lot of fun with the crowd, and it’s one of the songs where Anthony gets to put his guitar down and just sing and hold the microphone.
Dead Rhetoric: Three out of the four members of Without Waves dealt with a serious apartment fire back in the middle of 2012 – what exactly happened and has this experience changed your outlook on what’s valuable and important in life, especially after dealing with the death of Anthony’s father in 2007?
Lombardi: Boy, wow- you did some good research there! (laughs) Yeah, it was everyone except for myself, and it was a big setback for all of them. Especially for John, as you may have caught recently had his van and gear stolen on tour with another band (Immortal Bird)- but that’s a different story. The overall priority was that everyone survived, no one was hurt at all- but all of them were displaced. It’s interesting – just to cycle back to the songwriting process for a little bit, there’s a song on the new record called “Lost Art”. The first time that we practiced after the fire, there was a horrible, somber mood in that room. The band set up, tuned up, and we just started playing against that vibe in that room. It yielded that song, and we pretty much wrote that song in its entirety in that room based on being in that collective headspace.
Dead Rhetoric: Proof that the power of music can be cathartic in the sense of pushing the bounds of creativity even in difficult times…
Lombardi: Definitely. It was a type of thing that you couldn’t avoid that feeling being in that room. We all came together and persevered I guess, because that was a definite setback.
Dead Rhetoric: How did Prosthetic Records come into the picture – and how do you feel about the label and its diverse roster?
Lombardi: We are really happy to be a part of the roster. So far, they’ve been great, engaging and helpful. I like that we can actually talk to a real human being, and get a response. As to how they really came into the picture, that’s harder to say. To a certain degree, it wasn’t like we were actively shopping the record around. It was really more that Steve somewhat approached us through being in the scene and making some connections over the years. There is six degrees of separation going on, it just came out of nowhere. It would be hard not to mention the excitement of being on a label with Animals as Leaders, Shining made a record with them. It’s a good roster to be a part of, and I like we are in the same boat of having some diversity that’s eclectic.
Dead Rhetoric: I feel that you establish on Lunar a wide swath of material – going full throttle right out of the gate in progressive, aggressive metal angst for “Sewing Together the Limbs” and then turning on a dime with a tranquil, atmospheric arrangement midway through for “Never Know Quite Why”. Do you place much thought in song order and dynamic flow for your records?
Lombardi: Yeah, that was pretty tough to figure out. It’s almost 50/50 to those ebbs and flows, the heavier and more progressive material and then the laid-back material. So, that was kind of difficult to figure out, and Anthony did a good job figuring it out. Once he did that, it clicked with the rest of us because we were all struggling with our own song orders for the record. I think this track list makes a lot of sense.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it an easy process to figure out what songs to do the videos for- and was it a conscious decision to not appear in the video to be more of an artistic statement?
Lombardi: In regards to what songs that we chose for the videos, it wasn’t completely dictated by the length of time, but it was a factor. Because most of the songs on Lunar are over six minutes. We tried to get with “Sewing Together the Limbs” and “Never Know Quite Why”, it made sense that they were pretty different from one another, and also not eight to nine minute songs. As for the content of the videos- I like having things a little bit more abstract and a little more artistic. I suppose if one of us had a great idea or treatment concept for a more traditional video we would do that, but we did not. I’m happy we were able to figure some things out that didn’t just have us playing in a cold warehouse or something like that.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you decide what type of vocal approach you’ll deliver from cut to cut – and what fuels the lyrical content for the band, do you use personal experience to reflect certain topics or do you choose different angles for inspiration?
Lombardi: There are different angles, the vast majority of it is past personal experience. Just telling our own stories in our own ambiguous way. Anthony does a great job in that regard, being one of his best friends since high school I have insight into what the inspiration is for a lot of the lyrics, and he does a good job of keeping things open to interpretation, but also conveying his thoughts and feelings. I’m not sure the differences in singing are much of a conscious decision on his part. I think he goes with what feels right. Often, in his songwriting approach that he brings to the band, he’ll often walk into the band with the vocal idea in his head that corresponds with the riff. Being the other songwriter, I usually walk in with no concept of vocals and he’ll lay something on top of it that will completely twist and shift what that idea was, and make it better than anything I could have come up with on my own.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider the strengths of each musician within Without Waves – and what do you think they bring to the table to make the band special and unique?
Lombardi: Oh- boy that is tough! I guess for Anthony, I can definitely throw out there that he is a great lyricist and singer. Basically, he also has perfect pitch, which he may not like me sharing- but he has an incredible ear. He’s always been really helpful to keep us all on the same page, and figuring out different ways to approach riffs. Like for instance, its rare within a song where him and I are actually playing the exact same riff. He’s a big baritone guy, and I like my old classic six-string. We will do a lot of inversions and things like that just to hit a harmonic range and hit riffs that we like and are comfortable playing. His ear acts as a catalyst to that process. We really have different roles at different times with the different mediums. John is a really solid bass player, he learns things very quickly. He also does a good job of writing parts that Anthony or myself can’t write. He’s a talented bass player, but he is also talented at his bass compositions. I am a big fan of the Chapman Stick and bass playing, but he will find a pocket and groove and he’ll say, ‘I’m all set- I’m paying attention to Garry’. (laughs). And that yields something more original. He’s a creative rock, he has his unique perspective, and he pulls everything together. Garry is interesting, being the drummer it’s not like he walks in with ideas- but he does have his own influence in the arrangements and compositions.
To cycle back a little bit, the actual song “The Entheogen” is ten minutes long. It was a huge collection of riffs that I had and he and I arranged things over the course of months- jamming out things in rehearsal, from x to z. He was very instrumental in putting the actual arrangement together for that. Also, his approach to how his phrasing in drumming is interesting. Once he has a little bit of insight into the vocals, he can shift things on his drum phrasing. He has always been very good about realizing he’s not just an extreme metal drummer. The drums are a very emotional instrument, which a lot of people overlook and you end up with this extreme plateau- where everything is always as fast and as heavy as you can possibly be. He does a good job on focusing what bits need to be there- and he does a good job with Anthony of listening to things to expand on things.
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