Retro Via is a promising new local band that released a debut EP, The Smoke & The Linger, this past Saturday, May 16th. The four songs have a breezy sound and vocals that call to mind midtempo, introspective rock bands like the Gin Blossoms, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Death Cab for Cutie, and Guster.
Still, Retro Via know how to amp up the noise, and do just that. Lead guitarist Jordan Van Wynen has a few wicked solos on the EP, and the drums by Blaine Wright, also a member of Year of the Bobcat and Earthholder, have a booming quality that resonates.
The members of the band might agree with me that more saxophone is needed in rock and roll, because they decorate their tunes with the beautiful instrument, played by Brett Anderson, who also contributes keyboard work. Jared Michael Prince sings and plays guitar, and Bradlee Barcus sings and plays bass.
Wright said he and his bandmates have been writing music and grooving together for a while and were itching to release their work. He and Prince recently answered some questions for us.
Smile Politely: How did the band come together?
Jared Michael Prince: Essentially by me inviting these guys to start something. We didn’t know what it would be or even sound like at that point, but I asked them — and them specifically — because they were the ones I wanted to write music with. Each is very gifted at playing and writing. Equally important to me, we actually liked each other and had fun playing music together.
SP: How did it come to pass that you added saxophone on the EP?
Prince: Brett is one of my oldest friends and we have been playing music together for years. One of the things we have always dreamed about was if we could find a way to incorporate his saxophone into our music. Brett is such a gifted musician and writer; keys and saxophone are just the surface of what he brings to our band.
SP: Why were the drums on the EP recorded at Earth Analog?
Blaine Wright: When we decided it was time to record, we knew we would want to work with our good friend Nolan Osmond, a local audio engineer at-large. For recording drums, I asked him to look at Earth Analog since I had a great experience there with Aaron McCallister recording the Year of the Bobcat EP. They have a great space and gear — not to mention the owner, Matt Talbott, is great to work with and was very hospitable to us and Nolan through the whole process. Aside from that, I am kind of a sucker for a good vibe in a space and never want to pass up the opportunity to get into a real studio when I have the chance.
SP: Who are some musical influences?
Prince: I’ve written the majority of our songs and like to think I pulled some of my influences from artists like Death Cab for Cutie and Paper Route, and even storytellers like Garth Brooks, which inspired me to write in the first place. As we add in the rest of the band and each part into the mix, they are influenced by Earth, Wind & Fire, Rush, Brand New, and Manchester Orchestra. We love all kinds of music and allow those artists to help us write, hopefully, more diverse and interesting music.
SP: What does “the smoke and the linger” mean?
Prince: It comes from a lyric within the song “Conman”. That song in particular, but all of them to some degree, came from nostalgic feelings and remembering back to childhood and growing up faster than we hoped. So “the smoke and the linger” seemed like an appropriate picture of what nostalgia would look like.
SP: What are the songs on this EP about?
Prince: I think some of these songs came from my desire to be in another place, and others from a desire to be in another time. And these songs are about life as we perceive it, or at least remember it. They’re about overthinking and underacting, and stumbling when we do move. They are about getting a dream crushed. They are about hope. They are about best friends and brothers. I mean, it’s only four songs, but they are kind of about everything.
Front and back album art provided by Retro Via.