Shadow Age’s new Silaluk EP starts with a powerful backbeat, soon accompanied by rippling guitars and an atmospheric synth courtesy of Davey Bales, the singer of Lost Tribe. Singer Aaron Tyree’s kind-of-ethereal, kind-of-disaffected postpunk vocals kick in and you’re treated to a captivating, shadowy journey through a dreamlike musical experience. It’s coldwave-influenced postpunk, a little gothy, and it works well. The band previewed their new video on CVLT Nation a few weeks ago, here.
The first track on Silaluk, the eponymous song, is the one most familiar to readers and probably the most compelling on the entire EP. It’s a masterful, immersive, drowsy track – dreamlike and haunting in its lush intensity. The following song, “Portrait of a Young Man Drowning,” starts of in a kind of Bauhaus-y way, flanger’d guitar and bass drum metronomically throbbing forward the way you imagine Daniel Ash liked to kick off songs back in the days of Bauhaus’ Mask era. The drumming by Evan Recinos is fantastic, rumbling along on the toms and with minimal cymbal contact in a way that can recall some of the classic “tribal” UK postpunk of the early and mid 1980s. This is good stuff – a great team effort. Incredibly dark, mesmerizing, sometimes discomfiting, melodic, and, again, strangely ethereal. I really tend to think of Shadow Age as being a lot like San Francisco’s Glorious Din, with singer Aaron Tyree having a similar singing style to that band’s Eric Cope. Aaron’s vocals weave a spell that is not soon forgotten, and linger with the listener long after the EP finishes.
Something perhaps worth mentioning – or perhaps not worth mentioning at all, given the subculture from which Shadow Age come (the band has roots in Richmond’s punk scene) – Shadow Age are a gloomy postpunk band whose primary members, including the guitarist and singer, are African-American. And it’s perhaps only worth mentioning in 2015 because of the sometimes ugly attitudes that can still be encountered, especially when gothic rock, deathrock, and postpunk are genres of music still thought, in some quarters, to pejoratively be white/Anglo music. This is something I asked the band about, below: namely, what’s it like to be in such a diverse band and playing this style of music, traditionally associated with a “white” subculture, in 2015? It’s the kind of question that hopefully only a few years from now will seem even more silly than it does today (it was something I also asked Lost Tribe in the second interview I did with them).
Aaron Tyree and Davey Bales of Shadow Age were interviewed by Oliver in May, 2015.
Let’s get some basic information out of the way first: Who is in Shadow Age, what instruments do they play, where are you all from, and how long has the band been around?
Aaron: I’m Aaron and I play guitar and sing. I’m from Richmond, VA and we’ve been a band for the better part of a year. Bruce plays bass and is from Pittsburgh originally. Evan is from the D.C. area and plays drums. Davey plays synth and is from Richmond as well.
Regarding the name Shadow Age, who came up with that and why did you choose it? I know you used to go by Colony – why the name change?
Aaron: Evan actually came up with it. It makes more sense for me to answer the latter part of the question first, I guess. We changed our name because there were other bands out there called Colony. We just figured it would be best if we went ahead and changed our name before we were forced to by someone else. It made more sense for us to do it before we put out something officially – it just cuts down on confusion on all fronts. We chose Shadow Age because there were no other bands with the name out there when we were talking about changing it.
I’ve listened to tracks off the new EP and they’re really good! Some other reviews have mentioned that you all don’t “sound southern” (from Virginia), but more like the kind of band that one might expect to come from northern England. How would you answer that observation and what ARE your influences for this project?
Aaron: Thanks for the kind words! I would agree that our sound is more derivative of English bands than, I guess, conventional southern bands. I think that it’s kind of funny when people assume that any band from south of the Mason Dixon will sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd or something. I can’t think of any band from Richmond who sounds anything like a conventional band from the south. We are all so far removed from that sort of thing that it never really crosses our minds. For me personally, when I first started writing for this band, I wanted it to be both melancholic and poppy at the same time, so early on I guess I was taking a great deal of influence from early Cure records, particularly things like Seventeen Seconds, Faith, The Walk mini LP (Japanese Whispers) and that Charlotte Sometimes single. There’s some Chameleons in there too, and I suppose The Sound as well.
Davey: My influences are all over the place. From early 80s post punk to 80s coldwave bands.
What’s the band’s relation to Nocere and Lost Tribe, and how is the music that Shadow Age makes similar, or different, from those projects?
Aaron: Davey and I both are in Nocere. We both play synth and we both split songwriting duties. Sometimes I’ll program a drum and he’ll throw synths on, sometimes vice versa. Typically neither one of us has a specific idea as to what kind of song we want to write or have a synth line or a bass riff to work off of. We will just come up with something and then we build on it and layer it until we are satisfied with it enough to hand it over to Emily for her vocals. It’s weird for us because we will have to go back later and actually learn the songs in order to play them live. We also always have to figure out the drum stuff too, since there is no drummer, figuring out how go make live mixes of pre-programed drums and everything can be kind of a headache. It took a lot of tinkering to get it down to a science.
This is completely different from Shadow Age, where I’ll typically have a rough demo of the song already together to kind of present to the band for approval. I’ll record a rough bass, a rough guitar, and sometimes a synth to a beat and if they feel like it has potential then we will go from there. We typically wind up with something a bit different from the rough demo, which is nice. We have a couple of songs that we have come up with kind of out of thin air, I would like to see us doing a bit more of that in the future. I would say that all three bands are very different though the only similarities I guess would be that they are all synth driven; Lost Tribe is straight up peacepunk, Nocere is straight up electronic, and Shadow Age falls right into the center, being a post punk band.
Davey: I think Lost Tribe and Nocere have their own sound and Shadow Age is a lot different from those two. The guitars, bass, drums, synths, and vocals are all unique in Shadow Age. We all have our own influences in the band.
I interviewed Lost Tribe a few times and it wasn’t until the second interview that I thought to ask – what’s it like being in such an ethnically diverse punk band? And I’d like to ask the same to Shadow Age: how has being into punk, postpunk, and or goth been as a pretty diverse band? Have you encountered any ugly attitudes, and is there anything you’d like to address about this you’ve not addressed yet? The perception used to be that punk, and especially gothy postpunk, for sure, was a really “white” form of music, and this has often been held against it.
Aaron: This is a really cool question. It’s something I never really gave much thought to, honestly, but now that I think of it, it’s actually pretty cool. We’ve never really had any problems. If anything, we’ll get a look if we walk into a place as a group, but it may also be how loud we can be in both appearance and volume. But, it is nice rolling into a venue, or a show, or whatever and not thinking, “damn, am I going to be the only black dude here?” It’s not that I ever feel out of place at shows or anything… It’s hard to describe, but it’s definitely nice. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation at a show or on the road in which race has been an issue or problematic.
Davey: I don’t think that I ever considered punk, post punk, or goth to have ever been predominantly white, because there have always been people that enjoyed the music regardless of their skin color.
What are the primary influences on Shadow Age? People would probably guess Factory Records bands or gothy, Leeds-style dark postpunk bands – but is this actually true? Who are Shadow Age’s musical guiding lights?
Aaron: I’m not even sure if we could accurately answer that. One thing I love about playing in this band is that everyone comes from pretty different backgrounds, so we all carry different things from those backgrounds with us. When it comes to our own personal tastes in terms of post punk bands, we all tend to meet right in the middle, which is perfect. There are of course bands that we all love, but as we listen to more obscure bands, there will be like 2 or 3 of us who are into it and 1 or 2 of us who are not so into it. We’ll sometimes talk about things that we like and dislike about whatever band, or song, or album or whatever. I think that it’s those talks that really influence us more than actual songs or bands. Just kind of talking about what makes a band or a record work, and what makes them kinda fall apart or fall short, I think it really helps us in writing songs together.
Davey: For me, I love catchy synth lines, so the bands I would say influence me would be more like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Asylum Party, Little Nemo, Flowers for Agatha, Days of Sorrow, early Ministry, stuff like that.
Is there a primary lyricist or songwriter for Shadow Age? Who tends to write the lyrics and what are the topics about? Is Shadow Age a political band at all – i.e. are the lyrics political at all, or are they more personal, or…?
Aaron: I guess that would be me. I do all of the lyrics and vocal patterns. I don’t write politically at all. I personally have a difficult time connecting with songs that overtly deal with politics. I typically tend to write about my own experiences, be it something I experienced first hand or an experience that I’ve observed from the outside. I also write a bit about ideas, but even then, it’s through observation, I guess.
There have been some interesting reactions to the “trend” of punk bands rediscovering or employing more postpunk tropes and music influences in their music over the past few years. “Trendiness” is usually a very dismissive term in the punk community, as if in 1982 it wasn’t trendy to play at a faster tempo – and, thus, hardcore punk as a phenomenon emerged, thank god. Do you have any thoughts on the current revival of deathrock and postpunk in the punk scene?
Aaron: It’s great to see that there are still people interested in a style that has been around as long as it has, in a time when it seems like more and more people are more concerned with instagram likes and youtube video views. It’s awesome that there are bands out there doing it right and that there are other post punk bands to play with. At the same time, it can make newer bands seem like they are jumping on a bandwagon; which if they are, it only hurts them in the long run. I’ve been wanting to do this band for like, 6 years now, so, at the same time I’m like, “why did it take me so long to get this thing going?” It brings out a lot of mixed emotions.
Davey: I think it’s awesome that so many people are experimenting with the classic 80s sound, and there are so many great new bands out there now. It’s exciting, and I love that the revival is strong. I still listen to hardcore punk and go to shows, but I also love post punk, goth, deathrock, whatever you want to call it. People can call it trendy, stupid, or whatever, but I don’t give a damn, I just love it!
A question I try to ask all bands: If you were stranded on a desert island and somehow had the means to play records, but could only have 5 records with you for the rest of your life, what records would those be, and why?
Aaron: I’m sorry in advance because there is no way I can be short about this.
Prince, Purple Rain – I know the term gets thrown around a lot, but this is hands down “genius.” Every song. Every damn song. There are very few examples of musical genius (I can think of maybe 3 others), particularly in music that isn’t “classical,” this record is riddled with it. I sadly can’t go on further than that without doing a dissertation on it.
The Smiths, Meat is Murder – I absolutely love The Smiths, I could go on and on about this record forever, but to keep it brief: I feel like with this record, everyone is finally settled into their role in the band. The songs are all great, the track listing flows the best out of all of their studio recordings, I think. Andy’s bass work is ridiculous, he really lets loose on every track. Morrissey is probably the most morose lyrically than on any other Smiths LP (he mentions either death or serious bodily harm in every single song), the guitars are, well… Johnny Marr guitars, so they’re perfect. In terms of production, we get some really cool reverb effects, be it on the Morrissey’s falsetto voice during “Well I Wonder” or the drums during “Nowhere Fast,” where they essentially turn into a train engine. I’ve been listening to this thing for years and I’m still finding new sounds within it. Records like that are always the best.
Michael Jackson, Off The Wall – Kind of a cop out, but, holy shit, this record. Not only do you have a 21 year old Michael Jackson still singing like a soul singer, but you have him singing over this weird groovy disco/soul/funk hybrid of songs. Every single song delivers and the hooks are infectious. I couldn’t live without this record.
The Cure, The Head on the Door – There are Cure records that I think I enjoy more than this one, but if I’m stranded on an island I don’t want to be bummed the entire time I’m listening to The Cure. The songs are all so well crafted and they feel so light and refreshing, it has one of my favorite Cure singles (“A Night Like This”), and it’s closed out with “Sinking,” which is so cold and moody in comparison with the rest of the record. Lots of really cool tones all throughout the record as well.
Asylum Party, Borderline – I never get tired of this thing. Every song is a banger. The record is cold and desperate but poppy and hopeful at the same time. All of the drum programming is perfect, lots of very different drum sounds and reverb gates. Awesome riffs. French Coldwave at its absolute best.
Davey: I can keep it short… Prince – Purple Rain, Riistetyt – Skitsofrenia, The Vibrators – Pure Mania, The Chameleons – What Does Anything Mean?, Bauhaus – Mask. All these records have had a huge impact on my life and I’m positive I will never get tired of listening to them.
Previously, you all were going to tour while under the name of Colony. What happened to that tour and how are things looking with the tour you’ve got planned in May?
Aaron: We were having van troubles. We made a not so quick run to Detroit and on our way back home our van broke down. We just wanted to make sure we had our transportation situation a bit more stable before we made any more big trips. Things are looking pretty good for the May tour. I’m probably the least stressed about this one than the others we have done, which I guess is good seeing as how this one is our longest thus far so. I’m actually pretty happy to say that things are looking good, and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Where can folks go to hear the new EP, and where can they buy it? Do you all have a Bandcamp and/or Facebook page?
Aaron: The EP can be streamed at http://music.6131records.com/album/silaluk and it can be downloaded there as well. 6131 is currently taking pre-orders through their webstore and you will be able to get them from us on tour as well. Our bandcamp is shadowage.bandcamp.com and we can be found on FB at https://www.facebook.com/shadowagerva. Thanks for the interview!
Shadow Age’s Spring 2015 Silaluk Tour has a Facebook page here.
These are the dates:
5.22. Richmond, VA @ 25 Watt w/ Silence, NOCERE, + DJ’S Shravnasty & DJ D-FX
5.23 Asheville, NC @ Broadway’s w/ Cold Solstice, Strange Bodies
5.25 Birmingham, AL @The Firehouse w/ In Snow +TBA
5.26 Houston, TX @The Shop w/GAST, DJ Kris Hex
5.27 Austin, TX @ The Lost Well w/GAST, God’s Gun, Negativ Nancy
5.28 Dallas, TX @ The Crown & Harp w/ Frauen, Slimy Member, Seres, and Cold Cuts DJs
5.29 Chicago, IL @ Rancho Huevos w/ Crone, Sin Orden, Veil Vitric
5.30 Detroit, MI @ The Precinct w/ Ishtar, PRC, Jesse and the Eels
5.31 Cincinatti, OH @ CideCentral w/ Skeleton Hands, Nearest SGD, DJ Inhuman