L.A.-based State to State releases new album, storms west coast
“I think that we fit in a place that is waiting to come back. Right now guitars aren’t in demand so we’re kind of lying in the weeds waiting to become relevant. In the meantime we’re happy to not cop trends. I haven’t turned the radio on in years.” — Shea Stratton, lead vocals, lyricist/guitarist, State to State
Rising, lesser-known bands inevitably get the flattering yet oft-repeated comparisons to their musical semblances. It’s par for the course in the music industry, a way of pinpointing a group’s sound with some type of GPS-like accuracy amidst the expansive mash-up of genres and subgenres.
So, let’s dispense with the necessities and move on: Yes, State to State borrows, stylistically, from everything from U2 to Pink Floyd, to Radiohead. A reviewer at Examiner.com drew parallels to an early Muse. I and that same reviewer even detected an echo of Sigur Ros, particularly on the band’s instrumental tracks.
Fortunately, State to State is able to draw from these influences and emerge from their dauntingly tall shadows unscathed — a band wholly and completely itself. The only possible concern — if one could even call it that, as Stratton’s infectious optimism seems to shake off worry — is that their colleagues in rock are scattered across the decades, with few currently pushing the tides in an era of twerks and “Blurred Lines.” Still, State to State appears content with where they are, “lying in the weeds,” and fans of more timeless music will be quite grateful of this fact. They’re not in the business of playing themselves up; they are in the business of playing themselves.
No Bounds (NB), the band’s first full-length album (they released a self-titled EP in 2010, a year after forming), was released February 25th. You can purchase it today at iTunes or at the band’s website.
In addition to Stratton, State to State is Mike Schneider (drums) from Texas; Andrew Orvis (guitar) from Wisconsin; Patrick Morgan (bass) from Detroit, and a bassist who played on NB is William Driskill from San Diego.
NB is a cerebral album; though Stratton is masterful at stadium-arena-level wails and howls — check out his solo 2007 track “Hollywood”– (and NB does offer some samples of this), the group appears to have opted for a more pensive and atmospheric approach this go-around. It’s quite fitting perhaps, that one of the first singles from NB is titled “Comprehension Headache” and it’s not difficult to sense the intensity of the head rush as Stratton bellows:
Come back and kill me
I want you to
Don’t like to rush you
God forbid if I suggest you are wrong
Cause every time I touch you
Feels like a cold exchange with a stranger
One of the best tracks on NB may not provide insight into Stratton’s mind, but it does give the listener pause to retreat into his or her own head. The instrumental “Sad Robot”, arriving precisely at the album’s halfway point, is melodic brilliance, a muse of moving cadence I actually played on repeat while writing half of this review (this song also features some of the great Sigur Ros haunts, but I digress). I could easily see myself using this track for other occasions I need to reflect.
Still, NB propels forward in large measure on Stratton’s powerful vocal range, which rises and falls with enviable ease. Fortunately, Orvis, Schneider, and Driscoll are all skillfully in synch with Stratton’s melodic acrobatics. Though the album’s tracks rise and fall in energy in tandem with Stratton it ultimately concludes on a passionate note.
Whether that passion is hopeful or futile, however, is another matter altogether.
“Awake,” coming three-quarters of the way through the album lives up to its name, shaking off some of the preceding slower tracks. Two tracks later NB ends in a splendid clash of musicality and lyrics. “Bring Out Your Dead’s” choruses (much like “Awake’s) come much closer to what could be dubbed ‘arena-epic,’ fully equipped with riotous fist-pumping choruses. The energy is contrasted with Stratton’s dark, dystopian lyrics:
It was dark all December
The cold much worse
Don’t think any methods of torture could hurt any worse
Grieve for the fallen
As the guitar solo crescendos in a bridge to Stratton’s final chanting, repeat demand “to bring out your dead” you get the feeling that being in Stratton’s head must be one interesting place to reside.
To finish the review, I had to return to “Sad Robot.” I’m not sure I could conclude this article any better in my own words. Rather, I’ll let State to State have the final word. Listen to the album here. If you wish to slip into your own head, start with “Sad Robot.”
State to State will be playing at a variety of venues (from intimate to raucous) across the west coast. Tour Dates are as follows:
03.08.14 // Long Beach, CA // The Prospector
03.14.14 // San Francisco, CA // 50 Mason Social House
03.15.14 // Eugene, OR // Tiny’s Tavern
03.16.14 // Seattle, WA // The Highline
03.17.14 // Olympia, WA // Le Voyeur
03.18.14 // Portland, OR // The Foggy Notion
03.19.14 // Ashland, OR // Club 66
03.21.14 // Davis, CA // G Street Wunderbar
03.22.14 // San Jose, CA // The Caravan Lounge
03.28.14 // San Diego, CA // Till 2 Club