Posted by: Necci – May 22, 2015
There's no doubt that Shadow Age know how to make a first impression. From their mysterious, fog-enshrouded live performances to the melancholy yet hypnotic sounds of their debut EP, Silaluk, released this week on 6131 Records, they have a powerful presence that's impossible to ignore. However, as spooky as their music and stage shows can be, there's definitely a fun-loving side to this quartet as well. At one point during a recent conversation over chips & salsa and some giant frozen margaritas, singer/guitarist Aaron Tyree joked that their trademark fog machine provided not just atmosphere but a cover for possible mistakes. "If we fuck up or something goes wrong, the fog is enough of a distraction," he said. "Exactly!" synth player Davey Bales chimed in. "The [audience] are so focused on, 'I can't see!' They aren't [thinking], 'What's going on musically?'"
But in truth, quite a lot of good stuff is going on musically with this band. On their brand new EP, they present three songs that combine chilling, reverb-drenched guitar lines with complex rhythms, melodic basslines, and humming synth drones. The overall effect is reminiscent of classic early 80s albums by The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and The Chameleons (whom Shadow Age have covered). This is part of the plan, according to Bales; describing the band's formation, he says, "We were all trying to do the postpunk thing."
Shadow Age was formed by Tyree after the disintegration of his previous group, In Circles. "Some of the first songs we played out were initially written back in 2010," he says. "Toward the end [of In Circles], we toyed around with a couple of these songs, but it was different people so it didn't really work out as well." Around the same time, he'd been working with Bales on the more electronically-oriented act that has since grown into their other band, Nocere. But when In Circles ended, Tyree drafted Bales into his new project, and soon located bassist Bruce Fuller and drummer Evan Recinos to round out the lineup.
Shadow Age's exploration into a melancholy postpunk mood is definitely a departure for musicians best known for their work in punk bands. As far as the band is concerned, though, their current endeavors are just a continuation of their punk roots. "I'm really influenced by a lot of sounds from the 80s, within postpunk, goth, death rock, and hardcore," says Bales. "I see [Shadow Age] as being a new chapter in my musical experience and what I'm doing with myself. It's still DIY and still punk, so I'm comfortable with doing it."
Indeed, the band owes the release of their debut EP on 6131 Records to connections they've made within the local DIY scene. "I've known Sean [Patrick Rhorer of 6131 since] In Circles and his old band used to play shows together," says Tyree. "When we were recording, [he and I] met up somewhere, and he said, 'When you guys have [the recording] back, let me hear it. I might know some labels that would be interested.' When I sent it to him, he was like 'Actually, we're really interested in doing this.'"
The resulting three-song EP is centered around the title track, a foreboding tune written by Tyree about a difficult time in his life, which nearly resulted in the loss of a body part. It all began in winter of 2013, when Tyree was working on an industrial fishing ship in Alaska. "When I was on the boat, I got hurt," he says. "They were telling me that it was likely I'd lose some part of my foot. I was drugged out on all these pills I got from a clinic, waiting to come home. [Then] there was this gnarly storm that suspended all the air traffic, and I was stuck there for an additional four days."
"Silaluk," named after an Inuit word for "storm," captures Tyree's apocalyptic mindset during that trying week. "Alone, cold, scared--in a forgotten place," he sings during the song's first verse, then continues: "I'm beyond saving." Fortunately for Tyree, doctors were able to save his foot, and he's escaped the episode with no longterm health consequences. But the mood of the time is impossible to forget. "Things like that have their way of fucking with you," he says now. "Especially when you have anxiety."
With Silaluk out this week on vinyl and digital formats from 6131, Shadow Age are about to embark upon a weeklong tour through the Eastern United States. Musically, they may be spreading a gloomy vibe everywhere they go, but don't expect these guys to be moping in a dark corner of the club while they aren't onstage. At one point during our conversation, talk turned to the dangers of pre-show intoxication, and Bales regaled me with a wild story of getting day drunk in a New York City bar hours before a scheduled performance at that same bar. "I threw up at the bar at like 3 PM," he said, laughing. "The dude was like 'You've gotta get the fuck out of here,' and I was like 'Dude, I'm playing your venue tonight!'" So when you come to 25 Watt tonight, expect to have plenty of fun with these guys--both before and after they fill the club with thick gusts of fog.
Shadow Age will celebrate Silaluk's release tonight with a performance at 25 Watt, located at 115 N. 18th St in Shockoe Bottom. They'll be joined by Pittsburgh postpunk band Silence and by RVA's own Nocere (featuring Tyree and Bales doing double duty). Doors open at 9, music starts at 10. Admission is $7. For more info, click here.
Words by Andrew Necci; Photos by Christopher DiNitto