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Innaway's Jim Schwartz has a confession to make. When the band he plays guitar and keyboards for went into the studio to record its first demo, things got a little crazy. In a way, it was sort of like Schwartz and his bandmates were visiting Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory and they couldn't stop eating the candy. Only Wonka wasn't around to rap them on the knuckles with his cane.
Unable to rein in their urges, they gleefully piled layer upon layer of studio effects on the six songs they'd recorded, effectively burying them alive. There was too much frosting and not enough cake.
"You couldn't pick out a single instrument," Schwartz says, laughing sheepishly. That's not the case with Innaway's new self-titled full-length release. Out July 5 on Some Records, it's a relaxing ambient-pop joy ride through deserts and space with The Friends Of Dean Martinez, Mercury Rev and On The Beach-era Neil Young. Finding the nexus between Pink Floyd and Granddaddy, Innaway travels the hallucinogenic highways of 60s and 70s psychedelia and winds up wandering the parched earth of southern California in an amnesiac fog.
To get that sound, Innaway now relies more on its instruments, like iridescent keyboards and heavy, cinematic guitar textures. "We used to be out of control, but now I think we know a little more about how to use all that stuff," Schwartz explains. "We're bordering on over indulgence, but there's five of us, so we have to make everybody happy. The thing is that we've gotten smarter about the way we use it, and we don't have to use a ton of effects to make it trippy."
The new and improved Innaway isn't the same band that used to play places like The Tiki Bar and the Detroit Bar. In 2001, Innaway was formed, starting with jam sessions between Barry Fader, who was just starting to play guitar, and Darrick Rasmussen, Innaway's bassist, and Schwartz and his girlfriend, who played keyboards. "We were clicking well and we didn't have a drummer, so then Gabe (Palmer) joined," said Schwartz. "Then my girlfriend moved back to Japan." Enter Reid Black, a Prog-rock worshipper who's into Yes and King Crimson and had been in a band with Darrick and Barry in high school. "Reid is a great guitar player," said Schwartz. "He's so important for us. The next album you're going to hear his influence more."
All were weaned on simplistic hardcore, but Schwartz and the others grew tired of its constraints. "I definitely know I wasn't happy playing it," said Schwartz, whose ticket out was learning to play guitar after starting out as a bassist. "It was fun to play live, but it wasn't fun to write or record it." Having made his choice, Schwartz retreated to his bedroom to lay the groundwork for something new.
"I'd been sitting in my bedroom forever writing songs, just waiting for a band to come along and put them on record," said Schwartz. What changed everything for Schwartz was seeing Radiohead live in the late 90s. "I kind of started working toward playing music like that, and I wanted to see who their influences were and what they did, like Can and Pink Floyd," said Schwartz.
Innaway was a breath of fresh air. Schwartz remembers how ideas flowed naturally from the start. In three months, they had recorded the six songs for the demo. And they started playing live, first in a friend's living room. Everyone was astounded at the transformation, having envisioned Innaway as just another hardcore or emo project for the quintet.
"There were a couple of people who came to our practices, but really no one had any idea what we were doing," said Schwartz. "We were playing a whole different kind of music and everybody just kind of said, 'What?'"
That's probably what a lot of kids were asking themselves when Innaway played The Tiki Bar in Costa Mesa, California. "It was in Orange County, and punk bands played there, that sort of pop-punk thing, but it was cool," said Schwartz. "It was actually one of our least important shows."
But it helped the band get better gigs, like a show at the Glass House in Pomona, California. "It's one of the best clubs outside of Los Angeles," said Schwartz. "It's a really big room with great sound and everybody's really nice. It was great because we used to play a lot of bars where half the people were there to socialize and the other half was there to hear music."
Month-long residencies at the Detroit Bar, in Costa Mesa, and the Silver Lounge followed. As the resident band at the Detroit Bar, Innaway attracted sizeable crowds and filled the place, even on Monday nights. Those regular stints helped the band grow a following organically and they were crucial to improving their chops.
"They're a good way to get established," said Schwartz. "They really helped us. You'd get a write-up in the local paper and word of mouth would spread. And a band can practice as much as they like in its practice space, but playing shows is where you find out how people respond."
It was Innaway's last show at the Detroit Bar that got them signed to a label. "That last show was packed and the label came because they wanted to see us. It was a good night for us and a great show."
So it was back to the studio for Innaway and the result - which includes one song off the EP, the gorgeously airy, string-washed "Tiny Brains" - is a stunningly beautiful long-player that's been compared to Air and Tortoise, as well as Led Zeppelin and the aforementioned Floyd. It even caught the ear of producer and Tortoise mastermind John McEntire, who mixed the record.
"We recorded it and did the engineering ourselves and it was hard on us," said Schwartz. "We decided we needed some fresh ears for the mixing and so we talked to the label about it. They came up with a couple of people. John was into it." It was an incredible experience, and an education.
"He didn't make too many changes, but there is a song ("Golden") where it sounds like the drum machine is busting through the speakers, and on that one, John busts into the hallway that separates the control room and takes down these panels on the wall and just starts rewiring things," said Schwartz, still incredulous. "It was wild."
For Schwartz and Rasmussen, it was a chance to see a master at work. "I'd been recording stuff in my bedroom and Darrick went to school for it, so him and I both record bands now," said Schwartz.
As for Innaway's new record, Schwartz sees it as a tamer - albeit more refined and sophisticated - version of the band's live show. "We toned it down because we didn't want to scare people right off," he explained. "I think this is the album that's going to secure us in a genre. We went down more beaten paths with this one. We did go further with this album than the EP. Instead of having the effects turned up, we did it more naturally. I think with the next album we'll do whatever we want and I think we'll find our own sound."
First there's the matter of touring, something Innaway hasn't done yet. They'll get thrown into the fire right away. Soon, Innaway will embark on a tour with 60's revivalists and traveling shoegazer freakshow, the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Yes indeed, Innaway has come a long way. How would Schwartz describe the Innaway live show?
"Well, I haven't had a chance to watch us yet," he jokes. "But we rock harder than on the album. I think we're a better live band than studio band. The album is much more polished, but our live shows are much more rocking and energetic."
Just ask anybody who saw them at the Detroit Bar. SEE ALSO: www.innawaymusic.com
SEE ALSO: www.some.com
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he'll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.
See other articles by Peter Lindblad.
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