Shoals band unveils, experiments with first rock album

by Student Writer Ashley Steenson

Local band Strange Waves released its first album “Walls” Feb. 28 at 116 E. Mobile St. Readers can catch Strange Waves on Mobile Street for First Friday March 6.

With recordings spanning two years at multiple locations, plus weighty influence from all members, “Walls” is not the typical album.

Percussionist Evan Sandy said he credits sound engineer Greg Scheske as the mastermind that unified the album. Sandy described him as a passionate detector of authenticity in people and music.

With the focus of modern music shifting toward post-production, Strange Waves did not look to Scheske to correct its work, but to use his mixing skills to create one album from the varying personalities reflected in the recordings.

Although the members are in sync live and on the album, a natural polarity exists within the band and works to its benefit. The group can be likened to a cell, with Jackson Gilreath, vocalist and guitarist, as its nucleus. Jeremy Couch, also integral to vocals and guitar in Strange Waves, exists as the more raw, sporadic Jekyll to Gilreath’s musical Hyde, even in their stage setup, as he is left-handed and the inversion of Gilreath. Couch is a disciple of rock ’n’ roll with classic, hardcore and psychedelic elements. Couch adds elements exuding early Queens of the Stone Age and The Desert Sessions to Gilreath’s Muse-esque, operatic rock.

The guitarists understand the musical virtue of coming in and leaving at the right times, meeting in the middle for the perfect sound.

The rhythm section includes percussionist Sandy and bassist Joseph Whitehead. If Gilreath is the nucleus of the cell, Sandy is the cell wall — holding it all together.

Whitehead experiments with different styles of playing, but his multifaceted nature does not stop at bass. He also performed vocals on “Wolves,” the last track on the album.

It is a turn from the preceding tracks “Walls,” “Song for the Living,” and “Son of Many Suns.” “Wolves” has a more meandering, improvisational feel, whereas the other songs are uptempo with complex guitar playing and vocals.

Despite any upbeat musical choices, the subject matter remains rather solemn, but in an optimistic and accepting way, ranging from facing one’s own mortality to garnering the courage to end a relationship.

The album title represents seeing the light through a crack in the walls that may be making you claustrophobic. It is similar to Roger Waters’ idea behind Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” – the overcoming of walls within one’s self as an artist. Whatever the philosophical implications, the music is deep, too.

Editor’s note: Student Writer Evan Sandy is a member of Strange Waves and did not contribute to this report.