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Track-by-Track: Without Waves Explore the Thought-Provoking Themes Behind New Album ‘Comedian’

Progressive Chicago band Without Waves take us on a journey through the thought-provoking themes inspiring new album ‘Comedian.’



Chicago-based outfit Without Waves is an eclectic group pulling influences from as far-reaching as The Dillinger Escape Plan and Devin Townsend through to the prog-rock of Porcupine Tree. Their new album, Comedian, dropped through Prosthetic Records this past week, so we sat down with the band and got a track-by-track rundown on each of the themes inspiring this deep, thought-provoking record.

1. “Good Grief”

“‘Good Grief’ is a loose socio-political commentary on the endless stream of information we are all subjected to; the toxic soapbox journalism, the hyperbolic punditry and sensationalism…all for what? Someone in power can tweet something and it can shift global markets, cause geo-political uproar, which ultimately affects normal people at a micro level. Take the old adage made famous by Stan Lee: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ It seems as though many in power can’t or won’t grasp this simple pearl of wisdom, and we’re all worse off for it.”

2. “Animal Kingdom”

“This song is commentary on the absurdity of modern day courtship. There’s a frenetic quality to the music that matches the animalistic nature of dating. It takes less than a second to slide left or right on someone based on a snap judgment. It’s about consumption. I love the savior aspect in this song too…‘pheromone Jesus, whatever you need me to be tonight…’ But behind all of that ego, there’s generally an intense need for connection, understanding, acceptance and love… The dichotomy of it is as fascinating as it is unsavory.”

3. “.algorithm”

“This tune has a bit of a binary, industrial vibe which matches the lyrical themes perfectly. Our lives are made up of ones and zeros. We’re overly attached and hyper-sensitive to anything fed to us. In the spoken word section of the bridge, I say the phrase ‘Art is anything you can get away with.’ It’s a quote from Marshall McLuhan, a 20th-century philosopher who essentially predicted the internet back in the 1950s. He argued that we’re all connected by the influence of technology and its effects on the central nervous system. The line afterwards, ‘Art is all that makes wrong right,’ is a response and reprieve to the negative aspects of digital media. It’s important to unplug as much as possible.”

Artwork for ‘Comedian’ by Without Waves

4. “Set and Setting”

Zac led the writing process for this tune. It features some of the most innovative riffs on the record, in my opinion. Arguably the heaviest song on the record as well. This was an absolute beast to record. We spent a lot of time capturing some of the more unique guitar sounds using a slew of boutique amps and pedals. The outro is a highlight as we had always envisioned a slow fade on the tail end. It’s sort of a call back to a lot of seminal records we enjoyed from the ’80s and ’90s.”

5. “Sleep Deep”

“This was the last song written for the record, only a couple of months before we entered into the studio. Normally, we take a bit more time to flesh things out but we felt it served as a palate cleanser in the middle of the record. When we were recording drums, I started strumming the full chords you hear in the outro each time we finished a take. That wasn’t planned but we ended up liking it so much that we added it in when recording guitars. It created a nice transition to the second half of the record.”

6. “Do What Scares You”

“This song is a prime example of the four of us getting into a room and feeding off one another creatively. It was so much fun to write as it involved so many different elements and sounds. It has a nice mid-tempo, push and pull throughout and the bridge is filled with a wide variety of loops, all of which you can hear in the mix thanks to our mixing engineer Rollin Weary. He did a spectacular job fitting all of the pieces together.
Definitely one of the highlights of the record.”

7. “Sleight In Shadows”

“Anxiety is very real. This song is about that feeling in the pit of your stomach that never settles, the restless leg that won’t stop moving, the constant questioning of one’s self-worth… It’s a never-ending rabbit hole if you allow it to be. Fight or flight is a natural biological response to danger, but if you let it rule you, you end up fighting for your life 24/7 and that’s no way to live.”

8. “Day 15”

“This is one of the oldest tracks written for the record. It’s essentially about loss… of one’s self, someone of great importance in your life, loss of innocence, regret etc. Depending on how you lose someone, I think there’s always a sliver of guilt in that you sometimes ask yourself whether you could have done more to keep someone around. That guilt can creep up on you and become paralyzing. You can’t compartmentalize forever, and this song is an example of that mechanism failing and emotions spilling over.”

9. “Worlds Apart”

“This was the most difficult song to record. Often the less dense a song is, the more challenging it can be to capture the emotional weight you’re trying to convey, and this song is deeply personal. For guitars, we tried maybe 7-8 different amps and tones until we found the tone that was just right. Recording vocals was just as nerve-racking. The song is sparse and I didn’t have much to lean on, but the final product came out beautifully.”

10. “Seven”

“The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always bright. Most of the time life is cloudy and confusing, and this song is about accepting the nuance of it all. Contentment is rarely perfect. It involves the acceptance of inconvenient truths. In the spoken word section of the song, there is a lyric from each song off the record. It sums the meaning of the record so perfectly… blue giving way to grey, wrong giving way to right… Life is difficult. Let’s all just be kinder to one another. Or not. Whatever… It’s all relative.”

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.