SHADOWRAPTR, as a whole, raises a lot of questions. How would the members describe their music? Is there any logical method to the group’s songwriting? From whence did the band’s name come? And why is it spelled incorrectly?
For fans of the Cincinnati band, these unanswered questions are of great importance as a growing audience tries to make sense of SHADOWRAPTR’s newest album, aptly titled Love a Good Mystery.
Winning “New Artist of the Year” at the 2011 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, the group earned early acclaim for its musical efforts, which is not surprising to anyone that’s heard their previous albums or seen the group perform live.
“Part of writing a song for us is playing it live ... testing it,” Neal Humphrey, SHADOWRAPTR’s bassist, says. “How does it make people feel? We fine tune it to see how people react.”
The band has tried out much of their new material on live audiences, but don’t think for a second that if you’ve seen SHADOWRAPTR live before, you won’t be surprised by the sound of the new album. Jacob Tippey of Ramshackle Recordings (and Punk band The Frankl Project) produced the album, taking the group’s live sound and fortifying it with a healthy dose of audio-tech wizardry.
“Due to the myriad of styles, influences and tones present in their material, creating cohesion between (and even within) tracks [was] a challenge,” Tippey says. “Bass and drums were tracked together; we tuned the room to be very tight and dry, similar to Funk records from the ‘70s.”
SHADOWRAPTR is hard to sum up, musically.
The members exhibit a classical understanding of composition and technique, yet they perform music which could be simply short shrifted as “Experimental Rock” or painstakingly categorized by a long list of hybrid genre crossovers that would read like a cumbersome haiku.The band embraces all of the sounds it encounters, melding styles and disciplines into something altogether new that doesn’t quite fit into any of the predetermined musical bins.
“We’ll reach a point where there is no genre,” Kat Hensey, keyboardist and vocalist, says. “Most of what we do is on accident.”
The band’s name was stumbled upon in a similar manner. According to the group’s Facebook page, “The name SHADOWRAPTR was chosen without the slightest touch of irony or shame.” After playing one evening in 2009 with many different names being thrown around, SHADOWRAPTR was decided upon, simply because they liked how it looked in writing and enjoyed how it sounded being said out loud.
“Having an over-the-top name reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously,” Aaron Collins, drummer and vocalist, says.
Stephen Patota, guitarist, says the local music community is a huge motivator for the band to keep improving. Patota, who is quite active in a number of bands right now (including The Happy Maladies), credits the close-knit network of musicians that comprise the community/record label of which SHADOWRAPTR is a part, the Marburg Collective.
“We work to keep it fresh for our friends,” Patota says.
Improvisation is a major vehicle for inspiration, where new material makes itself known while an old idea is molded into something altogether different from its original self. The band travels — not strays — from many different musical approaches. Without pretension and without sounding contrived, the band naturally calls upon a variety of styles. At an average length of around seven minutes, SHADOWRAPTR’s songs are packed with variety.
If it were to be said that SHADOWRAPTR makes atmospheric music, it would be necessary to be very specific which atmosphere it best represents … and that atmosphere is a spaceship that has stumbled into a whole new solar system, with colors never before seen and a harmless radiation that makes everything feel warm, cozy and right at home. Hard to explain, but it’s something very right.
Will SHADOWRAPTR ever be truly understood? Well, like their album title claims, you have to love a good mystery.
SHADOWRAPTR plays a free show at MOTR Pub Friday with The Frankl Project. Find details here.