Retroglyphs’ eponymous new album, released this month, is a powerful dichotomy on the themes of love and war, continuing the band’s traditions of strong narrative and synth-tastic sounds with a foundation of solid, beautiful lyrics and vocals.
From the get-go, you know you’re in the land of the glorious sounds of the ‘80s with the intro Hyperdrive, introducing the album’s story, a hopeful tale reminiscent of the future-looking philosophy of that glittering decade.
The cadence announces itself with dancy, upbeat tracks such as the incredibly catchy Wild Road, where hints of Retroglyphs’ love of bands such as Depeche Mode and The Cult shine through. There’s a great mix of pinging, energetic synth sounds and a haunting but graceful lyricism here which makes it easy to see why artists including Damokles (who collaborated on the track War Torn), Shane Keizer and others have been keen to collaborate with the band.
From the aptly-titled Transformation interlude, the tracks take on a notably darker personality, and this is where my personal favourite tracks, especially the brilliant No Glory In The Fall, give the album its exciting, multi-faceted personality. There’s a lot to like here, and although Retroglyphs probably wouldn’t consider themselves part of the darkwave or industrial rock genres, fans of those movements will find a lot to like here among the hedonistic, percussion-led dancy beats of the earlier songs in the track list.
Indeed, Retroglyphs have professed their love of ‘80s horror movies and the darker sounds of synthesised music from that decade. All the best dance songs have a distinct melancholy running through them, and Retroglyphs is no different. This is far from goth or pure darkwave though, and the alluring lyrics and pretty sounds of the ending track, Two Years, cements it as a narrative of hope despite loss in love.
Retroglyphs is available on iTunes, Spotify and other major music download services. You can also have a listen to the tracks on SoundCloud.
I found the vocals particularly impressive on the LP, they work wonderfully with the dreamy melodies you create. Do you guys tend to come up with the lyrics and then work the music around that, or what’s the process when you’re creating a record?
We always start with the music, but in the end the vocals are always what makes the song for us. For example, we came up with the music for The Noose and it sat on the shelf for about four months because we could not come up with a vocal part. Randomly one night we came up with the verse and the song was tracked and finished about two days later.
We really throw caution to the wind when it comes to the creative process. The idea is that there are no limitations, no judgements being made when creating, no expectations. Obviously when we get to the mixing phase of the record our method changes and we are more critical, but in its infancy we have a saying that we use, “The answer is always yes,” as in, “Yes, let’s try everything.”
Typically it starts with the music, but when we find a catchy vocal melody or lyric that we like, we might re-think the whole arrangement and build the song around that hook. There’s this reoccurring detail of our process that seems to happen time and time again: We’ll write a really interesting bridge, and then we’ll say, “Forget the rest of the song, it’s garbage. Let’s make a new song and make this part the main subject of the tune.”
Do you have any other particular influences, musical or otherwise? You mention wanting to bring the beautiful and cinematic feeling from the ‘80s alive in your music for example.
The movies of the ‘80s did so well at capturing the feeling, aura, and culture of the time. It was the height of pop cinema and it gave us so many classic cuts. Frank’s absolute favourite is Mad Max and there are post-apocalyptic lyrical references all over the record. Karate Kid, Back To The Future, Rocky, Weird Science, Valley Girl, anything from Ridley Scott, John Hughes, John Carpenter, we just can’t get enough of it.
The ‘80s love affair between music and images which was documented so well on MTV and glorified in montages from all your favourite movies, it’s an epic and hypnotic feeling that we crave, and it defined our childhoods.
I love your collaborations with artists like Damokles and Shane Keizer, have you enjoyed communicating with and working on tracks with different musicians? How do you find the process in comparison with making your own records?
Damokles, Shane, Jowie Schulner, Marcenby, and others; they have all blown our minds with their remixes, collaborations, and various contributions to our tunes. Not only that, but they are inspiring us with their take on our songs. It has really opened up our minds to the prospect of having someone else produce our material. We love the idea of the ‘remix’ or the ‘reimagining’. We don’t consider our songs to be sacred ground. You can take it, chop it up, get crazy with it.
Jowie and Damokles were the first to remix our tracks. We really consider them to be legends in the scene. We were fortunate enough to have Damokles collaborate on War Torn and we are hoping to do more work with Jowie in the future.
War Torn was the very first song we recorded and we always loved the song but we hated the drum production so we shelved it. After hearing the Damokles remix of The Noose we got brave enough to ask him to re-work the drums and we are so happy with how it turned out. He brought the energy to the music that it was missing.
What do you guys enjoy doing when you’re not in the studio?
Holland plays tons of hockey and loves to travel, Matt runs a podcast that he really enjoys, Dowiak works as an audio engineer and music teacher, and Frank has two kids and pretty much spends all his extra free time with his family.
Would it be fair to say your music is a blend of new wave, synthwave, synthpop and rock? The use of vocals and instrumentals with a synthy undertone lends itself to that mix in my mind.
We didn’t realise there was a retrowave scene until after we started making the music. We didn’t have a name for our group but we were always purposefully trying to make ‘80s music. We wanted a name that was self-descriptive, as in you could tell exactly what kind of music we play when you hear our name. We actually considered the name ‘retrowave’, and we googled it to see if there were any other bands with that name.
That’s when we discovered the ‘new retro wave’ record label and we were like, “Whoa, there are tons of bands doing this and they are all awesome!” Since that discovery we’ve gotten super into synthwave but we agree that our music is more a mix of synthwave, synthpop, and rock. After all, our roots are all in indie rock music, Retroglyphs is a conceptual extension from that.
How is Philadelphia for musicians making this type of music? Are you near any good venues or other hotspots for synthwave or music in general?
Philly is a hotspot for all kinds of music, and incredibly receptive to any and all genres. There is an outlet for everything. The synth wave scene tends to get lumped in with all its connected genres, especially EDM. We have had the good fortune of being able to book our own shows so far, our first one we had TEEEL and Lapses on the bill, that was probably the most synthwave night of music in Philly we’ve ever seen.
What’s next in the pipeline for Retroglyphs?
We are touring the US behind this new record and giving it some proper promo, but it’s going to be hard not to follow it up with something before the end of the year. We left about 10 songs off the record. Right now we’re thinking about a fall EP release with some female singing contributions from a couple friends of ours who have amazing voices. It’s our chance to delve more into our ‘80s fantasy and our obsession with ‘80s Madonna.
We’ve also been working on a couple of alternative rock covers that we’ve treated in the retro style. They came out surprisingly well, we’re excited to share them with the world! Honestly, we are so excited about the response we’ve been getting from the synthwave community and it has motivated us and provided us with some really positive energy.
Truth be told we have been talking to a couple labels but we can’t say much more than that 😉
Retroglyphs are currently playing a number of US gigs, find more info on their site and find them on: