There’s music that goes well with visuals, and then there’s music that is visual.
Post-rock, minimal techno and prog-rock tend towards that visual quality — as does the work of Victoria-based space-rockers Jets Overhead. And as lead singer Adam Kittredge explained, visualization works as much for the band as it does for listeners.
To focus in studio sessions, the band came up with a visual concept for their newest album, No Nations: A giant fountain.
“The drums are like the cement foundation (of the fountain). A jet underneath it is pumping the water up, and the main stream of water ... is the bass guitar,” he explained. “The vocals are when the water reaches the point where gravity hits, and falls down and spreads out. We wanted to keep the vocals central, on top of the mix ... Then the different effects splay out — all the fills, guitar, keyboard lines splashing down.”
Listening to songs like Heading for Nowhere and Tired of the Comfort, the visual metaphor makes a lot of sense. Driving basslines anchor epic vocal harmonies from Kittredge and his co-lead singer (and wife) Antonia Freybe-Smith.
The image also helps explain the band’s songwriting process, during which they work to capture spontaneity in carefully crafted structure. No Nations came together over weeks of extended jams recorded in the band’s practice space. Kettridge gathered up this digital hoard, trimming some 80 tracks worth of material from hours of experimentation.
“I gleaned the best nuggets of aural ecstasy (from our jams), distilled them and passed them around,” he said. “In band meetings and over email and phone, we talked about how to take those nuggets and use them in a verse-chorus-verse structure ... Then we went back to the recording studio again, put them together and imposed more structure.”
The end result is a series of songs that blend driving rhythm with meandering, fuzzy guitars and soaring vocals. And while the epic builds, album title (No Nations), vintage keyboard tones (courtesy of an ARP Solina), and millennial-themed lyrics suggest a grand theme, that wasn’t the case.
“Our lyrics are stream of consciousness — what we were thinking in the moment. They reflect our universal thoughts, quandaries, worries, philosophies,” said Kettridge. “A theme sort of emerged out of song titles and lyrics, but it wasn’t all set out. This is not an album about globalism or anything like that, but maybe subconsciously that kind of theme emerged.”