Comets on Fire Take Off
Noel Harmonson, the echo-electronics processing wizard who treats and adds atmosphere to the heavy psychedelic rock sounds of Comets on Fire, is concerned about the opinions of music critics because so many rushed in to support and praise this Oakland- and San Francisco-based band’s last opus, 2004’s Blue Cathedral. But where that album stuck its balls to the wall in a hellfire of raging retro-rock incineration, the five-piece’s latest, Avatar, often prefers to calmly smoke a cigarillo while propping its snakeskin boots up on the fence between tenderness and brawn.
Much like the image the band’s name brings to mind, Comets on Fire like to keep forging ahead, blazing new trails in their wake, and it’s safe to assume their fans will be open enough to embrace these changes, even if the notoriously fickle and single-minded music critics out there decide to opine otherwise.
"Every record’s been different than the record before, and that’s the only thing that’s kind of intentional, just us wanting to move in different directions,” says Harmonson. "We incorporated a lot more of Utrillo [Kushner’s] piano, just because that’s kind of what we started doing. We weren’t really feeling like we needed to write a new handful of totally raging rock songs because we’ve kind of done that a few times. The piano thing was introduced on Blue Cathedral, and we had a few new ones, and some of the other guitar-oriented songs [on Avatar] are just a little more earthy. The guitars are clean on a lot of songs on this record, it’s just like a weird direction. We knew we wanted to move in a different direction. I don’t know if we knew it was going to turn out the way it did, but it’s really representative of what we’ve been jamming the last two years.”
Their fourth full-length since forming in Santa Cruz in 1999, Avatar is not only a bold step in a new direction, but their most meticulously composed creative statement to date, effectively widening their sonic and songwriting palettes while keeping the heart and soul of the band (hard psychedelic rock riff-fests peppered with ’60s garage and ’70s prog influences) vitally intact. All things considered, Avatar took some time to create.
"We work really slow. On the one hand because we’re critics [of] ourselves and each other, we’re all five bullshit detectors to a degree, so in one way it sort of distils everything that we write, while on the other hand it also slows down the process a lot,” says Harmonson. "Furthermore, we operate as almost a total democracy, like a five-person equal playing field situation where people will write parts and bring them in, but rarely does anybody bring a song in and have it written start to finish. It’ll never stay that way; it always goes through some sort of overhaul through changes. We didn’t want to rush anything, but we’re also all working day jobs, so it’s not like we’re spending five days a week of the last two years just messing around with songs.”
Avatar’s stellar results were well worth the hard work. "Everybody loves it so far. Or at least they’re telling us that.”
FeaturesSep 02, 2015
FIDLARFast, Cheap and Back In Control
Beer. Cigarettes. Weed. Speed. Meth. Heroin. "Eight-balls of blow." Crack. These were just some of the substances Zac Carper mentioned on FI...
FeaturesAug 26, 2015
Beach HouseAll Natural
When Beach House announced their fifth album, Depression Cherry, back in May, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand described it — in their...
FeaturesAug 21, 2015
Fred PennerAll My Children
It's been a good while since Fred Penner was on television, but these days, he's having a bit of a moment. He plays festivals regularly; he'...
FeaturesAug 20, 2015
The Exclaim! QuestionnaireCarly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen could have been a one-hit wonder. When the British Columbian singer/songwriter released a single titled "Call Me Maybe" ...
FeaturesAug 19, 2015
Coeur de pirateMap of the Heart
"All my fears and anxieties and all that crap that humans go through — I didn't face them because I was so busy putting my energy into...
FeaturesAug 10, 2015
Steam Whistle Unsigned presents Exclaim!'s Time Festival Preview
Steam Whistle Unsigned — the Canada-wide concert series promoting up-and-coming artists from across our nation — will return lat...
FeaturesJul 29, 2015
Titus AndronicusAmbition In Five Acts
Since Patrick Stickles rose up with fists held high in July 2005 as frontman for Titus Andronicus, he and the band have done nothing half-as...
FeaturesJul 06, 2015
BullyYouth and the Old School
Ask any musician who grew up listening to Nirvana, the Breeders or PJ Harvey what studio they'd love to record their debut album in, and cha...