In an era where pandemic has forced much of the world into standstill, ethereal rock group SOM strives to remain prolific. Following on the acclaim accrued by 2018 debut album The Fall, the quintet (comprised of current and former members of Constants, Junius, and recent Grammy nominees Caspian) originally planned to use 2020 to record their anticipated follow-up. However, lockdowns forced the tireless creatives to improvise.
“We were slated to enter the studio this spring to track the album,” says guitarist Mike Repasch-Nieves. “We couldn’t do that, so we decided to do some songs entirely remotely.”
The result is the luscious new EP Awake. Combining two exclusive originals with remixes by beloved collaborators Holy Fawn, Hisself (Johnny Dang of O’Brother), U Dye (Marshall Gallagher of Teenage Wrist), and Giuseppe Capolupo (of The Devil Wears Prada), the short collection is a triumph of self-described “heavy dream pop.” Its concise compositions balance the gritty riffs of Deftones with airy, Tame Impala-esque vocal lines, just as primed for rock radio success as they are for shoegaze-loving connoisseurs.
“Our past projects were very exploratory,” explains drummer Duncan Rich. “With SOM, it’s a lot more focused. Creating in a pandemic has imposed limits — it’s a test of working within boundaries. How do we make something expansive, yet digestible and impactful?”
The tracks are part of SOM’s ongoing mission to “leave this place better than we found it.” Duncan co-founded the outfit with frontman and former Constants colleague Will Benoit, as well as Adai founder and now-Caspian drummer Justin Forrest. While touring on The Fall, the band added guitarists Mike Repasch-Nieves and Joel M. Reynolds, both formerly of Junius and Driftoff. “We’ve always been a musical family,” Duncan adds.
Repasch-Nieves continues, “Will and I started a label, Radar Recordings, in Boston during the early 2000s, which was an amazing time and place for music. It was very much a collective of like-minded artists, which grew as we all toured around the world together in the years to follow.”
The alluring Awake is far from the five longtime friends’ only endeavour to create a better world around them. Despite being recorded in quarantine, the EP was mixed by Will at his own Radar Studio in Connecticut – New England’s first solar-powered recording facility. Mike and Joel, meanwhile, spent 2020 sustaining an urban farm in New York City, while Justin distributed vegan food to Black Lives Matter activists in Denver through the summer. Equally philanthropic is Duncan, who now uses his production experience to host emotional fluency events for men.
While many artists lumbered in inactivity, SOM used the darkness of recent times to create and heal. Awake’s bliss is an insight not only into the kind of harmony the quintet seek to cultivate in all facets of life, but also the exciting second full-length that looms on the horizon.