As Sinai Vessel prepare to once again brave the cathartic, sweaty discomfort of life on tour, ringmaster Caleb Cordes stopped by to talk about five tracks that he personally feels exemplify said lifestyle to a tee. The band’s new EP, Profanity, is a thoughtful and genuine collection of tracks that both sag with weariness and shine with glistens of optimism — here’s a chance to get yourselves acquainted before the jump.
Dorena – Semper
If we’re honest, whatever music is playing in the van rarely receives our full attention. When placed beside a stockpile of over nine years’ worth of friendship, shared history, and inside jokes (not to mention our constant stops), it takes serious dedication to really focus on what we’re wiring through our unwieldy FM transmitter. If one of us is really listening to music, chances are that one or both of the two remaining members are asleep. Dorena’s Nuet has become my go-to ally in the latter situation, and “Semper” is a song I’m likely to leave on repeat in absence of competing appetites.
After an extensive love affair with post-rock in high school I’ve admittedly grown tired of the climax-centric trajectory generally associated with the genre, but Dorena provides great relief from that trite predictability while retaining its aesthetic texture. Scoured from among Deep Elm’s catalog, Nuet seems to certainly land for me among the roster’s best, conjuring up The Appleseed Cast in their expanse of elements and attention to patience. I most recently played through this record (twice) on a long straight-shot drive through the oak-lined Northeast Corridor where it served as motivational fuel for me and lullaby for the passengers.
Colour Revolt – Change Your Face or Change Your Name
Playing the same batch of songs every night has a predictable effect on their connection to the player. Oftentimes that relationship is strained even after a handful of nights–part and counterpart unite to do their song and dance (no pun intended) and rarely intersect until the subsequent evening. Our set is over as quickly as it begins. The condition of the narratives contained within each song easily become analogous to the instruments that bring them to life each night; congealed in the sweat and mire of last night’s basement, tired and run-through by routine.
I’ve long since abandoned the hope of exhuming the unique headspace responsible for producing a song on a nightly basis–running such a gamut of emotions in thirty minutes is a task reserved for actors–but I can certainly take steps to treat our songs as living entities rather than items in a checklist. Listening to Colour Revolt teaches me a challenging lesson in that method every time. The wandering, dust-choked progression of “Change Your Face” evokes a recognition of content and craft that demands respect. The execution is lively because the song is treated as such. I may not be able to embody Jesse Coppenbarger’s original state of mind, but I can search for entry points of empathy and encounter; I can visit with the song in a way that enlivens both performer and performed. I can treat every night with it as a five-minute conjugal visit, squeezing the life out of every second until we’re behind our respective bars again. Seemingly pretentious as it may be, enlisting Colour Revolt in this kind of practice keeps my head exercised to really mean what signals it transmits to my mouth each night.
Land of Talk – It’s Okay
“It’s Okay” is the ultimate night driving song, hands-down–and that’s not just because Liz Powell explicitly makes reference to the act in the song’s chorus. The steady backdrop of organ that leads the song into her pre-verse utterances in vocal booth (an emotionally exhausted “god…” that serves as precursor to the unraveling immediately to follow) lets the listener know they’re in for a sucker punch to the gut, and black skies are the perfect complement. Even when equipped with a solid route and van-full of friends, touring isn’t always guaranteed fun–edges will strike edges, and long drives can get alienating and wistful.
Touring as a three-piece in a Honda Odyssey allows for the backseat passenger to craft a makeshift bunk out of the seats, and I can recall utilizing this space for a handful of “leave-me-the-hell-alone” catharsis sessions with this tune acting as therapist. Because privacy is a rarity on the road and pent-up, ungrounded frustration is poisonous for any group, this kind of indulgence is a necessity for maintaining a cool level of sanity. If my pillow is over my face, this one’s probably in my headphones, counseling in session.
Chief Keef – Hate Bein’ Sober
Let this song serve as placeholder for the considerable amount of hip-hop we playlist in the van (almost exclusively thanks to our drummer Josh), the contents of which range from the most ignorant trap-backed verses of Gucci to the more artful likes of Kendrick and Kanye. Chief Keef in particular receives more time than the rest combined–our obsession with his character and peripheral lore has had the effect of introducing his accented way of speech into our vernacular. More often than not, you’ll hear us reference our suburban minivan as our “tour bahs” on which we get “domb hagh,” giving way to our living parody of our friends’ pervading misconception that touring is nothing but a serial ingestion of chemicals.
Other songs–take “Laughin’ To The Bank” as an example–border on the disturbingly surreal, and never fail to create conversation in regards to their impossible origins. The equation hardly ever fails: the more ridiculous the refrain, the higher the morale. This especially comes in handy when attempting to make guest passengers markedly uncomfortable–watching a face change from ironic amusement to horror at our obsessive, word-by-word knowledge of the insanity-bordering lyrics is a priceless transition. Potential riders, be warned.
Little Big League – My Very Own You
Even with a mere three members it’s difficult to stumble upon an artist we all enjoy as one. Luckily, we’ve all seemed to develop a sonic affinity for a specific batch of female-fronted acts (see: Speedy Ortiz, Hop Along, Lemuria) of which Little Big League has deservedly begun to consistently serve as chief. 2013’s These Are Good People is an aural box of chocolates and always delivers a gift to examine whenever our near incessant conversation falls silent. LBL also conveys an energy I’d really like to mimic live–each player’s part sounds as labored-over as it does effortless, and that seemingly antithetical pair of qualities results in really pulling off every section of a song. As is the case with many artists on this list, LBL provides what’s essentially inspirational homework. Be not mistaken, however; this inspiration is far more a quality standard (“how can we get this good?”) rather than a derivative mandate (“how can we sound like them?”). Then again, the latter wouldn’t be so bad, either.
Label: Jacknife | Released: May | Listen to a track
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