Every video game aficionado will immediately recognize Memory Den as a location in Fallout 4 in which players can retrieve memories. For OC and LA residents, they’ll recognize it as one of the most inimitable, otherworldly sounding groups to recently emerge from the area.
Memory Den is an experimental band that consists of members Isles Schaeffer (synthesizer/bass), Chris Conde (guitar), Taylor Shirley (trumpet, flugelhorn), Kyle Rosa (bass/synthesizer), and Tim Jones (drummer).
In August 2016, Schaeffer wanted to start a project, driven to find a new sound. He rented a lockout studio on a whim and had whomever join him. Friends and acquaintances showed up, eager to make music. The genuine chemistry and enthusiasm united them, bringing them closer than ever before.
And thus, Memory Den was born.
Within just a few months of practicing as a group, they had zero hesitance to hit the studio to get started on their album.
After over a year in the making, they are releasing their first self-titled album on March 3 and playing an album release show to celebrate. The line-up includes performances by Moon Ensemble, Echavox, Mother Mare, Layla Farahani, Zzay, and Lexmaster. The album has seven tracks entirely centered around science-fiction – robots, humanity, space, you name it.
Memory Den recently released their single, “Up In The Air”, on Jan. 11. The single features Ben Sachs on saxophone and vocals by Maury Rivera.
“I always wanted to do concept albums. I don’t want to write silly love songs. I want to write stories,” Schaeffer tells the Weekly. “I want to write about things people can relate to, things that are coming to humanity.”
Schaeffer’s signature look includes a mask when he performs, bringing yet another science fiction component to the band. He enjoys the performance aspect of playing a role. It’s out of the ordinary and brings an element of confusion to those who watch him. His mask is the source of what feels like a superpower. He hopes he can inspire others to start being expressive whichever way they want and bring meaning to that expression.
The album cover is a photograph of the Roman Pool at Hearst Castle taken by his friend, Paul Luna. Schaeffer instantly fell in love with the photo and knew it had to be the cover.
Some of their musical influences include the Isley Brothers, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Caldwell, Nile Rodgers, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Gorillaz, Pink Floyd, and Thundercat. They are also big fans of sci-fi soundtrack music and Nintendo music. This explains their incredibly versatile sound that merges electronic, jazz, and hip-hop. It is devised carefully but executed effortlessly.
In a year’s time, Memory Den have expanded their sound by changing gear, utilizing more instruments, and adding more featured artists.
To achieve their sound, they use a Fender Coronado electric bass, Fender Duo-Sonic electric guitar, Yamaha DX Reface FM synthesizer, Korg Minilogue analog synthesizer, Korg SV-1 electric keyboard, Roland SP 404 Sampler, teenage engineering OP-1, Yamaha trumpet, Yamaha flugelhorn, and ’60s Ludwig Club Date with Zildjian K Constantinople cymbals.
Memory Den recorded the album in Jones’ studio, Savoy Sound Studios, in Orange. Jones not only played drums, but engineered and produced the album as well. They took a different route with the recording process. In order to be able to dissect the songs and make them easier to layer, they went about the order in which they recorded, backwards. Conde was the first to record. He primarily used his acoustic travel guitar for chords and backing track and then used his electric guitar for solos. They then recorded bass, keyboard, and lastly, drums.
When they first played shows, their songs were mostly instrumentals. Once they had guest vocalists join them, they worked on lyrics together to ensure that the vocalists felt like they had the freedom to express themselves as well and could resonate with the songs they were singing. Schaeffer encouraged vocalists to bring in their own lyrics to really feel the words. A track off their album, “Replicant”, is an example of that collaboration.
Memory Den have certainly gained exposure not only for their mesmerizing sound, but for their distinct way of performing too. Whether it be house shows in Whittier, the Mojave Desert, or art shows in Oakland, they never pass up the chance to be able to band together with other local artists. They want everyone to feel included.
While in Oakland, they asked two musicians they met that day to play their set with them. They were more than happy to and helped make it one of their favorite experiences as a band.
“That’s why Memory Den is fluid,” Rosa says. “We meet people, we see them play, we know what they can do, we ask them on the spot, and that’s what we’re about – collaborating.”
Being able to tour together, brainstorm ideas, and plan for the future makes the whole process worthwhile. Having their band mates as their friends is the icing on the cake.
Conde is grateful to be in a band that allows him so much freedom of expression, where the philosophy is to come together to create something beautiful.
“The most rewarding part is all the people we meet and how open everyone is to collaborating and working on songs – just being open to experiencing new stuff,” Conde says.
Memory Den plan to release a second album in 2018 where they take on a new style.
“I love what you can do with today’s technology,” Schaeffer says. “I want to just do it all. Everything I like, everything that makes me passionate about music – I want to try it out.”
Be on the lookout for their self-titled album on Spotify, iTunes, and Bandcamp. Until then, they will be playing CSUF’s Titan Radio show “Hiatus” on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.
Steel be with you, Memory Den.