Plenty of bands looking to rediscover their spark understand that less is more as their sound matures. For the experimental shredders in Night Verses, that meant turning the vocals down to zero and letting their instruments do the talking. Though it was a big decision to part ways with singer Doug Robinson after six years, the OC-bred trio of guitarist Nick DePirro, bassist Reilly Herrera and drummer Aric Improta opted to carry on embracing the freedom and newfound complexities of being in an instrumental band.
Their latest album From the Gallery of Sleep (released June 29 on Equal Vision Records) is an eye-opener of fans who’ve waited to hear a full release since the band’s 3-song Copper Wasp EP devlivered a taste of what was to come this summer–the band’s three-headed hydra of limitless musical expression. For Improta and his bandmates, the instrumental path is a route they’ve been on since the moment they started playing together.
“Nick, Reilly and I have been playing together since junior high, so like 16 years,” Improta says. “We’ve gone through so many singers and at all different points in between singers we were writing instrumentals and performing instrumentals to keep our chops up and for our own sake because we were practicing five days a week growing up.”
The band started in 2012 after Robinson (formerly of The Sleep) caught the trio doing an instrumental show under the name The Sound Archives. Designing the alchemy of sounds they love–from Tool and Mars Volta to Pink Floyd and Massive Attack–took years to perfect. Even after practicing hard enough to be able to play whatever he wants on the drums and be considered one of the best young players in the game, Improta says it’s even harder to put those skills to work as a songwriter.
“It took some serious structuring to make sure [our new record] didn’t sound like ‘Here’s Reilly who listens to punk’ on this song and ‘Here’s Aric who listens to trip-hop on this song,’” Improta says. It was definitely a big organizing process toward the end but it’s been fun.
Opening with the hurricane salvo of blistering rhythm on “Copper Wasp,” the band’s ability to be nimble around rapidly changing chord progressions, dexterous fret tapping solos and time changes is impressive. Even without vocals, the songs shine a unique angle of light in the prism of the band’s sound. Other tunes like “Harmonic Sleep Engine” release a slow smoldering build-up that allow our ears a respite from brutal non-stop solo assaults. Various spoken word and audio samples help inform the meaning of the songs.
As the drummer and visual artist of Night Verses–on top of being in two other bands (The Fever 333 and now a touring member of Goldfinger)–the Fullerton native tends to think of his music spatially, with each project he’s in taking up a different part of his playing style. His acrobatic antics, including backflips on the drum stool in The Fever 333, is much different than style of playing he’s honed with Night Verses which pushes his mind as much as his body.
“It feels like a split personality thing where when I’m on the road with Night Verses I’m there to improve my playing and focus where we’re gonna go musically and with the other bands it’s about the attack and the energy that comes out from the songs,” he says.
Though having three virtuosos playing together could easily lead to them stepping on each others toes without the aid of a chorus, the chemistry they’ve developed to work as a team along with Gallery’s producer Will Putney makes this record feel like a well balanced art project. It’s something they all work on together despite being geographically separated–Reilly, the bands go-to graphic designer, lives in Fullerton, Nick, their chief recording expert lives in Cerritos, with Aric now in Culver City and constantly touring while creating all the band’s hand drawn cover art. Each of them honing in on a skill outside of playing has helped keep the trio strong regardless of who stepped in on vocals.
“Because we’ve been a band for so long we always had an idea that we get to this point someone would help us with these things or the number of fans or money is gonna come along and you get to that point and realize that’s not true,” Improta says. “So we got sick of waiting for other people to care and it just came from that.”
Currently on tour with The Strawberry Girls, the band is making their return to OC as an instrumental band at Chain Reaction on Aug. 2 As one of the venues that helped launch their careers as musicians, coming back to the all-ages venue is always a triumphant moment for the band that puts in a much time on the road every year.
Now that they’ve gone back to embracing their original format as an instrumental band, Improta mentions that the demographics of their shows changing as people are more attuned to their performances as musicians then they ever have been before. If there’s one band that’s ready for the crowd’s discerning level of scrutiny, it’s this band.
“I enjoy a fucking mosh pit breaking out but even though there’s a lot of pressure having people watch so closely it is exciting to see people interested in music again,” Improta says. There were definitely some tours Night Verses went on where because of the headliner it was a different demographic and they weren’t looking for anything other than to head bang so it’s exciting having people care that much.”
Nate Jackson is the gatekeeper to your dreams of local dive bar stardom. If he writes about you, expect your band to be offered at least one more drink ticket than the rest of the bands on the bill. Get his attention with some groovy tunes and he might just do it. Then, boy will you feel special.