When one thinks of East-Coast music, there’s the penchant to conjure up visions of fiddles and bagpipes and though after a conversation with Cody Hicks, one wouldn’t be surprised to find these instruments laced within the confines of his labyrinthine style, jigs and reels are hardly his treatment.
Recently recording, producing and publishing his new album Verse the Sun and the Moon (VTSATM), Hicks texturizes classic rock formulas into a grungy, post-punk revivalist, post-rock, atmospheric experience, harkening the likes of Pearl Jam on his opening track. Needless to say, placing the album into genre specifics becomes a fool’s game the deeper into the album listener’s venture.
“We just call it alt-rock,” says Hicks, simplifying the task.
Taking influences from 1990s alternative rock (Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Butthole Surfers, etc.) and post-rock (Sigur Ros, Mogwai, etc.); Hicks’ concept follows a futuristic, post-dystopian, sci-fi, apocalyptic storyline. Following a tribe of people, the story focuses on their search for new pastures as the end of the world approaches. To take things even deeper conceptually, instead of a straight forward narrative, the album takes a character-driven approach, each song representing a different character’s point of view.
An approach like Hicks’ is unique to say the least, but how he procures content as rich and textured as VTSATM seems tortuous at best. Methodically planning the story in advance, Hicks takes a lesson from the film industry and storyboards the narrative before adding music or lyrical content. This not only informs the tone of the entire project, but forces uniformity, which Hicks fights against in this particular case.
Where each character has their subjective perspective, Hicks was forced to commit to this idea and unbelievably build a sound that carries throughout the album (instilling the core uniformity), but maintains character integrity by switching styles and tonality song to song.
With a story-driven concept, artists may tend towards simplicity in their instrumentation; Hicks, however, puts his production into high gear after the concept and lyrics have been meticulously pieced.
“What I wanted to do is just bring in an eclectic sense of alt-rock music and atmospheric music,” says Hicks, “and not really have any boundaries on it.”
He recorded the project on the East Side at Undertone Studios, producing the project himself. The end result is an emotionally heavy odyssey built on distorted guitars in a crisp atmosphere.
“Our biggest thing for production was clarity,” Hicks remarks, “…musically I’m very dynamic, so the idea is not to have a whole song that can’t breathe.”
The care that went into the project shows throughout the listening experience. Each song has its own life-force driven by the characters in Hicks’ story. Above all, the listener becomes very aware early into the album that what they’re listening to comes from someone who not only has an ear for creating quality, but listens to a lot of music in their own rite. Admittedly not a dance album, the experience isn’t for everyone, but those with an ear for alternative and post-rock should absolutely track this album down.