Behind the chaos presented by the frenetic Lower Automation, there’s control. The band presents a style on their 2018 Shoebox Companion EP that never really lets up, at all. There’s always something going on — but at the same time, there is a unifying essence. For vocalist Derek Allen, honesty runs through the self-released six tracks as that essence. “Personally, Shoebox Companion feels honest and that’s what matters most to me,” he explains.
His band’s style, more than blending the past with something else, presents something entirely fresh-feeling. Their work remains far less about the genre and instead, more about the music. That said, it is possible to describe the work, which rockets between punk, artsy post-hardcore textures, and fury reminiscent of The Dillinger Escape Plan, to use an easy example.
Fundamentally, the band members’ own personalities and life experiences rest underneath it all. “I think it’s mainly a way to work out my anxieties,” Allen explains of his music. “I’m wound up real tight, so complicated, abrasive fast music was always cathartic for me. It’s also an interesting challenge compositionally. That said, I don’t think I ever considered this music technical. I was just writing things I heard in my head or wanted to hear.”
Shoebox Companion‘s makeup itself reflects the idea Allen wanted to transmit tracks from his head to out here with the rest of us. While maintaining blinding and jagged speed at times, he doesn’t “scream.” His vocals are instead entirely clean, which only adds to the intrigue — and personality — of the release.
“I’ve been realizing more and more lately that I’ve always gravitated towards cleaner vocals,” he says. “Even in heavier music I usually prefer less ‘screaming’ – for lack of a better term. One of the first bands I ever heard do this well was Snapcase – especially their later albums. The singer sounds aggressive, but it’s basically all clean. You can hear more of his actual voice along with pitches, etc. Personally, that always felt more emotive and powerful to me. But really, this is just my voice. I never had a good gritty or ‘dirty’ voice. When I yell, this is what comes out.”
Constructing The Path
Although the vocals reinforce the band’s personable presentation, that’s not the only place where it can be found. The music itself remains strikingly unique to the point of you no doubt proving hard pressed to find something that sounds just like Lower Automation. The band has — in a sense — set off on their own here.
“The music came first for all of these songs,” Allen explains, adding that he “used them as a platform to guide the lyrics and themes” found on Shoebox Companion. With the release, listeners get a peek into the band members’ stylized mental processes in the very music itself. There’s a strength that transcends the lyrics or the “aesthetic.”
Bassist Brian Sutton adds: “The technical style keeps everything real chaotic, but grounded at the same time. Derek plays a bunch of nightmare notes and me and [drummer] Matt [Walen] keep the rhythm, so we’re just barely keeping the song together, which makes the sound frantic and panicky!”
In line with the fact that the music itself conveys what the band members are trying to get across, the songs’ construction processes were hardly haphazard.
The writing process for a Lower Automation song is “usually long and drawn out,” Allen says, explaining: “We labor over every note. On one of the songs we spent about an hour working out a drum pattern for the last two beats of a measure. There’s lots of writing small bits and then long periods of editing and revising. It’s more, more, more. Besides some kind of emotion, the only thing really running through my head is, ‘what else do I hear? what else can I add?'”
Sutton totally backs Allen up here, explaining: “The songs are frankensteined together out of all these big riffs. It kind of adds to the panicked energy of the music, because we’re constantly second-guessing where to put everything!”
In the end, the songs you can dig into as a listener via Shoebox Companion are the products of a lengthy process and every note has a thought process behind it. They’ve pushed their music forward via digging into the process itself — and here we are.
Check out Shoebox Companion below via Spotify.