ANTINODE: Musical Implications


Back in August Seattle, WA-based progressive rock quartet Antinode launched their debut album entitled ‘The Canary that Named the Stars.’ Singer and guitarist Travis Corwin spoke about the release, the challenges, and more in an interview for Prog Sphere, following the act’s feature on our recent Progotronics sampler.

Describe the musical frameworks your new release “The Canary that Named the Stars” explores. 

It’s a concept album, which carries with it some musical implications. Everything needs to be playing into the larger narrative arc and coming together to make a cohesive whole, even more so than with a normal album. But I also knew that logistically it made sense for our first release to be an EP, which meant there was less time to get the listener through the story and make all of the moments along the way feel earned. So everything was designed from the ground up to be delivered in this exact format, three songs of these relative lengths, and every part of every song is a necessary piece to carry you along that journey. The result, I hope, is a listening experience that feels brisk and concise, but also simultaneously ambitious and epic.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process for “The Canary that Named the Stars”?

The last couple of years have been challenging for everyone. We had to do a lot of remote collaboration during the worst lockdown phases of 2020, recording ideas for parts and sending them back and forth, which is a very different energy than when a band can jam on ideas together in real time. Even when we were able to start meeting in person, we frequently had to cancel practice in an effort to be safe and responsible. And now we’re starting to play live shows again, and that’s bringing a whole other set of challenges. But through it all, I think we’ve been pretty lucky because we’ve all stayed committed to the band and done whatever we’ve had to to keep working and playing music together. So the lesson that I take away from this is how important that simple act of showing up for your bandmates can be, especially during challenging times. Even if the circumstances suck and you can’t do everything you want to do, just keep showing up.

The Canary that Named the Stars

To someone who hasn’t heard the recording, what can he or she expect from “The Canary that Named the Stars”?

You can expect a dynamic musical journey that’s energetic, unpredictable, sincere, and occasionally heavy. There’s a fantasy narrative running through the album that brings cosmic elements into the lyrics while also being grounded in a personal, emotional story. Beyond that, I would say to just listen to it, because if I could describe it adequately with words I wouldn’t need to create music in the first place.

How has your perspective on the possibilities of song arrangement expanded over the years?

When I started writing these songs over two years ago, the band didn’t exist yet so I didn’t have a clear sense in my mind of what instruments, sounds, and players would be coming together for the final arrangements. It was all very singer-songwriter style at first, just me and the guitar. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you’ve built the songs in that way it can be challenging to then let other people come in and find room to do their thing. Now that I’m writing with the full band in mind, I’m making a conscious effort to leave space for the other instruments. Sometimes that means writing a part for someone else to play, and sometimes that just means saying, “The guitar can play less here, or not at all, and someone else will step up and fill in the space.” I’m excited for the sonic possibilities that that opens up for us going forward.

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

I don’t create music with any expectations for how anyone else will receive it, and I’m definitely not trying to enact any change socially or culturally. The album is a personal, emotional journey, and I hope that people will come along with us for the ride. The best I can hope for is that they’ll put something of themselves into the music by interpreting it, and whatever meaning they derive from it is cool and valid. I personally was changed by creating this album, and that’s enough for me.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

I actively try to avoid pre-defined patterns when composing. I get bored easily and so to get excited about a song I always like to be changing things up, both with the writing process and with the music itself. I tend to think mostly in the big picture, so the structure of songs is very important to me. I try to be very intentional with how I use repetition and never assume anything based on conventions of songwriting, like assuming a section should repeat in a certain way because that’s how it’s usually done. My philosophy is that if you listen to the music, it will tell you what it wants to become.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

I’m currently developing the story of this album into a fantasy graphic novel, so naturally I’m inspired by comic books as well as fantasy stories in general. The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman is probably the biggest influence for me. His style of weaving stories within stories is especially relevant to “Canary”. I’m also very inspired by the approach to world-building in M. John Harrison’s Viriconium novels and short stories. The way that his stories connect is similar to the relationship between our music and the graphic novel. I want both aspects to stand on their own, but compliment each other and reward anyone who wants to experience all of it. They’re different layers that reveal facets of a core idea, but it gets more mysterious the deeper you look at it. Certain parts seem to contradict each other, and there’s a sort of dream logic binding it all together.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

Your perspective is your greatest asset. The way that you see the world, the things that are important and exciting and fascinating to you, all of that adds up to the artistic voice that is uniquely your own. Use that to guide every decision you make along the creative process, instead of worrying about what anyone else would think or do. Be true to yourself and write the songs that only you could write. Not only is that your best way to get other people excited about your work, but it’s also something that the world needs a lot more than it needs another commercial pop hit.

The Canary that Named the Stars is out now and is available from Bandcamp. Follow Antinode on Facebook.

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