A fresh album release from Smooth Retsina Glow brings out an ambient undertone in a progressive and experimental rock setting that feels existential and lush from start to finish with electric and acoustic guitars, surprising time signatures, and swelling synth pads that all come with a soft and subtle vocal approach that builds and grows in intensity as the song itself does.
The Metaphysical album is bright and warming with psychedelia swimming just beneath the surface and is absolutely riddled with character and a gorgeous array of instrumentation that just feels welcoming, uplifting, and even inspiring at times.
The album is spiritual for sure, and it lets you get wrapped up in its warm glow and sonic presence until you are engulfed by its tones and feels.
You get some great grooves and danceable tracks as well and those are also floating in ambience and an aura you can hear surrounding the songs that really let you float right alongside them.
This is quite a massive album, and it does take you for a few journeys as well as hitting personal topics and at times these are coated in outstanding lead guitar work that feels rock but really jazzy at the same time.
This is ethereal and full-bodied but still airy and light.
With the release of such a wonderous album, we wanted to have a chat with Smooth Retsina Glow to see where this all came from and what may be next.
Here's what happened.
Buzz Slayers: Let's kick things off with the Metaphysical album. This record has a great set of styles that make it unique. Where did this album come from?
It came from a variety of listening sources. We've always been somewhat diverse in our listening tastes and we have a unique ability to blend verifying styles and genres into our sound. I think this partially from the artists that we, or I gravitate towards- such as XTC, Queen, Todd Rundgren, Phish, Circles around the Sun, Soundgarden, and of course the Beatles to name some of the music that Ive listened or gravitated towards throughout the course of my life. On our third record, this was about distilling what worked best for my voice because this was a one off lineup that I had to cover all the vocals for reasons I'll get to later on in this interview. It worked better then anticipated . I think the album has a lot of diverse elements to it - each song sounds different- it all has different keys, different grooves, and even "odd time signatures" that don't feel overly geometric!
Buzz Slayers: When did this all start for you guys?
Currently Smooth Retsina Glow has been together since April of 2019. Originally it was formed from the ashes of a group I was in called Stoney Run Group- this is sort of the equivalent of the the Quarryman for the Beatles, or the John Evan Band before they were Jethro Tull- it featured two members from Stoney Run Group- and a then student of mine named Jacob Wolfe. We had to get a new name because a member had claimed the rights, and basically fired us from his project - or we quit, depending on who you want to believe. We released our first record New Frontiers in November 2019 - and while I liked the record, it was more of a folk- blues- country rock style. I felt to a certain extent that we were being somewhat imatiive of other groups. Shortly the album was complete- I was becoming aware of the dificulty I would have working with two of the members - they were in their late 50s at the time, and they didnt really want work very many nights a week- whereas I saw the album as a chance to go on- quit the day job- and start the ball rolling. Jacob Wolfe had to take a leave to go to college. Then of course- Covid 19 hit. We all know the rest- especially up in PA it was quite difficult. The other two members left for varying reasons- and then to keep busy, I recruited a colleague of mine, Sarah Stoll to collaborate on a song called Memories Made- which surprisingly got us to number 1 on an indie radio station in Australia! Being spurred on- we recorded a 2nd record called Out of The Ether. This was a slight improvement- but this is an example of how occasionally being too diverse is a problem- ultimately I couldnt decide what direction was the best to take. But as an album it is very adventurous in terms of its approach. Obviously this was virtually recorded- with me playing all the instruments except drums- we didnt have a full time drummer and we used a friend of mine, Sam Radogna who did a superb job. Even in 2020- we gigged about 50 times- many shows on the curb, or outside in the cold. We had to take chances, but this certainly in the long run- because in 2021- we released out of the Ether in March on we have been gigging ever since. For drummer, I met Brian Dercas on a blind date from a friend more or less- and being closely located he was more or less drafted. He has been a superb edition ever since and has only gotten better. We began recording the tracks for Metaphysical, but Sarah had decided to go to college in Arizona, and momentum was building so I couldn't really wait around, so we got another bassist and we finished the album. 2021 we notched about 100 shows total. In June of 22, we had to change out our bassist- he was compromised for various reasons- and Jacob Wolfe who had dropped out college came back into the picture as well as Sarah returning in June of 2022. 2022 has been a very action packed and inspiring year- we have logged 136 shows total, and now we are a quartet- comprising myself on Guitar and vocals, Sarah Soll on Vocals/ guitar, Jacob Wolfe on Bass, and Brian Dercas on Drums
Buzz Slayers: What inspires you to write a song?
Normally I force myself to write- Ive always wanted to be a songwriter, but its another 10,000-hour rule. At this stage I have been writing songs since late high school, and I did a lot of composing in college- so at this stage in the game Ive written most of my bad songs. I think its whatever instrument I play, be it guitar or keyboard, how the guitar is tuned (I use open/ alt tuning, downtuning) , or even rhythmic ideas. I also learned a certain amount of how to keep yourself from recycling as little elements as possible from your previous work- and its still something I work on. Not every day is a success, but there's always increments that I make. For me- it's hard to write a whole song ever day- but I wouldnt go months or half a year without writing- it's much better to try have a couple words, or a chord sequence, or a melody that you can finalize the lyrics later- extended breaks are to be avoided.
Buzz Slayers: This track has some great styles! Can you give us some of your top musical influences?
Initially my fathers record collection was a big stepping factor- he had all the greats from Mahavhishnu Orchestra, The Police, Jethro Tull, ELP, Steely Dan, Prince, Weather Report, Paul Simon, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Little Feat, as well as a variety of classical albums- orchestral or piano arrangements of Schubert, Brahams, Debussy, Ravel and Rachimanoff . The Beatles was the first thing I remember hearing- I am the Walrus namely- and then I saw Stevie Ray Vaughns austin city limits performance, and there wasnt anything else on career day I was going to seriously consider. I started guitar when I was 8, and I was heavily blues inspired- players like Rory Gallagher, Joe Walsh, Albert Collins, Buddy Guys, Eric Johnson, Peter Green, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, The Three Kings ( BB, Freddie and Albert) Hendrix, Hubert Sumlin, Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia, Dickie Betts, and Elmore James . In my teenage years, I got heavily into jazz music and classical music- and that has some impact on my chord structures- artists like Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Steve Swallow, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins as well as newer artists like The Bad Plus, Snarky Puppy, Ben Monder, and Chris Potter- as well as composers like Webern, Debussy, Berg, Stravisnky, and Philip Glass. When I graduated college in 2015- I became a little less paticular in terms of what I listened to because I had been oversatured with Jazz or Classical Music for the better part of 8 years or so. I think most genres have something that I can enjoy- be it Between the Buried and Me, Intervals, Polyphia, Albama Shakes, Billy Strings, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai or Vulfpeck- to name some.
Buzz Slayers: What are you all doing when you're NOT working on music?
I'm very much a full-time musician! In addition to the full workload of SRG, I play for a church every Sunday in the Lehigh Valley, play for studio sessions and I teach music at West End Music in Allentown- as well as a junior music teacher in the ASD- essentially the best day job because I dont have to grade- and it give me the hours to practice and write. I would outside of music, my interests are reading- I love history and certain types of writers like Koelster- HP. Lovecraft, as well as Rumi or Gurdifeffs writings. I would say this helps enhance my lyrics.
Buzz Slayers: Who's in all your headphones right now?
Here are all members " playlists currently!
Colin Wolf: Covet, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, St Paul and the Broken Bones, Paul Hindmith, Khruangbin, Periphery, Julian Lage, Madison Cunningham, Tame Impala, Molly Tuttle
Sarah Stoll: Radiohead, Blur, Snow Pulp, Weyes Blood
Jacob Wolfe: Tool, Ghost, Machine Head
Brian Dercas - Coheed and Cambria, Trivium, Rammstein
Buzz Slayers: Are you guys doing any live performances right now?
Yes- it's always an action packed weekend! We gig actively in the Lehigh Valley in Pa, and beyond, sometimes in the Pocono Mountains, sometimes closer to Philly, occasionally in the plains of Berks County, and every so often over the delware to NJ. We usually average 2 shows a weekend, and sometimes even 3. One week we managed to cram 6 in the span of Wednesday to Sunday this year. The easiest way to find our concert schedule is to follow us on FB, Twitter, Instagram, www.smoothretsinaglow.com. The calendar is always up to date.
Buzz Slayers: This record feels like a big undertaking, is there any advice you'd give to other up and coming bands out there?
Thank you for the kind words! We're honored that you would consider us to be worthy of giving up and coming groups advice- personally we still think we have ways to go (anybody who knows how to put a tour together please let us know)
Buzz Slayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
Currently we are gigging hard, and working on our fourth album! It already has a number of tracks laid down, and we will be doing a single in the early new year. We will be releasing it most likely on June 23- and we already have a busy year on the cards. Ideally, our next step is to tour regionally for a couple of weeks- and we intend to hit the road more and more- ultimately the end game is to make performing live and only performing our originals- and we are getting close.
Buzz Slayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Fans of Smooth Retsina Glow- your only seeing the beginning- I think after the first 3 years and half of coming and goings and changes in the bands style and persona, we have a stable lineup, and an alt/indie style that is diverse and unified simultaneously- this 4th album will be a continuation of what we've done on metaphysical, but with some elements and textures that weren't featured on that record- so stay tuned for the upcoming year- we have a website revamp in the works, as well as new content that will be placed on our socials (FB, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube) as well as www.smoothretsinaglow.com