A new release from Smooth Retsina Glow comes through with a wild and fantastical array of genre-bending and crossing that all come together and become confluent with one another through the character and the storytelling along with some outstanding guitar work that remains something that pulses through the veins of this release from beginning to end.
Gemini Reign is an album packed with textures and soundscapes that melt into each other and bounce off of each other simultaneously and it all happens with a particular energy that's delivered in the performance from all parts and players.
There are a lot of elements about this record that do indeed feel like this is a concept album of sorts and one of my favorite things about it all is that the more you listen to the record, the more you understand that the unexpected is what you should be expecting.
You get such vast and deepening atmospheres along with flowing and progressive tonalities that go from something that can be so drifting and dreamy, to songs that rock with an edge and a particular swagger that still manage to come together in this unique fashion that makes everything work perfectly.
There are definitely layers to be peeled back on this record and it's also one of those albums that delivers a form of escapism.
You literally are able to get taken to this other place altogether and forget about your own reality for a good chunk of time and when it's all over you really have to take a moment to reacclimate yourself back again.
It's almost like reading a really good book or watching a really good film and forgetting about the fact that you're sitting in a room watching or reading.
I just love when music does that as well which is a rarity these days and that's part of why this record was so refreshing.
You do get little bits of jazz undertones along with dream pop, rock, and so much more but there are a lot of elements about this record that are guitar-driven, and that work is really packed with soul and intricacy.
The other thing is that this is a massive record and serves as something of an opus in a way.
Even though there are definite singles that stand on their own two feet perfectly, this is the type of release that you want to listen to as a whole if at all possible because the album itself is something to be soaked in.
With such a colorful and well-woven release, we wanted to have a sit-down with Colin Wolf of Smooth Retsina Glow to find out where this record actually came from and what might be coming up next for the band.
Here's what happened.
Buzz Slayers: Okay, let's start with the Gemini Rain album! This record had everything from contemporary pop to funk and so much more! How did this album come about?
This album for us is certainly the first album that we really believe that we have come into our own as an artist and we have finalized a first true representation of who we are as a band- although we are an indie rock group, we have been able to incorporate a wide variety of different styles of music and distill them in a way that gives our music a certain light and shade, diversity, and a certain progressive element in terms of the musical complexity- different tonalities and time signatures on some tracks of ours ( Backsliding and Gemini Reign being in 5 and 7). After our third record , Metaphysical, we were able to hone in on number of key strengths of ours and I also think as a writer I had a good selection of material in that moment to choose from- alot of these songs I can foresee being part of our performing repertoire from here on out.
Buzz Slayers: How did this all start for you as an artist?
Currently Smooth Retsina Glow is In its fourth year and it's fourth incarnation as a group- and it has certainly been a intense and hectic time but in a good way overall- considering we had to survive lockdowns and a number of lineup changes- but we've always been able to overcome- to paraphrase a song of ours. Originally the band was comprised of myself( Colin Wolf) and our bassist Jacob Wolfe, as well as two older musicians from a previous band I was a part of that fell apart for reasons beyond the scope of today's interview. We recorded a record in 2019 called New frontiers- but it wasn't entirely representative of where I really felt SRG's musical identity lay- and by the beginning of the new decade I was becoming increasingly aware of the difficulties I would have in working with two of the older musicians- not just their possibly limited ability in playing compound time signatures or singing over chords with extensions ( i.e 9th or 11th for you music theory types) but in terms of being able to commit to live schedules. Currently we now gig an average of 3- sometimes five shows a week. That would have been an impossibility back in those days. Jacob had to take a leave for college, and then of course covid hits and things really imploded between the other two musicians. One more or less was politely discharged and the other was fired- so I had to basically rebrand it from scratch a year afterwards- so I recruited a vocalist named Sarah Stoll to do a couple tracks on a album that we put out in 21 called Out of the Ether- with no drummer at the time we used a friend of mine to fill in as a second hand, and we managed to gig a pretty decent amount from June to December 2020- outside in PA of course, and towards the end in the freezing cold, but a highly worthwhile experience because once things began gravitating back to normal, we found it alot easier to get work and eventually to become more selective about it. In March 21 I met our current drummer Brian Derckas- and then due to Sarah's limited ability in playing bass and singing at the same time another musician named Stephen Zalalas. At that time Sarah went off to college in Arizona and it was really up to Steven myself and Brian to continue the name and we found it really easy to get a lot of quality work, we recorded a record named metaphysical- but then again issues began to present themselves with Stephens chemical intake- and eventually his musicianship began to deteriorate so badly I had a fire him halfway through a show- it's a true story. But by then Jacob had returned from college, and so had Sarah, so it wasnt much of an issue changing the lineup. In September of 22- and began releasing the music as part of a singles release program in January of 23. Our singles Overcoming and Bound by Desire really raised our profile as a band and we not only received a feature in Relix Magazine, but a lot of airplay all over the world and some incredible press reviews. For me, the most crucial aspect was we released each single in a timely fashion that continued pushing the momentum forward without feeling rushed. 2023 year wise already feels like its been an incredible success and we still got 5 months to go- and it certainly has raised our quota for how many shows a year.
Buzz Slayers: What kind of things really inspire songs for you?
Inspiration can strike in a variety of ways- be it a phrase, melody, a guitar tuning, or writing with a different instrument- I think when I use something I'm not as familiar with, I tend to be able to be more creative. Also a set of words- occasionally the stream of consciousness can offer some results. I never know what I can say that might turn into a song title or a phrase, so in that sense I'm always on the lookout if I say something that can suggest something to my creative side.
Buzz Slayers: This album has some great styles on it! Can you give us some of your biggest influences musically?
It all started for me with the Beatles, and alot of the classic bands of that era- The Who, Yes, Todd Rundgren, ELP, Third World, Weather Report, Steely Dan, Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers and when I started guitar back in 01 when I was 9, I had a substantial blues grounding to my playing- even to this day, I think a decent way to describe my playing is as a mixture of the expression I learned from blues with the more experimental approach of the progressive rock groups I listened to. That gravitation towards more complex forms of music continued when I got into shred guitar, jazz and classical music when I was around 15, and I performed or composed in those genres for the better part of 7 years. I began diversifying in 2015, and I played in folk americana band that would include two members who went on to form the first iteration of SRG. At this stage in my career Ive played just about any sort of genre I can think of, and it all tends to come out in Smooth Retsina Glow in a certain way.
Buzz Slayers: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
I read- I gravitate towards history, as well as more philosophical texts, and I think those help inform my vocabulary when writing songs- I also find it interesting to see what some writers will gravitate towards because it will certainly shape their lyrics and narratives- I also teach music at West End Music in Allentown, and I enjoy going to the parks and trails around the Lehigh Valley for my exercise- it keeps myself physically in the game and its a perfect outlet away from music.
Buzz Slayers: Who's in your headphones right now?
All the bands listening tates are as follows:
Colin Wolf: The 1975, Lawrence, Thundercat, Deep Sea Diver, Black Midi and The Bad Plus Jacob Wolfe: Turnstile, Ghost, Hunt the Dinosaur, City Morgue, Slaughter to Prevail, Brian Derckas: Avenged Sevenfold, Rammstein, Animals as Leaders, and Intervals
Buzz Slayers: Are you guys doing any live performances right now?
Yes- as I mentioned earlier, we were doing some weeks recently where we were gigging 5 shows a week- and we have had some times this year where we even gigged 3 times a day! And we all enjoy it very much. By years end, we likely will have gigged 160 times total.
Buzz Slayers: Did you record this yourself or hit a big studio for this?
We recorded 2 songs of the record ( Overcoming and Eternal Now) at studio 11 in Bethlehem, and then we did the remaining 8 over at Shards in Bethlehem.
ong story short our normal engineer had decided to take a break from recording so we had to find somebody else to do this album- so initially at Studio 11 we utilized an engineer who had done one track on our previous record- but he really didn't work out for reasons that don't have to be discussed here- so we were referred to shards by a friend of ours and we were able to get the remainder of the record done in about five sessions
Buzz Slayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
They can expect it here us perform live and they can definitely expect to hear more music! Currently I am on a bit of a hiatus from writing but I have ideas that I am starting to jot down- I haven't really written for a couple of months because I'm trying to get into a different headspace as well as pace everyone so when we are ready to go back to record everyone will be recharged. And of course the big date for this summer is Saturday August 12th at Main Street Stage in Bethlehem
Buzz Slayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Keep sharing the new album- Gemini Reign is easily the best album we have done to date and it features a lot of songs that will be a more or less permanent part of our setlist- and get ready to see what future songs and albums we have- because as far as we are concerned there's always room for another!