Oral storytelling is a building block to our society. It has forever played a role in how we communicate, and traditionally how we make music. But progressive-rock artist, Intervals represents a subsect of musicians who say vocals are not a necessary principle in music. And instead have instead found new ways to translate the same narratives.
“I don’t feel like I need to rely on that at all,” Intervals mastermind Aaron Marshall told American Songwriter. “And I think it’s cool to exist within a genre where it’s just about the music and still have room for a narrative to accompany the entire body of work. And that lets me personally feel more fulfilled. I get to leave more of my personality in the music.”
Intervals is continuing that trend viciously with the release of their fourth album, Circadian. Circadian is a highly analytical, concept record based of of the human connection to rhythm.
“I was trying to sort of insinuate or allude to how circadian goes beyond its literal meaning,” Marshall said. “And if anyone Googles circadian rhythm, they very quickly understand it as something they may have read in a textbook before. But for me, it’s more of a metaphor for constantly striving.”
Marshall’s prolific songwriting techniques go deeper than simply ditching vocals. Adapting to the circadian theme he also used motifs throughout the record to provide a link across songs, like singles, “Lock and Key,” “String Theory” and specifically the intro song “5-HTP” and track seven “D.O.S.E,” that are also related by title.
The opener “5-HTP” sets the tone of the record while also providing some foreshadow of later tacks. The titles “5 HTP” and “D.O.S.E, are also related by title. “D.O.S.E” is an acronym for dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. 5-HTP is the neurological chemical emitted with serotonin.
“I’m a big fan of writing parts like that,” Marshall said. “Where you can separate the top line from the chord progression, but can also play them together. As I was moving through the composition, I subconsciously found myself using a fragment of a song that already existed on the record. Then I realized it was the perfect intro because I already intended for that tune to be towards the back half of the record on ‘D.O.S.E”
“They’re sort of attached at the hip,” he continued. “Because they share this motif. After attaching those together, I knew the album was done and ready to record.”
In the middle of the process, Marshall welcomed a camera crew of sorts into his journey for Circadian. The studio documentary, filmed by Wyatt Clough and Mike DeMellia, includes studio footage, tour shots and live cuts that translate Marshall’s complex process and concept into an easily digestible visual.
Newly introduced producer Sam Guaiana shook up the process further. Guaiana had worked with Silverstein and other similar bands, but Circadian was his first experience with a progressive-instrumental band.
Taking on a producer who had never worked on a similar project before stemmed from Intervals’ involvement in the Canadian arts grant system. To be eligible, 75 percent of the project must be created in Canada. Based on this criteria Marshall agreed on a trial run with Guaiana initially. But quickly found the unexpected partnership transpired incredibly well.
“Sam had just finished up the Silverstein record. And he was very upfront about saying he’d never done an instrumental record,” Marshall explained. “So, we had lots of conversations about what it is that I was trying to achieve. And we just really kind of fell into a really healthy working relationship. Sam was really colorful and open-minded to all the weird stuff I threw at him. So, we’ve got a good thing going, I’m not going to mess with the recipe now.”
Similar visions like Marshall’s, that adhere to colorful and unorthodox songwriting don’t stop with Intervals. Many bands like Periphery and Animals as Leaders have set a permanent demand for instrumental-progressive rock music. It ultimately shows that music is a language in itself , pushing many artists to make pivotal art that transcends linguistic barriers.
You can take a closer look at the detailed journey on how Intervals made such inquisitive music on the Circadian studio doc here on YouTube. And contrary to the challenges 2020 has posed, the frontman adds they are doing incredibly well. Spotify listeners have increased as well as pre-orders, but nothing will compensate for not being able to play for people.
“We’re doing really well, but I just want to play a show with my friends,” Marshall said.
Circadian is out November 13 and you can grab a copy here. Check out the single “5-HTP” here on American Songwriter.