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For an EP titled The Wait, Narrow Waves’ latest doesn’t take long in establishing itself. The opening synths of “You’re Not The Way” glisten towards a bit of a musical undertow, and once the listener is pulled in, the surroundings then shift both inward and outward. It’s a tone that sets a bit of a warning, and its immediacy is then drawn out over 16 expansive minutes that simmer along a course of ’80s flashbacks and modern electronic-pop intimacy.
“Our sound reflects the diversity of a six-person band and what each of us brings to the table, which is cool, because it opens us up to an array of influences,” says Narrow Waves co-vocalist Sarah Gordon. “Some of us are deeply rooted in ’80s, whereas others are deeply rooted in modern pop formulations, and others are heavily influenced by electronic music of current day. You can hear all of that in this EP. Some of my favorite moments in this are when the violin and the synths become indistinguishable from each other — this ancient instrument woven amongst electronic sounds is really beautiful to me. I find the iterative evolution of music really inspiring, the way that people who will never know each other all over the world build on each other’s styles to make something new — that is creativity and connection at its best.”
That is perhaps most evident on striking second track “Stay,” which coats a modern-rock base with string instrumentation that flirts and skirts with its synthesizers, all while a Peter Hookian bassline keeps both from falling out of order. Closing track “A New Name” is ethereal and cinematic in its relative ease, a segue for perhaps another chapter in the Narrow Waves saga.
The Wait, pulling its title from the way life tends to push labors of love towards the backburner, was recorded at Brighton’s Ugly Duck Studios with producer and mixer Dave Chapman. It somehow manages to tell a story, but also leave a certain openness to personal interpretation.
“The Wait pulls in voices and characters from more contemporary novels and poets, some quite popular, living writers like Rainbow Rowell, Donna Tartt,” says co-vocalist J.R. Strikes. “The Wait also borrows scenes and voices from a novel I’ve been working on for far too long which will similarly take its time in finding the light of day. Lyrically, The Wait is also grounded by the sobriety of what it feels like to give up on something or someone, but not necessarily to give up on everything.”
Themes of getting older, friendships evolving or evaporating, and the fragility of life permeate a sound that clinks against a backdrop of desperation. The songs themselves have a personality, aided by the narration of the two vocalists.
“It has to do with the standard themes of getting older — but also, specifically, realizing the next time you give up on something or someone, it might actually be the last time,” Strikes adds. “That’s been a hard lesson for me, personally, in recent years as someone who is a perpetual optimist, who is a caretaker to family and friends, and that’s somewhat reflected in the lyrics. When you’re young, you’re bucking against what it feels like everyone wants you to be. Over time, once we get past that, we realize we can’t be all of the things that we want to be for ourselves, at our own volition, at least not all at once; at least not for everyone at once, including for people we care about. There’s some mourning that comes from that, one word or one disappointment or one declined invitation at a time, and I think parts of The Wait, lyrically, offer a lament that circles around that feeling.”
The Wait feels, as a whole, like a headphones record; one to get lost in while waiting impatiently on the train to and from work, one to put on one early Sunday morning in those fleeting moments before society awakens, one to channel the stresses and successes that come from a time where good days and bad days are narrowed down to mere good hours and bad hours. The feeling may change, but the players remain. And what’s really worth pursuing in life is often worth The Wait.
Narrow Waves play O’Brien’s Pub in Allston on July 6.