The beauty about music is it can lead anyone anywhere, figuratively or literally, as a listener or as a songwriter. For Griff Snyder, it took him from the snowy mountains of Colorado to the shores of California and back; from the days of folk music parties featuring his band Dovekins to the solo explorations of electronic music and the birth of Inner Oceans.
Two years ago when Dovekins came to an end, Griff embraced this change, taking the opportunity to close one chapter and open another. The dynamic went from the organic realm of folk music to the process of learning and honing his craft in electronic productions.
“I did a series of residencies in Iowa and San Francisco, really kind of finding this new sound there,” he explained of his musical adventures that took place in 2012. Going to San Francisco, one of the internationally renowned cites for electronic music is liken to chefs going to France to learn the premier process for making sauces, and he learned well.
The demo released in November of 2013 contains three gems, each with their own unique facets but with a common string of Inner Oceans’ sound, one that melds acoustic, dreamy tones with layers of digital outbursts and rhythms.
“I Don’t Mind” serenades quietly, “The city bakes in the light of the sea, if only for a moment, I don’t mind…” with keyboards simmering and twinkling above and below slow beats. Venturing into more celebratory tones, “The Night” repeat listens will reveal the many layers of vocal harmonies and instrumentation, both organic and synthasized, making for an anthemic cry for adventure and exploration (visualize Leo to Kate “I’m king of the world!” after throwing Celene Dion off of the Titanic…something like that).
Then there’s “Ready Your Ghost” that further solidifies Griff velvety-soft vocals as one of his strongest songwriting instruments, singing almost in a whispered tone as the bridge pounds with drums and synth tweaks, drifting back down to a simple acoustic guitar line.
Beyond the electronic music culture of San Francisco, it’s as if Griff was also inspired by the city by the bay’s blend of crashing waves and concrete culture while retaining the intricate songwriting prose of his past.
With a whole new song dynamic in his head and on his hard drive, he decided it was time to go home to continue the story.
“I came back to Denver a year ago and was ready to start the project up; just needed people to be in the band. So that’s what this whole last year has been, pulling together the right players.”
One of those players is Charlie Kern, who states that his official Inner Oceans job title is Texturizer. This made sense after seeing the band perform at Larimer Lounge this month, where Charlie manipulated the keyboard, knobs and guitars to weave those textures throughout each song, bringing to life the sounds that began in the mind of his band member.
“Griff is a really talented songwriter. You give him a piano and he’ll write you a song. It’s kind of amazing.” Continuing somewhat jokingly, Charlie stated matter-of-factly, “Just feed him and give him water and a song will come out. He really honed those skills being in these folk projects. I’ve always been a mediocre songwriter, but really interested in exploring sonic landscapes; what different sounds you can make and how, and that’s a whole other art in itself.”
Complementing his bandmate on learning the ins and outs of the electronic trade, Charlie may be more versed in the technical aspects, but as a team, the creative sparks fly. “He’s going to eclipse me any day now,” he continued. “I’ve been kind of here to help him explore what kind of sounds we can pull in, what kind of colors we can use when we paint these musical pictures.”
Beyond the three-song demo, Inner Oceans has written a full set of music that has been presented to local fans, beginning back in November with the release party at the Hi-Dive.
Griff explained the path they go down, a path many a songwriter has ventured between almost instant gratification and the patience of letting songs simmer to perfection.
“When we were starting off we were going to have it be five [songs] and it was brought down to three. That’s kind of what often times happens. You always want to do more and you come out with fewer, but that’s good because we found what we were looking for in those three songs. The other ones just need more work…maybe just didn’t reveal themselves as readily as these other three tracks.
It’s just a really interesting process to see what a song needs. Some songs just, overnight they’re done and some songs can take some time. Of course, we prefer the ones that are overnight and just kind of happen.”
That overnight serendipity was the lead single from the demo, “Ready Your Ghost.”
Writing in the song in about five minutes, Griff dug in, staying up all night to fill in the song with colors needed to complete the picture. “I just kind of felt possessed. It was like a really, ecstatic experience with that song.”
Upon the release of the demo, Inner Oceans not only received hurrahs from local fans and music blogs, they received digital press over in Europe, including the U.K., France and Germany, something that really put a skip in their step. “We want to be out there as soon as possible,” Griff confirmed.
Here at home, the demo release at Hi-Dive was a time where everything came all together and the band members were able to present in a live setting everything they had been working on for the better part of a year. “That was one of the best shows that I’ve been part of in any project,” Charlie explained. “The energy was great.”
Inner Oceans also played a New Year’s Eve party, again at Hi-Dive, which needless to say, was indeed a party. Charlie continued, “We’re just lucky to be playing at shows for crowds that really want to hear us. Having that energy in the room, as a performer, is just exciting. It’s like being handed a fast car to drive.”
As a self-proclaimed energy drink aficionado, a fast car with Charlie behind the wheel would be a fun time for him, but not so sure for the passenger. Griff jumped in, “He’s a really good driver though, and a really good bus mechanic,” something that will come in handy when it comes time to hit the tour road.
On the road and for local shows, Tyler Ludwick from Denver’s Princess Music, who also lives in the Inner Ocean abode and “has a knack for arrangements,” is playing drums for the band, while Julia Mendiolea and Crawford Philleo also fill in as temporary members.
At the start of the New Year Inner Oceans also signed to Holy Underground, have been instrumental in getting the band’s music in the ears of people outside of Denver, Colorado and internationally.
[Inner Oceans interview on the KB Show on Hoxton Radio]
Future ambitions will include a road trip to Austin as Inner Oceans has been been accepted as an official Showcase Artists at SXSW, something the guys are all too excited about. We will keep you posted and provide an update to this interview as their gig details are confirmed.
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