Local Music Love by Jeff Milo ~ Sept. 15, Edition
The Rogue Satellites’ Release Show for their third album: ‘Bees & Snakes’
Photo by: Brian Rozman
Words: Jeff Milo
Listen at: https://roguesatellites.bandcamp.com/
There are heartbreak songs waiting to be wrung-out from the dark depths of Twilight Zone episode scenarios, and there is profundity to be soaked up from the bar’s edge at last call after a loud rock show. There is also a “Slow Darkness” that can creep its dignified charms upon you if your ears are open for it. That, and more, await, on the Rogue Satellites latest release (coming September 26).
The Rogue Satellites are Jaye Thomas and Lisa Poszywak, a pair of local singer/songwriters and artists who split their day-job lives between consistent writing, recording and performing, along with managing an art gallery down in Detroit. Thomas & Poszywak trade off lead vocals, while juggling a number of instruments between them, various guitars, several sleek synthesizers, various effects pedals and a drum machine.
The music they make is a magnificent kind of murk-pop. Their latest, Bees & Snakes, demonstrates an advanced sensibility for the understated theatricalities waiting to be mined in tone manipulation, echo trills, fuzz pedals and the perpendicular beauty of lullaby-like chimes rising above the sinister sounding scorch of a guitar.
There is much to be said for Bees & Snakes’ producers, Eric Oppitz and Sean Morrow (of Sisters Of Your Sunshine Vapor), who merge their own keenness for a graceful kind of caustic sound sculpting to the Rogues new brew of psychedelic new-wave. But there is still more to be said for Poszywak’s sense for shifting her soft voice from something precious and cherubic into something unsuspectingly icier, let alone those chilly yet undeniably alluring melodies woven by those wavy synthesizers. Then there’s Thomas, with his knack for stitching a bit of hipster-indicting venom into his lyrics, sung so matter-of-factly, fused upon an otherwise ear-worming pop melody. Bees also showcases Thomas’ signature style of prying a particular guitar riff down for a few bars, only to whip it back up into the song’s ceiling, where it meets back up with Poszywak’s cast of curious UFO-evoking synth atmospherics.
With Bees & Snakes, their third album, they’ve manifested something from the deep, dizzy dreams of synth-rock’s darker side. Still, these tunes can cartwheel up from those more tranquil astral planes and into a more vigorous post-punk tantrum, albeit set to a slow-dance tempo, ever in service of the dazzling essence of delicately manipulated noise…
Yes, noise…The Rogues (with Oppitz and Morrow,) make noise sound decorous on Bees. But did we mention the sweet, sweet reverb? The explorations of trippy surf rock? Or, the sensational secrets awaiting those who decide to mine this music with their headphones snuggly clamped around their ears?
Rogue Satellites are a pop music group in the same way an overcast sky in October seems beautiful to you; you can’t put your finger on how or why, yet you just feel it…you keep tapping your toe to this music, however “offbeat” it may sound…
Bees & Snakes comes out Sept. 26, with a release party at P.J.’s Lager House: https://www.facebook.com/events/1468012813525747/
Some of these songs actually refer to music; different types of music, the emotions of music, the “integrity” of pop music… Is there a subtle impetus to use your songs as anti-pop songs?
Jaye Thomas: “A Slow Darkness” is inspired by our experiences with the music scene here in Detroit. Certain disappointments shifted our songwriting in a darker direction but the catharsis proved to be a great release and a great fit for us, creatively. “Devil Music” is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the weirdo zealots who would carry signs outside the rock shows I went to as a kid. The signs would say things like, “YOU’RE ALL GOING TO HELL!”. Haha. So…, I think our writing style is just the natural result of irrepressible sarcasm.
And then another song, “In Crowds,” seems to be this meta-inclined narrative, like a first person account of weaving one’s way through a rock club yet epilogue’d with a more existential pondering…
Lisa Poszywak: The initial inspiration for “In Crowds” was from being at one of the last packed (Metro Times’) Blowout shows. There was something about how everyone was in the same boat, experienced the same thing, that I responded to…After those ideas settled in, I went off on some tangents that make the lyrics seem more abstract, but, it’s really that my mind was drawing some parallels between some memories that probably wouldn’t make much sense to the listener. So, I think it ended up working on an abstract level.
Jaye Thomas: You say ‘meta…,’ but I say ‘autobiographical.’ Our whole lives are pretty much about making music and making art, so it’s inevitable, I think, to be inspired by the experience.
What about the inspiration for the sounds of the songs, going back to that sort of pop/anti-pop sound, and the eventual production and mixing of these songs in the studio…
Lisa Poszywak: I think we just try to do what’s right for the song. We make the music that we want to make without a ton of consideration for the listener upfront. I think we’ve been able to find really dedicated listeners that way, because we’re not trying to make music that everyone will like. The people that end up liking us seem to be really invested, though. We’ve recorded with Eric (Oppitz) and Sean (Morrow) many times now…, in fact, I haven’t recorded with anyone else. I appreciate that they are just as invested as we are. It’s a very intensive process, the groove that we’d fallen into since recording our Double A Side with them (back in 2014). It allows us the time, and the state of mind, to experiment.
Jaye Thomas: And pop music is ingrained in my psyche. I’m also interested in music that takes on a textured, meditative form. I like melody and harmony, but I’m really not interested in being mainstream at all. And, as for the recording (of Bees & Snakes), we work to find the right sound for each song. There are 11 different guitars on this album and several synthesizers, including my Moon, my Oberheim and Lisa’s Korg.
Talk about arranging all of those instruments! There are only two of you and yet you’re building a full ensemble’s worth of sonic elements.
Jaye Thomas: It’s fun building up this library of sounds and then deciding what goes where. You end up with some pretty stunning sonic landscapes that give the songs a unique character.
Lisa Poszywak: My favorite song, by far, on (Bees & Snakes) is “This Place Is Cursed.” We added so many atmospheric and percussive layers in the recording process that the drama of it just seems huge to me.
Jaye Thomas: I think it’s our darkest album yet, but it was also the most fun to make. I think the thing I’m most geeked about is, if you listen with headphones, you can really hear how Eric (Oppitz) took full advantage of the stereo format and gave my noise samples motion. It gives me chills.
Talk about the journey and growth of the band, Lisa…, from back in 2012, when you joined, up until now…
Lisa Poszywak: I got into playing music when I joined this band, actually. That was in 2012. In the beginning, it was trial by fire. I think we’d already had shows lined up before I even started practicing. It was super stressful, but a very productive time. I learned a lot in about a three month span of time.
Jaye Thomas: Our most formative moment, for the band, was when Lisa joined… It wasn’t a moment, really. It took a couple years, but we work well together and we found the sound we want to make.
Lisa Poszywak: It was not something that I ever thought I would do, but, oddly enough, now it seems like a big part of my identity.
Another part of your identity is running Corktown Studios, down in Detroit.
Lisa Poszywak: We’re definitely busy people. I think my biggest struggle is balancing work with the band and my visual art, though.
Jaye Thomas: Lisa is the gallery director at CTS and I’m the music director. There are struggles to balance those responsibilities with the band’s, but, the benefits outweigh them.
Lisa Poszywak: It really comes down to a lifestyle choice. I choose to be involved in creating and my lifestyle needs to be able to support that, in terms of space, money, time… At this point, I only get excited…and, stressed…, for big shows, both visual and musical. Everything else is just a normal part of life.
What happens next?
Jaye Thomas: After the release party, we’re going on the road. Play…play…play…and work…supporting this album that we spent the last two years making.
Rogue Satellites’ Bees & Snakes Release Show
PJ’s Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave
featuring DUENDE, Palaces, and Buffalo Coven Party