On Sunday, April 3rd local pop/rock band Time Atlas will be releasing their new EP Obscurity–a selection of reimagined songs from their debut EP Clarity. In the meantime, I’ve been given the opportunity to chat with frontman Grayson DeWolfe about the new batch of music, along with giving the trio of tunes a listen myself.
GMN: When were these tracks recorded?
DeWolfe: The songs we recorded by ourselves over at (bassist Kristoff Druva’s) studio over the past couple months or so. It’s been an ongoing project that we’ve wanted to do for a while but never had the opportunity with so many shows in the fall.
GMN: How did you select the tracks you wanted to rework? Personal opinion or fan popularity?
DeWolfe: We chose each track based on potential. We wanted it to be something new for our fans while still having its roots tied to Clarity. So, if a song presented itself coming in a different way, then we took the idea and flew with it. “Sleepless Nights” was an easy first choice. I had been playing a piano version of (guitarist Josh Bening’s) opening riff for a long time, and we eventually incorporated it into our acoustic set, and now our new EP. The bridge of “Sleepless Nights” gets wild too.
GMN: On “Falling”:
DeWolfe: Back when I was writing “Falling” for the first time I always wanted some string instruments to shine in the pre-chorus and shape the song. In the original song, guitars drive the song forward, but this time around I wrote four string parts for a string quartet. We had them come in and play the music I put in front of them, and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out. They really drive the song and make it beautifully original, almost like it’s a brand new song.
GMN: So you brought in an actual string quartet?
DeWolfe: Yes! Well, sorta. We had my high school friend Davis come in with cello, and a college friend named Tasha who is an excellent violin player. I wrote two parts each for them, composing with harmonies for their own parts. The cello acted as a mid range voice, and also the bass line of the song.
GMN: “Falling” is featuring Chicago band Marina City, want to tell me about that?
DeWolfe: Yes! We’ve been super close with that entire band ever since we toured with them in August. Now whenever Marina City comes to Minnesota on tour, they always stay with one of us, even if it means all six of them cramming into an apartment. One night over the winter they were staying with Kristoff and Josh and quickly recorded vocals of “Falling” in Kristoff’s bedroom before leaving for their next stop. We’ve got such a close bond with that band, I doubt that this’ll be the last time we collaborate.
GMN: On “Too Late”:
DeWolfe: “Too Late” honestly almost didn’t make the cut because I was hesitant on making a stripped down version of a song that was already stripped down a lot. My guitar player Josh insisted though, so I recorded a one take of me playing piano and singing in my bedroom studio and sent it to the guys. A week later it was fully recorded and is a key component to Obscurity.
After talking to DeWolfe about the tracks, I gave them a listen myself.
The first track of the three is one of my favorite Time Atlas songs: “Falling.” Listening to it, I’m immediately graced with the strum of an acoustic guitar before being met with a gentler version of the poppy song. I notice how honest Grayson DeWolfe’s voice sounds, and it’s obvious that his vocals have improved since the initial recording of the track on the Clarity EP. The acoustic aspect of the song gives it a drastically different vibe. It sounds intimate, relaxing, and like you’re sitting in front of a fireplace on a chilly day. The sweeping strings of the “quartet” were definitely a good call on the musicians’ part, pulling the track together so it’s definitely not just another typical acoustic song.
The second song chosen to be reworked is “Sleepless Nights.” After seeing Time Atlas live a few times, I’ve gathered that this one is a fan favorite. The beginning of the new version is definitely not what I was expecting-instead of a glittering guitar riff I’m met with an almost melancholy piano part. It’s like it’s a completely new song. There’s a sort of lightness to the original track that isn’t present in this new one, and the song sounds heavy, laced with new meaning. Now, this isn’t a negative thing. I find myself listening to this track more closely, thinking about the lyrics more and really taking in the instrumentals. The bridge of “Sleepless Nights” on Clarity is a narration of hope and determination, and practically a battle cry for the dedicated fans of Time Atlas. This aspect of the bridge is very different now, and this aspect of the bridge is now materialized differently*. The song ends strong, with “I will fight until I die!”
The last song of the trio is “Too Late,” a simplistic acoustic song I’ve definitely witnessed some people cry to. In order to make this new version minimalistic, the acoustic guitar is replaced with piano, and there aren’t any backing vocals present. This gives a great effect to the song, making it seem more personal, like you’re reading DeWolfe’s journal. The young singer’s vocals are dynamic, drifting from soft words to strong phrases smoothly, his voice filled with power and the aforementioned honesty. It’s a great ending to Obscurity. After listening to these tracks a few times and comparing them to Clarity, I’ve decided that these are definitely new and improved, and I very much look forward to seeing how other fans feel about these new versions of the songs on Sunday.
*This line was edited because it included a spoiler about the song that Time Atlas requested to be kept secret until its release.