Time flies, as they say, and in the year since his band put out Stray Dogs, Siberian Traps frontman Seth Reeves wrote a bunch of new material. In fact, a lot of those songs were almost done even before Stray Dogs debuted. Reeves had a lot to work with, though. An avid hiker and camper, he drew a lot of inspiration from nature – and all the things in modern life that threaten the Earth’s well-being, including the erratic short-sightedness emanating from the frowny-faced blowhard currently signing memos in the Oval Office.
Out on Dreamy Life Records on Friday, Indicator came from things Reeves experienced over the past year. “A lot of the songs came from snapshots of last spring and last summer, going to the river in Glen Rose or hiking at this other state park. And some of the record came from thinking about the shit-show that was the election last year. … It was heavy, and I tried not to be too on-the-nose, but [the election] was definitely the backdrop.”
Yet despite that somewhat gloomy backstory, Indicator doubles down on the sunny, R.E.M.-influenced indie pop of its predecessor, which itself was a stylistic departure from the music Reeves made before. Once upon a time, Siberian Traps identified with alt-country and Americana, and last year’s album veered away from the Nashville twang that colored Reeves’ songwriting. On Indicator, even fewer vestiges of Reeves’ Nashville experience remain. And the band has evolved in other ways: While guitarist/keyboardist Ben Hance (Programme, Earthchild Imperius) contributed parts to the last record, his involvement with the Traps’ new material has been as a full-time member. For Reeves, bassist Mike Best, and drummer Peter Wierenga, Hance’s ear and skill were a huge boon in the studio.
The band has also benefited from the engineering experience Wierenga has gained over the past year. Reeves says they did a few overdubs, but Wierenga tracked the band live for most of the album, a technique that differed from Stray Dogs, which came together piece-by-piece. And the new record allowed Wierenga to try new production techniques taken from approaches he has used on the projects he’s engineered over the past year: Tornup, Dallas-based garage punk Blands, and Hance’s psychedelic Earthchild Imperius.
“Every record, I try to change up how I mic things,” Wierenga said. “I was mixing this at the same time as Joseph Wayne Miller’s and Denver Williams’ records. Denver’s record sounds kind of like a Grandaddy or Wilco kind of thing, and most of the vocals have a natural room sound. I went for a similar thing with our record.”
But the shift in sonics isn’t the only new thing in the Siberian Traps world. “This record was really different, too, because of the way it’s tied together,” Wierenga said. “It’s weird to try to pick a single from it because it sounds like a whole.”
The songs do come across as elements of a unified entirety, but Reeves doesn’t necessarily see it as a concept album, though like Stray Dogs, Indicator does have some recurrent motifs.
“It doesn’t have a concept, but when we were picking the song order and the sides –– because we pressed it to vinyl – I noticed when I’d set the track order, it seemed like all the songs on one side had something to do with water, and the ones on the other side have imagery that has to do with sky. There was a definite motif, but I didn’t really realize it until I put the track list together.”
Siberian Traps will hit the road June 15 to promote Indicator with a tour will take them through Oklahoma, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and Brooklyn, circling back home through Columbus, Louisville, Nashville, and Memphis. The band’s local release party is 8pm Friday with Son of Stan, Programme, and New Berlin at Shipping & Receiving.