Picking up on the disparities between a band’s debut and sophomore efforts can yield an intriguing blend of contrast. Perhaps the material becomes emboldened, continuing much in the same ilk yet maturing over time. Or maybe a group unanimously embraces radical reinvention for the second go-round.
Regardless, it’s very rare that the music from album one will sound remotely close to an ensemble’s more recent endeavors.
For Richmond, Virginia’s pop-bombastic The Trillions, the progression from their debut Tritones to last January’s Superposition is the difference of three years and one hell of a musical evolution. But not just in taste–although the explosive drums and fuzzy drenched hooks have become less frenetic and more spacious. On Superposition the listener can hear an unmistakable turn towards finesse that can only spring from a markedly improved musical caliber and approach to songwriting.
While lead singer and guitar player Charlie Glenn does write the majority of material for the band, The Trillions’ recent album features a more democratic approach to leadership. His early conceptions and song sketches provide a fulcrum for the remaining musicians to adorn whatever their tastes see fit.
“Charlie’s a musician in the truest sense,” says Trillions’ bassist Robbie King. “He can just hear something and play it. It’s really fun but also a little intimidating. I find myself thinking, ‘You’re too good, it’s not fair!’”
Glenn has always provided the filament to weave the band’s songs. When they first formed after Glenn’s group Prabir & The Substitutes disbanded back in 2009, The Trillions were greeted by a wealth of original material from the former organ-turned-guitar player. King recalls delving into the extensive song library and realizing how necessary and fun it would be to adopt the music. It felt just like starting over again, and although a number of the founding members were moving together from a previous group, the reinvention of roles and chemistry gave The Trillions a fresh new perspective and energy.
That being said, their debut Tritones almost never came to fruition. Rather than settling down into a cozy recording studio and buckling down with the material (like they’ve done with Superposition in the lovely haunt of Montrose Studios), The Trillions instead floated between three different buildings. They juggled a fair share of sound engineers–many of which quit. Two of the mixing engineers actually gave up.
It’s hardly a surprise that their sophomore album comes across as a revelation. Despite the odds surrounding their debut, the band maintained rock-solid roots that have been allowed to flourish.
Vital moments of reflection also spurred the band members to stew over material rather than ceaselessly rush forward. Time constraints meant that a week or two would pass between working on a single session.
“It was interesting,” says King, “because it allowed us to take a breather and think about everything, really digest it, and go back with a fresh start. It was a blessing in disguise really.”
There was plenty of time to think; the mixing process alone required more than a year to fully complete. Part of this was due to the band’s new approach to songwriting. Rather than arriving at Montrose with a full album’s worth of completed material, at least half of the songs were little more than blueprints. The members might have touched upon them once or twice, but without any concrete arrangements.
Instead, they allowed a degree of spontaneity into the material through a marriage of creation and tracking. King admits he’d never done something quite like it before, and adds that while the four are certainly a “nitpicky” group, the recording took a remarkably short amount of time of around two weeks.
More incredible is that an album of such maturity, power, and personal growth was made possible despite the fact that several of the members have family members to support. When King answers the phone to talk about The Trillions, a playful whine carries through the receiver. It’s his little boy. The two are engaged in a heated match of Pokemon while the bass player reveals what it was like raising a son during the genesis of Superposition.
“You see the world a bit differently,” King muses. “[My son] reminds me not to take things so seriously. A lot of times I’ll be hyper-critical of myself, but I’ve become more laid-back over the years. He reminds me that there’s way more to life than screwing up a bass part.”
That’s not all–King Jr. is even an avid fan of the music that his dad makes. Aside from rocking out to Tritones when he was still a baby, he also enjoys listening to fellow Richmond-rockers Manatree’s catchy tune “Beeswax” on repeat during drives to preschool.
Dedication must run in the family.
To hear the rest of our interview with The Trillions, tune into this week’s episode of Discovery Corner.
Or interpret the music for yourself by clicking here.