Immerse yourself into a sci-fi western by turning up the volume of Shadow Band—the dark and mysterious psych-folk rock band based in Philadelphia.
Shadow Band is not your typical DIY scene band—you can sometimes count 13 people playing along to its opaque and harmonious tunes, switching around countless instruments. The members currently involved in the band include Mike Bruno (vocals/guitar), Sean Yenchick (waterphone/strings), Megan Biscieglia (banjo/percussion/, James Christy (bass guitar/keys), Morgan Morel (keys/guitar), Matt Marchesano (percussion/keys/bass), Jules Nehring (guitars), Jake Brunner (bass/keys/harmonies), and Paul Christian (harmonies/winds).
That looks like a hefty list of people and instruments, and that’s because that’s exactly what it is. Shadow Band is an extremely collaborative band comprised of a large group of friends who are influenced by a multitude of genres and approaches to sound. Their “typical” practice usually just plays out as a hang-sesh with friends that end up making music.
Though based in Philadelphia, the band admits that the city has more influence on them than the actual music scene there. (Philadelphia is best known for their hardcore and pop punk scene with bands like Kid Dynamite, Paint It Black, Modern Baseball, and Mannequin Pussy all coming from the City of Brotherly Love.)
Their debut LP, “Wilderness of Love,” came out last month on Mexican Summer with 11 tracks that provide soothing vocals, eerie beats, melodic patterns, and spine chilling lyrics that are startlingly consoling and relatable. The album title “Wilderness of Love,” came of fruition out of a recorded practice they did impulsively with no direction, which they called “Wilderness of Love.” The recording turned out to be one of Bruno’s favorites that they did, so they decided to name the album after it.
“I visualize a lot of music as a network,” Bruno tells BTRtoday. “I like when things tie together and move flawlessly.”
BTRtoday spoke to Bruno and Marchesano over the phone about Shadow Band, Philly, and one story of an encouraging fan.
Originally, the band was named Darksiders, but after a swift lineup change in the group and a deal with Mexican Summer, they switched to the name Shadow Band. Bruno explains that they were just sitting around when Morel suggested it and they all immediately agreed to go with it. “It makes sense for us also,” Bruno says. “I think we do a lot of thematic idea writing where there’s a lot of play with dark and light in our imagination and song craft.”
“Darksider’s Blues” is actually the second-to-last track featured on “Wilderness of Love,” and Bruno admits it’s the one that seems to stir up a reaction from the audience the most during live shows. “It’s a bit of a loaded song,” he explains. “I think people can identify with the content of it in a type of way that isn’t at all alienating, but it respects their environment.”
The track begins with a soothing instrumental introduction that is backed by a catchy guitar riff. Once the lyrics kick in they immediately present themes of coldness, darkness, shadows, and emotions. “What can a poor boy do?” repeats as a question throughout the song, wrapping up with, “I’ve got the darksider’s blues/I’ve got the doomsday blues.” Influences from bands such as The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Cave, and even some Animal Collective can be heard within the track.
Growing up, Bruno was constantly playing with his father’s guitar to the point that his father got him his own—since then he’s been writing music. Though raised mostly on country music and classic rock, Bruno discovered traditional folk music on his own and it has influenced his writing style ever since. “I’m still very much interested in traditional folk music—many old songs are extremely intriguing to me,” he adds.
Since the band started in 2009 it has transitioned through multiple names and lineups, but they have been playing strong ever since.
“In Boston, some dude came running in because he heard us playing and that meant a lot because he was really animated and heartfelt,” explains Marchesano, retelling the story of one zealous fan that ended up being actually quiet, encouraging to the band. “Later I learned that he was actually homeless and for him to spend $10 to come in and see us was really something special about that particular individual.”
Their Bandcamp page reads: “Shadow Band creates their own reality, reflecting on the dying embers of haunted dreams, but moving ever forward through the dusk.” Conveying that, though things can get muddy and rough, and break even the highest dreamer down, the sun will still rise the next day and you will go on. Just like Shadow Band, with the release of “Wilderness of Love,” they have already started working on their second LP. Bruno expresses his excitement on refining songs that have already been written and working on new material for the upcoming album.
To hear “Wilderness of Love” and the full interview with Bruno and Marchesano make sure to check out this week’s Music Meetup!