Catch up with Boston-based Narrow Waves and listen to their single "Hear Me Out" from their debut EP, Letters From Another State, out now.
What got you interested in starting Narrow Waves?
Sarah: We are all Boston area natives and all of us have played in bands for a while and I think we were all looking for something with a new sound.
J.R.: Narrow Waves started as a fairly casual collaboration between myself and Matt (lead guitarist). We had played in a punk band together a long time ago and we shared a wide range of tastes beyond punk music and we wanted to explore and honor those interests with a new project. We were pleasantly surprised when we started jamming to see what material we'd come up with. I had a lot of indie-oriented songs on the shelf, we dusted some of those off, we started reaching out to assemble a full band, and we've been really fortunate to find folks like Sarah, Noah, Graham, and Tim, all really talented folks who've become friends, and I think we've formed something special.
Sarah: That's pretty much it. I think we were all at a point in our musical careers where we were ready for something a little different than what we were normally playing. I used to play in a sort of a post-rock instrumental band as a violinist and also did fiddle and folk stuff, so I think all of us were ready for something that was a little different from what we'd been doing before. We're ready to also just take it more seriously, so it's just a really good match with everyone being on the same page with that.
Where does your name Narrow Waves come from?
J.R.: There were a few inspirations for that. The most literal of which is that sound waves are the narrowest waves that you can see, so that's the short explanation [laughs].
Which musicians were you influenced by, individually or as a band?
Sarah: I think it's different. What's cool about the band is that it's actually a little different based on different people in the band. I think J.R. and a few other members of the band are influenced by earlier indie - New Order, Morrissey, The Smiths - whereas I'm a little more influenced by more modern indie - The 1975, The Naked and Famous, - and then our synth player is adorably super into pop, everything from Carly Rae Jepsen to a Justin Bieber remix. Those three influences draw from the past and more modern indie and pop and it altogether creates the sound that we have in Narrow Waves. Broods and, obviously, I think CHVRCHES is a shared influence among all of us, particularly what they do with their synths. I also think, in terms of my own personal singing style, Sky Ferreira is a huge influence.
Is there anyone you're hooked on now you think everyone should listen to?
Sarah: I'm obsessed with the new single by Lorde [laughs] "Green Light". And J.R. and I are both crushing on The xx's new album.
J.R.: I'll second what Sarah said. Things I've had on repeat recently include Fear of Men, Strand of Oaks, the new Cloud Nothing album, like many other people I think it's pretty amazing. A band called Pine Grove that I've been listening to on repeat a lot recently. Ultimately, I've been listening to the new Run The Jewels album more than any of those combined, but the other ones are a bit more in our genre.
Which words would you use to describe your own sound?
J.R.: I'll start by mentioning some of the more flattering comparisons that other people have drawn - or the comparisons that have come up, on multiple occasions, by other people or reviewers and folks at the shows - have been The Psychedelic Furs and early R.E.M. and [laughs] 'early indie music in general' was something a couple of folks said to me the other day. I think that gets at the heart of what Sarah said earlier that, particularly with the material we've been playing live, it's sort of a bridge between those legacy indie bands of the earlier '80s and current indie bands. Folks have said that somehow with 6 people in the band we've managed to bridge that gap a little bit.
Sarah: Two of the things that we think are really cool about the band is that we have both an electric violin and dual vocals, so it adds a little bit of a melodic or storytelling vibe to the songs, as well. I think that makes it pretty unique.
J.R.: I agree with Sarah. When there's 6 people in the band, it's not going to sound like your typical indie band.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Hear Me Out"?
J.R.: "Hear Me Out" is about the things that are left unsaid but it's also a farewell song in the sense that it touches upon what it feels like to say goodbye to someone when you're not sure whether it will be the last time that you see them.
Could you tell us more about your EP Letters From Another State and if that single is indicative of what people can expect to hear?
Sarah: Yeah, that EP runs the gamut of 5 songs that we have been working on and some that were existing in various states prior to the formation of the band and some that have been updated since. There's a mixture of some more upbeat dance songs - which are just super fun to play - and also some slower songs that incorporate the violin and we were going for this ethereal, atmospheric sound on some of them, as well. It really offers a little bit of both.
J.R.: I think that sums it up.
Sarah: The name itself, Letters From Another State, is something that we thought hard about because, basically with our music, we want to leave a lot of it up to the listeners interpretation and we wanted a name that really reflected that because there's multiple meanings within that name and we want people to have it mean whatever it means to them. Just like our lyrics, which are about what's often left unsaid but that's applicable to a lot of different situations and we really want people to make whatever meaning they want from that.
Is there one song off the EP you'd call your favorite?
Sarah: For me it's probably "Reducer", which was the first single we released off the EP. We've been opening with that song a lot at our shows and just the beginning when the beat comes in it's so good and it makes me think about the experience of playing to a crowd and our boys really enjoy playing that song live.
J.R.: I think that my favorite song off the EP, right now, is "Hear Me Out" [laughs]. I think that I really like the ending, it's had people singing along at shows. It's one of the songs from this EP that was written the earliest and I think it's a nice blend. It's right at the intersection of all the other songs on the album; "Hear Me Out" borrows bits and pieces from the vibes of the other songs and "Hear Me Out" is song 3 on the EP and it's appropriately at the intersection of all the other songs.
In one sentence, how would you sum up Letters From Another State?
J.R.: Hmm. Sarah, you take that one.
Sarah: [Laughs] It's really hard... The EP is a modern take on foundational indie influences with an interesting combination of synths, dual vocals, and violin.
J.R.: I think Narrow Waves is a band that I've always wanted to be in, before it even existed, and I hope people enjoy the record and that they enjoy listening to it - hopefully on repeat - as much as we've enjoyed bringing this group together. We have a lot of momentum as a band right now, we've got a lot of great new material we're going to start recording in the next couple of months and, in the meantime, we hope this EP will tide people over and be something that they can call their own and enjoy as much as we enjoyed making it.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Sarah: In our wildest dreams, we would hope that these songs can help people and serve as a window into their own lives the way that a lot of our influencers - particularly in the indie rock world - have done for us. Beyond that, we also just really want people to enjoy and have fun listening to them. J.R.?
J.R.: [Laughs] This is one of the good parts of having dual vocalists, we can call in a lifeline pretty easily, whether it's in an interview or on stage; and in fairness to Sarah, it's more often than not, me calling in the lifeline. I really liked what Sarah said about, if these songs can give to somebody who hears them a fraction of what we've gleaned from the influences that inspired us to write them, that's huge. I hope that people find meaning in the music but also the lyrics.
Sarah: Yeah, there's layers to it. On the face of it it's fun music but, below that, we are writing from a deep place and J.R. in particular who writes a lot of our songs really has roots in poetry, so we hope that it's a layered experience where it's both fun and enjoyable - and that really is the goal of it for all of us - and then that there's something deeper underneath that's really rooted in deep emotion and poetry.
J.R.: Yeah and these 5 songs are equally influenced by literature as by music. The first single, "Reducer", draws a lot of inspiration from a poet named Hart Crane. He, in my opinion, was the Morrissey of his time in terms of his genius and his contributions to poetry, but he didn't really get any recognition until after he had passed away and even now he's often overlooked for his contributions to 20th century poetry. I hope that this is an EP for not just the people who love indie music, but also people who have a penchant for literature, since there's references and nods throughout the EP to those written influences as much as the musical influences.
Is there anything you want to add?
Sarah: Our EP is coming out in April and we also have a release show at Pianos in New York City in April, as well.
J.R.: We've been approached about a few different possible tours for this Summer, but we're still actively seeking opportunities to support other relevant bands, but we're definitely looking forward to being on the road this Summer for the first time. We've played with a lot of other bands and it's really been amazing to see people's response; we played our first gig less than a year ago and it's just great to see how positively reviewers and people at the shows and other bands who have come through and seen us on tour have reacted to the music. We're really thankful to the folks at Boston's great music indie venues, including Great Scott and The Middle East and many others. We've been really fortunate in just our first year of being a band to play with Mother, Esmé Patterson, Kate Mann, and a bunch of other really great indie acts who've been around longer than us but all of whom gave us great feedback and were really great to hang out with and play with when they came through our hometown in Boston.