Drew Willis, Cole Hamel, Aydin Ozbek, Ben Sloves and Jimmy Tobin have known each other from Reno’s music scene since their teen years.
Drew Willis, Cole Hamel, Aydin Ozbek, Ben Sloves and Jimmy Tobin have known each other from Reno’s music scene since their teen years.

The Reno five-piece known as Skew Ring released its first EP, Glow, in January after composing for a year. According to vocalist Drew Willis, the album concept is centered around modern technology. The band members don’t necessarily condemn technology; they examine how people have to navigate its complexity.

“Throughout all of our songs, there’s depictions of scenes in which stuff is happening to the body that is uncomfortable, destabilizing,” said Willis. “It’s sort of like how … all of the radiation from the [technology] we live with has kind of felt.”

The song “Halo” is centered around the feeling of being so immersed in your phone while scrolling through social media or YouTube for hours that when you look back up at the physical world, it seems distorted.

The lyrics “Reach for the cord burning holes in your sheets/ Leave all the lights on and turn on your read receipts/ Wide pupils shrink at the battery’s death/ And it’s hard to sleep when you can feel in your chest” depict a person lying in bed on the phone when the battery dies and realizing that they’re in a dark room, alone, so they head to a bar to try and calm their nerves to escape the uncomfortable feeling of isolation.

Bassist Cole Hamel believes his generation was born in a strange time because millennials can remember a time when technology didn’t dominate everyday life. Now that technology is everywhere, it’s nearly impossible to just ignore it, which makes it difficult for people younger than millennials to navigate.

“You remember a time when none of this stuff was an issue in your life, to getting these [technologies] that are really quite amazing, but as it gets more sophisticated, at what point do you say, ‘All right, I’m going to purposely not indulge in these things because I feel like it’s worth it to just be in my own skin, listen to my own thoughts and exist in my own body’?” said Willis.

The band members said they also pulled inspiration from body horror and film noir movie genres. Open guitar chords and chorus pedals, which give the guitars a delayed effect, create a feeling of nostalgia for a technology-free past.

According to guitar player Jimmy Tobin, a lot of the gear the band used to record Glow wasn’t designed for the type of music they play either, like his Fender Twin Reverb amplifier, more commonly used by classic rock and jazz musicians. The bandmates also recorded the EP themselves in the house they use as a practice space.

When it comes to the vocals, Willis said he pulled a lot of inspiration from the alternative punk rock band Creative Adult, which definitely can be heard in his powerful yet low-pitched vocals. “The first time I heard them, I had never heard a band quite like that,” said Willis, “The way the vocals fit in—it’s not really screaming. It’s not really mumbling. It’s not really singing. [Creative Adult] can base this interesting sort of feeling by almost being on pitch but not exactly, and it really blew my mind.”

According to Hamel, the band has also been working on a series of songs that they’re planning to release as singles. He said the new tracks are focused on the same concept but are more upbeat and evolved than the tracks on Glow. Ω

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