UTG TRACK-BY-TRACK: Time King – ‘Suprœ’

Time King

If you haven’t yet heard of Time King, then I suggest you take this opportunity to get acquainted, because it’s only a matter of time before these five dudes from Long Island take the prog-rock scene by storm. Armed with an airtight live presence and an unrivaled attention to detail, the still-budding band are masters of both mayhem and melody, bringing to mind genre forerunners like Circa Survive, The Receiving End of Sirens, and Gatsbys American Dream.

We recently caught up with TK guitarist Brandon Dove, who was kind enough to grace us with a track-by-track rundown of the group’s self-produced, debut LP, Suprœ, which dropped earlier this summer and has since been on constant rotation around UTG HQ. Get in on the action after the break, and if you like what you hear, you can download the album, for free, here.


“Take Cover”

This is the first track that we completed for a new release; it was actually written and finished well before our dedicated “Suprœ writing sessions,” and was already being integrated into most of our live sets with a great response. We immediately felt (and continue to feel) that if there are indeed a couple of songs in the bunch that stand out as “quintessential Time King,” and serve as good singles or primers for the band, then “Take Cover” is certainly towards the top of that list.

“Take Cover” is a conceptual ode-of-sorts to what the band experienced during Hurricane Sandy. As some may remember, south shore Long Island (essentially the band’s “home base”) was among the hardest hit by the storm. Some members of TK took massive hits from Sandy (heavy flooding damage to homes, totaled cars, etc.), and so the whole experience really halted the band’s progress for awhile. Through its words and musical structure, this song employs that “flood” imagery to highlight the more abstract notion of being swiftly and thoroughly uprooted by some inconceivably powerful force. The bridge introduces a contemplative “I must be dreaming” theme. This builds up and peaks just at the entrance of the guitar solo, which “breaks the dam” and floods the song (musically and lyrically) with an almost-ecstatic dream-like state of disbelief (listen for some cool production techniques during these sections, such as sung evacuation sirens), until the reality of it all breaks back in to exit with the same abrupt force it entered with.

“Face To Face”

We loved placing this song directly after “Take Cover,” as the listener experiences a very brief pause of relief before being whacked with the first hit of this track by the drums and bass. The title says it all with this one, as “Face To Face,” musically and lyrically (we tend to be good little composers and tie the two together with close detail), embodies ideas of schizophrenia or having multiple personalities. Accordingly, the lyrics evoke this semi-self-reflective nature, with a deliberate uncertainty between speaking to another person and speaking to yourself in a mirror.

We took that idea to a pretty cool place in terms of the musical form of the piece; we took the model of a seven-part Rondo form (succinctly, ABACABA), which has this implicit palindromic nature to it, and modified it in a few ways to create a “mirror form” of sorts. The sections of the piece work like a mirror- all of the musical material up until the center of the groovy/choppy instrumental jam (the pause at 2:09) is brought back in reverse order after that pause, save the outro/coda (a shortened version of that instrumental jam) at the end. In this way, that pause in the center of the song at 2:09 is like a fulcrum, with the musical form extending outward in opposite directions on either side of it (kind of like the mirror glass that separates an image from its reflection).

“Compromise”

In terms of musical style and influence, Suprœ mixes a few musical facets that make up our sound. We all have a similar musical ear, but that ear is very diverse in range. To generalize, Time King’s sound primarily comes from a mixture of the rock and prog idoms with elements of jazz, fusion, groove, and R&B music. Each of the songs on Suprœ have their own unique place on that spectrum. “Compromise” more openly demonstrates those fusion and groove facets, particularly in the verses and choruses (though there is plenty of prog rock flare in the intro/outro and the bridge/solo).

As the title would suggest, the song explores differing issues with the general idea of compromise-be it the external struggle to find stable or common ground in any environment with multiple parties and multiple interests, or simply the internal struggle in coming to terms with the fact that you can’t control anyone’s opinion and perspective but your own.

“Counting Cards”

Originally demoed out and titled “Emaj” for the most obvious and uncreative reasons (guitar tuned to open EMAJ), this song is a bit of a ode to some of our grassroots bands growing up (the track’s atmosphere has often been described as something like Incubus mixed with Coheed mixed with Circa Survive and a dash of Thrice). It is a hard rock track at the core but is colored with singable melodies, “feel good” guitar lines, and of course, some misplaced downbeats. “Counting Cards” immediately follows “Compromise,” and the two tracks seamlessly transition from one to another with a gap of 6 beats (the songs have different meters but share the same tempo). This was very deliberate, as the two were written and developed to dance around each other harmonically. Lyrically, the song takes the idea of a game of cards and plays with the various ways in which it can be related to the feeling of being used or manipulated by someone. Two prominent notions being contrasted here are the prospect of chance, or the “luck of the draw,” versus that of “counting cards” and seizing control in a deceitful way.

“The New”

This is another track that can be considered a great representation of our overall sound, though perhaps it falls more within the tech/prog realm of the spectrum than “Take Cover” does. It is also one of the best representations of Suprœ‘s spirit of unanimous contribution, as the song was developed piece by piece over time in the practice room. It started with a spontaneous jam that would become the intro. Along with this, most of the vocal parts for “The New” were written during a trip to a remote town in Pennsylvania that we took along with some friends. We eagerly took the opportunity to escape to a quiet cabin in the woods and find some inspiration for Suprœ. This sentiment echoes throughout some of the vocal content, though perhaps not in any clear or deliberate manner. But parts of the song are conceptually centered around ideas of retreating to solitude, being alone to resolve inner conflicts and find peace of mind, etc.

“Colorblind”

Stylistically speaking, “Colorblind” is a very interesting breed on Suprœ. It may come across as our most “commercial” song, as the vibe and direction contain the most “pop” elements out of any song on the record. This is exactly why it was one of the bigger, if not the biggest, challenges to “get right” and sit properly on the record alongside the other songs. This even meant completely overhauling the vocals to find melodies and lyrics that better tied together the atmosphere of the song  only a day or two before we recorded them for the studio track. We are grateful that this happened though, because the musical and lyrical atmosphere in the bridge is one of our absolute favorite moments on Suprœ. It reaches this ethereal place that we had not gone anywhere else on the album.

The lyrics use various color-themed imagery and metaphors to portray someone who feels alarmed by the striking binaries in which their world operates. There seems to be this invisible cultural hand that tries to neatly classify or organize everything into clear structures (right and wrong, black and white, etc.). The song asserts that the world is full of varying shades and colors, similar to the grays that exist between stark black and white. Forcibly fitting people into these opposing binary structures effectively strips all of the unique identity, variety, and fluidity from that world.

“Weight In Words”

While it does not contain quite as many pop elements as “Colorblind,” “Weight In Words” is certainly another song on Suprœ that can be considered more straightforward in its musical structure and lyrical message. This perhaps refers to a certain simplicity of form, where each verse and chorus fulfills its function in an almost tranquil way, which ties in perfectly with the reserved and inquisitive nature of the lyrical themes along the lines of, “Will I be remembered after I’m gone?,” “What will I be remembered for?,” and “Will I ever be able to clear my name of past mistakes?” That is, until a distorted bass tone brings in the bridge and the song enters a section of full-on The Mars Volta-esque chaos, where the speaker boldly opts to be remembered for something great, or not remembered at all.

Being that the song is highly concerned with time and history, it is fitting that these lyrical themes were inspired both by something ancient and something modern-the Greek myth of Achilles, who was famously given the choice between a long, fulfilling, but quiet and relatively unimportant life and a short, heroic life in which he would die young but be remembered forever, and the more present relationship between technology, over-documentation, and history, where the fact that anything we do or say can be instantly recorded or archived makes us live in this sort of constant spotlight.

“1964”

Bringing back the discussion of different musical elements and influences, “1964” contributes a very straight-ahead rock sound to the record. As discussed earlier, we love to get very in-depth with exploring the many different ways to integrate our love for jazz, fusion, and groove music into a prog-rock setting. This, along with the fact that we are a “player’s band” at heart and naturally gravitate towards writing techy or geeky prog music, means that we can sometimes get caught up in the microscopic level of things when writing songs. But no matter how far we take the complexity of our prog, jazz, and groove inclinations, it always feels super refreshing and puts a smile on our faces to come back and write a straight-up badass rock song. Getting a little thrashy is a ton of fun and is something we want to try and keep within the musical scope of Time King, even as we delve deeper into different or more elaborate styles.

“1964” accomplishes exactly that for us, while still retaining the same attention to detail in creating a well-written song to the best of our ability. The main riff, verses, and choruses all work around a high-energy rock vibe with catchy melodies, but it’s the interlude that really brings on the thrash- complete with tritones, driving drums, and raw vocals. This opens up to a “transcending” and musical bridge that comes to an apex before closing off with a final repetition of the main riff. That’s where the song should end, and realistically where it does. But right as the final chord finishes fading away, the band re-enters with a slower, rawer, and thrashier breakdown and completely unloads. This is the one spot on our record that is truly deserving of a pit.

“Paper Street”

Despite being one of the last written songs for the record, the initial idea for what would become “Paper Street” had existed for years in the form of rough demos recorded onto a phone or computer. The song captures an ambient side of Time King that resonates with some of the band’s earlier writing, and yet it still retains incredibly hard-hitting and energetic sections that speak true to what Suprœ was intended to be-a powerhouse record. The shape and arrangement of the song led it to be one of the most dynamic and melodic tunes on the record. Beds and textures of wide harmonies in the verses interact with dark, ambient sounds and tones to capture a haunting feeling. This, of course, drives into a big chorus and an even bigger bridge. Massive drum work, a fair of amount of meter madness, and loads of distortion were all used to cater towards a rather dismal vibe. This is embellished by the lyrical content- In a tangible sense, the song embodies conflicts of “person versus person” and “person versus self,” as well as a confused state between the two. The interpretation of the song beyond that is more objective and not something we’d want to overly influence for the listener.

“Bevelle”

This is our “be all, end all” song on the record. It was the second track we wrote in the process, well before we even decided whether or not we would be writing an EP or a full-length LP. Despite this uncertainty, we knew one thing: “Bevelle” would be the closing track. That put us in an interesting position, having written “Take Cover” to be our opening track and “Bevelle” as our last, both seeming to naturally take the form of “quintessential Time King” songs. Our mission from there was to fill the gap in between with either 3 (EP) or 8 (LP) songs (clearly we chose the latter). “Bevelle” encompasses every trick we had to offer in writing for this record. Ambient intro vibes, hard-hitting riffs, spotlighted bass and drum grooves, manually-created/played mathy guitar panning effects, instrumental interludes with sweeping arpeggios, stellar vocal work (both in the sense of strong harmonies as well as the lead vocal in general, where Kalvin is totally in his element), and of course the epic outro featuring the cherry on top, a fade out. There are a few tracks we’ve noted along the way as songs that best define the primary musical direction of Suprœ and our sound up to this point, and “Bevelle” is definitely one of them. Lyrically, there is a sarcastic demeanor being portrayed in the song. In a sense it is a plea against a higher power, a god, or even a self-proclaimed god. The story captures the push and pull of trying to understand something beyond your scope of comprehension, and ultimately, the harsh reality that you may never understand.

Kyle Florence

Kyle Florence is a proud Wisconsinite, a dinosaur enthusiast, and a lover of all things weird and whacky.
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