Inner Wave And The Perspective Through The Modern Lens

Change is needed when you’ve been in a band for 15 years. Inner Wave, one of LA’s indie sweethearts, keeps evolving. Pablo Sotelo (vocals, guitar), Elijah Trujillo (guitar) y Jean Pierre Narvaez (bass, vox) met in highschool and have been together since. Luis Portillo (drums) and José Crux (keys, sound ingeneer), the newest members, have been crucial to this new era. The band’s fourth album, ‘Apoptosis‘ is a true testament of how complicity can put things in a new perspective.

All of these years working and understanding each other came to fruition in the newest LP. Making an album in a two-week period changes the way you comprehend intentions. It clicked for them. The musicality that it exhumes can be perceived just by looking at the album cover. There’s a specificity to it that welcomes you into that world.

Apoptosis‘ commands the audience’s full attention. There’s something new to be discovered everytime the album plays. New intentions and details that lay beneath the surface are meant to be perceived. The new sound feels like a natural transition for the Los Angeles’ based musicians.

When you’ve established yourself as an ‘indie rock band from Los Angeles’ there’s something to be expected and subverted, at the same time. It’s all about the exploration of what makes sense, as a collective, and how in sync the band is. They’ve been working towards a more cinematic approach. ‘Apoptosis’ achieves that. Even though most songs are short, contrary to previous releases, the mood is set. It’s the band’s take on dramatic, mysterious and spacey music. It has all the elements, even some ‘breather’ moments.

We talked with the band about their current sound, 70s references, basslines and how they figured out the album’s groove.

¿#AQuéSuena Inner Wave?

Pablo Sotelo: that’s a good question. If we’re talking about the whole, I would describe it as evolving. Constantly changing and morphing. We love certain kinds of sounds, synthesizers. That’s a constant. The genres keep changing. 

The new album certainly has a ‘retro futuristic’ feel to it. Psychedelic at its best. What’s interesting to me is how your current perspective translates into the music. 

Pablo Sotelo: during the beginning of the recording and jam sessions, when we were writing the music, we started to feel this sort of nature vibe. We felt a very 70s kind of songwriter vibe. I could compare it to Michael Mcdonald, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan. In that era of music the efforts of songwriting were really strong. They were trying to write songs that were bigger than what they had been in the past.

We were influenced by that because us, as songwriters, are always trying to make a better and better song.

Pablo Sotero on the album premise: ‘it has a lot of recurring themes about rebirth, longing for others, nature and love‘. Credits: collindfletcher and macandrewm.

We’re trying to find different ways to use the techniques we already have learned and build on top of those. Having these concepts of nature and also being stuck inside because of COVID and wanting to better ourselves, completely… we landed ourselves in a space where we were able to challenge ourselves. We really used all of our potential to get to that goal. Personally, the album has a lot of different colors. The main color that really stands out is green. Green because of nature, trees. Even water can sometimes look green. 

What striked me the most about ‘Apoptosis’ is how consistent it is. Such a balanced tracklist. The length is perfect as well. Even the cover talks to me. It seems that the band is meant to deliver albums not individual singles. It feels like there is a need to tell a story. 

Pablo Sotelo: I think you’re right about us wanting to say something with an album as opposed to just one song. Although, I think the songs on their own can do that pretty well. I tend to think of the tracklist the way a movie plays out: beginning, middle and end. With this one, it could have gone so many different ways. Once we figured out that ‘Bones’ would be a good closer, it was easy to work our way back from that.

Just tried to make sure that the flow felt right. If there was a slower song, we tried to balance that right after. This album is a lot more mellow, in a lot of ways. It also could be very more upbeat and dancy at times. I think it’s pretty even how energetic, mellow and calm it is. I just wanted to have people feel very relaxed, but also feel very at home when they listen to it.

A very welcoming album. That’s how I would describe the goal of the mood. 

One in a Million’ sets the tone. Basslines are on point. I find that consistent throughout the discography, but in ‘Apoptosis’ stands out. Synths are fundamental as well. Was there an emphasis in the instrumentation for this release?

Jean Pierre Narvaez: you know what’s funny? I’m the bass player but wrote, maybe, one bassline. I played another bassline that I didn’t write. The man over there who’s chilling? He wrote a lot of the basslines and so did Pablo. Sometimes life lines things up really naturally. At the time José Cruz, our new keyboardist, he had just joined the band and we just started jamming.

Alot of the first jam sessions were him on bass. ‘Take 3’ is one of the first songs that we recorded as a jam and that’s his baseline. It was just one of those things, nature just aligned us together. We were able to figure out a groove naturally. I think that’s what usually happens with us. 

Pablo Sotelo: the combination of people in the group tends to complement each other really well. I think we’ve been blessed to have that happen. Whether it’s Luis Portillo, our drummer, or me playing them on a track. The fact that it doesn’t feel too different? I think for us, as songwriters, it’s different enough so that we don’t feel sort of pigeonholed or caged in.

Like Jean was saying, he didn’t play a lot of bass on this album, but he played a lot of keys. It’s nice to just be able to switch around. All of us play a lot of different instruments, so it’s fun for me to hop on keys or Elijah to play trumpet or slide guitar. It’s almost like we’re the same band, but we’re constantly changing roles to keep it fresh. 

Let’s talk about the string section. Orchestration always makes everything better. This album has a cinematic feeling and those arrangements served its purpose.

Pablo Sotelo: for sure. We’ve always loved orchestration from different bands or different artists that incorporate it live. We’re a big fan of film scores and things that just sound very big and grandiose. We’ve been incorporating it slowly. This time around, because we were in that sort of 70s mindset thinking of that type of production, a lot of those songs have a string section or an orchestra.

We thought it’d be very cool to add it in even if it wasn’t a huge moment. Just having it in the back really elevates the songs.

2019. Inner Wave performing live at the Fonda Theatre. Credits: Samuel C. Ware.

It’s true to the era and it did the songs a lot of justice. It was so cool to be able to do that because it’s so easy to be able to just do the strings on a synthesizer, which we’ve done a lot. If we’re able to have live strings on an album? Ideally, that album lives on for a long time. That’s a human performing that on an instrument, they had to be in tune with each other. We had a harp on one of the tracks. It just adds something special. 

On ‘Nature’, right? It’s such a beautiful song. The harp really makes the difference. It’s a short break from all the synths.

Pablo Sotelo: correct. 

If you are in front of a door and ring the bell, who opens it?

Pablo Sotelo: I guess it depends where I’m trying to go (laughs). For a second I thought about ‘Bones’, our last song. I thought, ‘is that a reference to the lyrics?’ There’s a thing about ringing a phone, trying to get to someone’s home. That’s what came to mind.

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Martha Elisa Estrada Cortez

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