Melodic, uplifting vocals and harmonies, side-by-side with tortured, assaulting screams. Mathematically precise rhythms and complex fretwork, giving way to loose jam-inspired divergences. Pop-meets-punk-meets-metal-meets-rock in the unlikeliest of places: this is the musical crossroads where you'll find Washington State-based trio The Fall of Troy, skittering off defiantly in one direction after another, refusing to stick to any one established road. If it sounds like it all adds up to chaos, that's because it often does - but only in the same beautiful way as our own everyday experience. And with "Doppelganger," their Equal Vision debut, The Fall of Troy are here to show us that there's not only light in the darkness and darkness in the light, but that sometimes it's hard to even tell where one ends and the other begins.
That kind of musical experimentation and alternate perspective has enabled Thomas Erak (vocals/guitar), Tim Ward (bass/vocals), and Andrew Forsman (drums) to stand out right from the start, when they formed under the original moniker Thirty Years War. That all three were still in high school at the time only made things more impressive — although not necessarily to all their classmates. "Everybody else was playing Dave Matthews kind of shit, and we were venturing into prog-rock at a pretty young age," laughs Erak. "A lot of kids didn't understand that."
Of course, that didn't stop them from getting noticed by those who were interested. At the Drive-In and Yes albums in hand, the group (which fluctuated twice to a foursome, then back) developed a strong following in their hometown of Mukilteo, and before any of them even turned 17, they had a finished self-titled album in their hands. Already drawing comparisons to the likes of local-bands-done-good Blood Brothers and Botch, The Fall of Troy were simultaneously making it clear that they were something quite special and unique. Recorded in under a week, and in only one take, that first album was a learning experience — one that came in quite handy after the group's recent signing to Equal Vision Records for the release of the more fully realized Doppelgänger.
Given the chance to work on the new record with top producer Barrett Jones (Foo Fighters, Melvins, Jawbox), the band jumped, and entered the studio in exactly the right mindset. "We didn't really go in there with a set sound in mind," says Forsman. "We just kind of figured it out on the spot. So the new album became more of a snapshot of us at the time than a posed picture."
Which is fitting, considering that no two live experiences with The Fall of Troy are ever the same. Rather than plan out every aspect of their shows, the band leaves things open on stage, allowing for the music and the energy to take over. No one knows exactly when or how a song will change, or when the atmosphere will explode with electricity, until it actually happens. And while a record can't physically change from listen to listen, that sense of spontaneity remains a big part of what makes Doppelgänger so powerful. In helping them to capture it, Jones turned out to be exactly what The Fall of Troy needed.
"He showed us how good of a band we can be," says Erak. "He showed us how to be really serious and record an album. I think he just really, really understands what we're trying to do as a band; being a progressive band, we're always going to try to do completely different things."
And, if nothing else, new songs like "You Got A Death Wish, Johnny Truant?," "Laces Out, Dan!," and "We Better Learn To Hotwire A Uterus" are completely different. But then, they are something else. Not so much crossing genre lines as obliterating them, the new compositions find the band defying convention more confidently than ever before, going from sing-along anthem to scream-riddled freakout far faster than you can hope to get your bearings.
The trio also took advantage of their newfound situation to remake a number of tracks from their first album, developing them into the truly great songs they had always envisioned. "Mouths Like Sidewinder Missiles," "I Just Got This Symphony Goin'," "F.C.P.S.I.T.S.G.E.P.G.E.P.G.E.P.," and "Whacko Jacko Steals the Elephant Man's Bones" are all re-envisioned here (albeit with more easily digested shorter titles). "The songs we chose to redo for the new album were re-recorded because at the time we first recorded them, we were too young and too rushed to have them come across the way that we wanted them to," explains Erak. "Either the playing skill wasn't where it needed to be completely, or the production was off."
As for those song titles, some may sound like inside jokes — and they actually are. But not every one you might expect. "Tom Waits," for example, has a more logical explanation than, say, "Macaulay McCulkin." Part of it is that Erak's father introduced Waits' music to him at a tender young age; the other part is that Waits has a song of his own called "The Fall of Troy." And with that playful nod to the revered songwriter, the band once again reveals how important their dual nature is to what they do. The most heart-wrenching of songs can be slapped with the most tongue-in-cheek of titles, and it all makes sense. At least as much as anything really does.
Now, having taken things further than ever with Doppelgänger, the word "direction" hardly even seems to apply to the Fall of Troy anymore. Clearly, where they've been heading all this time is previously uncharted territory, but where they are now is a pretty damn exciting place to be. As for where they're going, the only way to find out is to come along for the ride. Just be sure to strap in tight, and don't miss a single inspired note.