As the lines between nations and neighborhoods are forced to stay uncrossed for safety, and musicians are technically forced to be farther away from their fans than ever, the internet’s lack of borders via streaming has only helped to connect rather than separate. It seems fitting then, that in the midst of this struggle over limitations and differences, that new music from a band like Lola Rising would burst forth with music that exudes that very opposite: peace, optimism, and openness by way of the band’s uncommon reggae rock style.
Lola Rising is:
Paul Medina Guevara (Vocals, Guitar, Ukulele)
Kevin Eady (Electric Guitar, Vocals, Ukulele)
Woody Roberts (Bass, Vocals)
Matt Fink (Drums, Vocals, Percussion)
Sarah Joelle (Vocals, Keys, Percussion)
Joe Zimmet (Trumpet, Vocals)
Dive into Lola Rising’s new EP, Moving Forward, without any added context and it may surprise more than a few people that this six piece group hails from the mountainous state of Colorado. The band’s commitment to a reggae-driven sound aside, it’s hard not to envision this group playing live shows on the bustling boardwalks of Santa Monica or Miami, as soon as first track, “More Music,” starts to unfold. The slightest bit of thin twang on two initial electric guitar strums is buffered by a gentle wave of reverb and the subsequent sense of crisp, crystalline, surf-inspired pop is instantaneous. Followed immediately by a bright and clear trumpet playing a snappy minor-key motif that sounds fit for a street corner in Madrid, and there’s no denying the colorful and carefree mood contained on Moving Forward.
If that seems like a hasty declaration, letting the EP roll on is only going to further cement the sentiment in sonic stone. While “More Music’s” lyrical set does start the record on a somewhat conceptually nebulous foot (We need to write more music / We need to plant more seeds in the ground / Cause we keep on writin’ / And we keep on fightin’), the blending of an upbeat tempo with the careful layering of Lola Rising’s various instrumental timbres behind the words, help to create a balance. The song presents the band as a nature and creativity-minded group, which they are, and thus, the song as a whole feels more effective than any one aspect does in on its own – as well done as many individual aspects are. This is an attribute of Lola Rising’s newest work that seems to persist through all the songs but that’s okay.
“Praying for Red Lights” for example, runs somewhat contrast to “More Music in this regard. The EP’s middle track holds back the melodic movement of the band for much of the first half, with repeated rim hits and a cyclical guitar riff (albeit one that Tycho’s Scott Hansen would likely appreciate) setting the groove. This leaves Sarah Joelle and Paul Medina Guevara to drive the song forward with a busier vocal melody they alternate singing solo and together throughout. The end result is the same – a finished piece that with conscious cohesion and sonic balance – but this time the lyrics and the vocals are assigned the conceptual heavy lifting.
Between the shades of grey the lights sway, then flicker, then blink
I’ll take you anywhere but home
You’re trembling at the knees I’m speechless in a dream
Chasing the sunset down
We could stay for longer
We could make a plan
We could get a mortgage and start watering your plants
All along it was you that had to go
I blame it on the red lights that were blinking way too slow
Were blinking way to slow.
– Lyrics from “Praying for Red Lights”
That’s not to say a more subdued melody in one element of Lola Rising’s music means an automatic and-or strict application of variety in the others; “Praying for Red Lights” does pull out some satisfying sonic tricks (check Guevara’s filtered vocals in the bridge) and negotiates a very active band behind Guevara and Joelle by the song’s final third. The main point of takeaway is that Lola Rising maintains its established aesthetic but rotates where and what will be the crux of any given song, without off-setting their chemistry when in unison.
“1943” echoes a similar style of arrangement, with mostly just Matt Fink’s decisive drumming at risk of stealing the spotlight from Joelle and Guevara, due to how exquisitely the kit is played and mixed to beautifully stand out. Throughout all of Moving Forward’s songs, there are plenty of other pleasant musical treats as well. The toy piano in the latter song is an appreciable sound, while Guevara’s elusive but still noticeable slide from dry to delayed vocals in the front half of “Summer Night’s Dream” is a quirky twist. These bits of unexpected sonic sparkle give the EP another layer of surprise worth enjoying but none are so excessive as to distract from or distort the overall listening experience.
The approach is a smart one. Moving Forward’s reggae styled rhythmic patterns and tonal choices provide definite cohesion all on their own. Yet, the willingness to keep putting different tones, voices, and patterns at the forefront of the songs, while never changing the inherent qualities of anything too much, makes the EP play out similarly to a well-assembled line of clothing. No designer aims to put the same look on a runway twice but no matter when someone drops in on a viewing, what’s presented is easily linked together with everything else. Just the same, no matter what track one starts with and then moves to on Moving Forward, Lola Rising’s astute musicianship, pristinely mixed instrumentation, and freewheeling and-or fun-fueled emotional vibe will come through right away and remain an unshakeable feature of the entire EP.
Kick off your forward-moving journey with Lola Rising and check out this early premiere of Lola Rising’s music video for the single, “More Music,” below:
Stay connected with Lola Rising through its official website and these social media platforms: