One look at the current rock scene reveals a genre in restless transition and searching for some new form of expression. Enter Onesidezero, a band that not only pushes the hard music envelope, but also contributes to the form's reconstruction. Produced by Jim Wirt (Fiona Apple, Incubus) and mixed by David Bottrill (Tool, Peter Gabriel), the band's stunning Maverick debut, Is This Room Getting Smaller, combines bittersweet melodies, moody atmospherics and tumbling rhythms with strikingly assured craftsmanship. Simply put, it's one of those rare records where everything in the rock universe comes together perfectly.
The Los Angeles-based quintet came together after vocalist/guitarist Jasan Radford and guitarist Levon Sultanian met through mutual friends. The duo went through a revolving door of members before solidifying their lineup with the addition of guitarist Brett Kane, bassist Cristian Hernandez and drummer Rob Basile. Labor-intensive dues-paying followed, as the band capped off ten-to-twelve hour workdays with all-night practice sessions and local gigs. Their electrifying live set and triple guitar attack became the talk of the L.A. club circuit, and the band quickly garnered a sizeable (and passionate) following.
"People really seem to connect to our songs on an emotional level," says Radford. "It sounds strange, but weąve done shows where people grab onto my leg and won't let go. You look down and there's this person that you don't know, but they're holding onto you because they feel emotionally connected to you because of your music. At first I thought it was a little weird, but itąs a very cool thing. We definitely feed off each other."
For proof of Onesidezero's popularity among their diehard fans, consider the following story. Last summer, the band recorded a demo and made a few copies for each other and a handful of friends. Unbeknownst to them, the CD became a hot commodity among their core fans and was immediately dubbed and passed around with Napster-like abandon. When copies began circulating among the A&R community, the labels came calling. "It was a total surprise to us," says Sultanian. "We did a show a few weeks after recording the CD and Jasan asked if anyone in the audience had a copy. Almost half the people present raised their hands. It was incredible."
One listen to Is This Room Getting Smaller reveals songs that echo with a refreshing warmth and cathartic glory. Fist-clenched confessionals like "Soak," "Instead Laugh" and "Neverending" cut to the emotional bone as they delve into the darkest depths of love. Radford summons up a world of passion and pain in songs like "Eight" and "Shed The Skin," laying his heart bare in a search for compassion. He paints a poignant picture in "The Day We Lied," a story about an affair between a spider and a fly. "Itąs about living in denial and the sacrifices people make in relationships," says Radford. "Like any relationship that starts that way, things donąt end well. The fly gives up its identity and falls in love with its captor. There's no happy ending there."
Guitarists Sultanian and Brett Kane illuminate Radford's haunting landscape with passages of both fragile grace and blistering riffage; underneath, drummer Rob Basile and bassist Cristian Hernandez interlock melody and rhythm with thick, trancelike grooves. The end result is an artfully crafted album that detonates on impact. Says Kane, "We have a full sound with three guitarists who never play the same thing. That gives our songs a huge, dynamic feel." And though the disc seems to paint some pretty visceral images, the bandąs sound is anything but the typical aggro fare. "What you see is what you get," says Radford. "There's definitely a melodic bent to our songs, most of which chronicle the emotions that come after anger."
A large part of Onesidezero's appeal is the depth and real life experiences that fuel their melodic and lyrical expression. Their songs convey hope, reflection and spiritual strength in the face of immeasurable loss. Says Radford, "A lot of the songs on the album are about experiences I went through when I was younger. I felt really lost and didn't know what to do with myself. I recently lost my younger brother Justin, who I think was going through something similar. I think a lot of kids go through that sort of thing, and it's real important for them to realize that there's a positive way for them to express themselves, be it through music or some other form of creativity. I'd like the album to be something they can identify with. We're so grateful for the opportunity to make music and express ourselves through our art. We want to share that experience with as many people as possible."