Monday, January 26, 2009

The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass: Interview with The Constellation Branch

I stumbled across the AZ band, The Constellation Branch, a while back and was immediately impressed with the songs they had posted on their MySpace page. At the time, an upcoming CD was merely a rumor. Months later and the birth of a new year, I finally got to listen to The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass. I can safely say that this incredible piece of work was definitely worth the wait.

Jordan Cruz and Bryce Hill began writing together about three years ago, but didn’t start getting serious until they added drummer, Stephen O’Sicky. The band went thru five or six different bass players before they found the perfect fit in Aaron Motley in the summer of 2007.

“This is our first official CD,” Bryce Hill stated when I was able to catch up with him on the phone last week. “Jordan and I recorded a few songs when we first got together, but we never officially released a CD. It took us forever to finish.”

They first started the The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass in May of 2007, when they recorded "American Earth" with friends Mike Dwyer and James Mitchell. “We first thought it was going to be an EP,” said Bryce, “We were just going to do four or five songs, but we had this concept idea, so we thought we should just go ahead and do a full length and record the other songs we wanted to record too. The first five or six songs are what we originally planned for the initial EP, and we just added the other half. It was a very long and stressful process.”

There are so many intricate layers it’s really hard to catch everything unless you’re listening with headphones or really closely. What is very apparent is the relationship the songs have with one another and the rollercoaster of emotions the music can evoke. Bryce gave me some insight on the concept, “The dream life is what we are hoping for, an idealistic type of view of what we want the world to be. The real life kind of contrasts that. If you listen to 'American Earth', it talks about corporations, business, greed, and how the earth really is. The empty glass is where we, not just as a band, but as humans fit into this equation; how we are all kind of empty and we choose what we fill ourselves with. We can fill ourselves with greed or with dreams that may or may not come true… or it could be just love and caring for people."

“With the music in general,” Bryce continued, “We wanted to encompass all those different emotion; even if they were just emotions we made like being greedy or anger. They are all, lyrically, emotions Jordan went through in the process of making the CD.”

One particularly moving piece is titled “The False Awakening Pt III: Poisoned Apple” which features a voice over of an older German woman which sounds like it was dubbed from an old movie. When asked about this mysterious woman, Bryce told me, “That’s my Grandma. I recorded her 2 years ago just talking about the war. She grew up in Germany, and my mom was born there. Her family was anti-Nazi and they were trying to escape that life, so she had some pretty incredible stories. We really wanted to use it in something, and it worked out that we could use it in Poisoned Apple.”

“It’s bittersweet,” Bryce continued, “because she actually passed away maybe two months after she recorded it, and we probably wrote the songs maybe two months after she died. The first couple of times we played it, I would get really emotional. A lot of people think it’s from a movie or something. It’s really crazy how it all ties in at the end, and she is talking about how they always made it through."

"Poisoned Apple" just happens to be Bryce’s favorite track on the CD. “I think we were all pretty excited about that one. It’s funny, because when we were recording, that was one of our least favorites. It just wasn’t sounding right, and we weren’t able to get the guitars mixed right. When we had the violinist come in and record that part it just brought everything together.”

This finished product is much to celebrate but getting there can be a long and difficult process. “Recording is different than just writing a song, “said Bryce. “When a song starts out it’s usually on guitar or piano, after we all give our input the arranging begins. In the studio is where we get to add all the fun stuff. The best part of recording is trying new things and experimenting with sounds and noises, while watching songs evolve from words and acoustic guitar. The worst part would be playing to a click track and doing it twenty times.”

Now that the CD is out, Bryce talked about the goals of The Constellation Branch, “We would like to get out of Arizona, not that we hate it here, we just want to get our music out of Arizona. I feel like we are at this plateau where we need to get out of state to gain new fans. The CD can be purchased online and there are places where songs can be downloaded. We just want to get the music out to new listeners, and hopefully they will be inspired by it like we are.”

The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass can be purchased online at (by clicking the CD title anywhere in this article) or downloaded on iTunes. Merchandise can be purchased at The Constellation Branch's online store: Here.

Check out The Constellation Branch on MySpace. Catch a live show January 30th at the Frist Christian Church (6750 N. 7th Ave) or March 1st at the Modified Arts in Phoenix.