Since forming just barely over a year ago, musically multifarious rockers Rare Creatures have gone from half a blip on the radar to sharing the stage with some local favorites at last month's Summer Shindig. "It's been very gratifying," says vocalist and guitarist Coleman Sawyer. "One of the goals in starting the band was to see how well it could do on its own merits."
The summation of those merits lies in the band's self-titled debut.
The first thing listeners are greeted with on Rare Creatures is cavernous swells of synthesizers. The album that follows doesn't betray the cold and dark aesthetic promised by the one minute intro track, but expands on it in unanticipated directions.
Sawyer's characterizations of songs on the LP range from sludge and doom metal-influenced, to Americana, to R&B. "There's some stuff that's more in the Kings of Leon kind of vein," he adds.
While it all fits comfortably under the all-encompassing tent of rock music, the music attempts to touch every genre that it can. "After the Fall" and "The Howl" share an indie-folk, indie-rock, radio-ready flare. The latter song's dysthymia runs deep in a violin and acoustic guitar-reliant first half. In a moment of bipolar juxtaposition, it grows into a buggy, electronic-glitch instrumental.
"Marching Off to War" pulls a similar sleight of hand. The main riff has a garage-blues swagger straight from the early 2000s. The foot-tapping guitar and bass lines are forsaken for a towering headbanger of an ending.
One of Sawyer's favorites from Rare Creatures is "Gudda Cheese," which he describes as R&B-meets-indie band Alt-J. "That one's the furthest out from the rock umbrella," he says. The track doesn't break the Rare Creatures mold too hard. As the second track, it follows up on the synth-heavy intro with a bass line straight from the soul and keyboards that provide more of a soft texture. It's the first sign that the album has much more to offer than eerie electro.
Subject matter for the band is often taken from the world around the guys in Rare Creatures. "A lot of it [the music] comes from some personal situations, but a lot of it is brought together from stories around our lives," says Sawyer.
Moody rocker "Isotope" has a thick and sludgy fuzz over its louder sections, a grand representation of a character "trapped in a relationship with someone who's unstable," says Sawyer.
"Try to heed the warning signs/ It's a slippery slope/ Got her neutrons out of line/ She's an isotope," Sawyer sings in the song's first verse.
"Some of them have been drawn from people's situations that I know that I might not be directly involved in," he says.
Not every song is derived from something the band personally witnessed. "India" is a track about Christopher Columbus' trip to North America. "It's a song from the perspective of Christopher Columbus showing up to the States and saying, 'All this is mine,'" says Sawyer. But the guys in Rare Creatures don't paint Columbus in the best light. "Colonies, our way of planting the seed/ God is what these wild natives need/ God forgive the conqueror in me," they sing before a wild Middle-Eastern-influenced guitar solo. "This is the promised land/ They'll pry it from my cold, dead hands," is said prior to a Spanish guitar break.
The track is occasionally reminiscent of those moments when thrash metal attempted to bring in world-music influences, a la Megadeth's "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due."
"We all like to write stuff that's a little out of the box," says Sawyer. "A big part of our draw is individuality. We definitely try and keep our horizons broad." And for the majority of the album, Rare Creatures sustains that creativity in songwriting.
The band plans to continue pushing toward that expansive sound, mostly through extensive writing. Sawyer says that Rare Creatures is approximately halfway through writing their second album, but they want to further explore the album's gestation first. "We could have album two if we wanted to, but I just have faith that we'll find stuff that we like even more."