ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW
Echoes Of Giants
WITH: Wes Bolton
ALBUM REVIEW HERE
Richard Hawey - October 2018
Profilprog - Thank you to Wes BOLTON for participating in this interview.
Echoes of Giants is a melodic progressive rock band formed in 2004 by Wes Bolton and Tracy Thomas, two childhood friends. Based on a deep love of all kinds of music, Echoes of Giants has become a creative outlet for Wes and Tracy. Joined by bassist Rick Kaufmann for the final writing/production sessions and by singer Joey Myers for the recording sessions, "At the End of Myself" was published in 2013 and was well received by Critics. Five years later, he introduced us to “The Way to Us”. We asked Wes Bolton to answer questions from Profilprog.
Profilprog – In 2004 you and your childhood friend Tracy THOMAS founded Echoes of Giants, what was the goal of creating the band?
Wes Bolton - Tracy and I have been making music off and on together in one form or another since 1994 or so and we’d been part of a college rock band for several years. That band had fairly specific aspirations (record labels, mainstream radio, etc.) so the writing in that band was focused on achieving those goals. When that band ended, Tracy and I got together to discuss the future; we both wanted to continue to work on something together. Echoes of Giants was formed out of a love of all manner of music and a desire to create something we loved without worrying about any certain appeal or constraints. Throughout our process, the vision has always been to do what we think is best for the song and album.
PP - You want to tell us about your long-time accomplice, Tracy THOMAS?
WB - I met Tracy when we were kids living in the same neighborhood, but we didn’t really connect until high school band. Tracy played percussion and I played trumpet. While I’ve had a deep love of music as long as I can remember, my exposure was fairly limited to 80s and early 90s radio pop. I still love a lot of that music but Tracy introduced me to 90s rock. I still remember him playing Weezer’s first album for me; I thought, “Why have I never heard this before?!?” We played together in symphonic band, marching band and jazz band all through high school and when I started getting serious about guitar, we would regularly spend time in Tracy’s basement playing Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, and Bush tunes as a two-piece. We went to different colleges after high school and didn’t play together for a few years but kept in touch. My college band went through drummers as fast as Spinal Tap and, about 3 years in, I finally convinced Tracy to join. Despite a 3 hour commute, we wrote, rehearsed, and gigged for about a year before that band ended and we started what would be Echoes of Giants. Of all the music we listen to, I can count on one hand the artists that one of us likes but the other one doesn’t; that’s a special thing.
PP - Can the name of the group be interpreted as a way of paying homage to the giants of the past?
WB - Absolutely! The name was conceived with two meanings and one is related to the fact that I think every musician owes a debt to the music that has shaped them. You can certainly hear influences of “giants” like The Beatles or Peter Gabriel in our music, as well as everything from film scores to pop music to jazz, etc. The second meaning of the name ties into the stories our albums try to tell. I think sometimes we start life as “giants” but the things we face and some of our experiences can make us feel like “echoes” of the giants we used to be. Both of our albums attempt to deal with that reality and what we can do with it.
PP - What are your musical experiences, the reason for this question is that listening to your first production "At the End of Myself" I really felt a great maturity in your compositions.
WB - Thank you, that’s very flattering! Tracy and I, while having more musical taste in common than any other humans we’ve met, have very different musical educations. Tracy studied percussion from a young age, went to college for music, and ended up with a doctorate in music. In addition to his classical training, Tracy takes in more music from every genre than any person I’ve ever met. While I’ve studied a wide variety of music my whole life, I took a different educational track so my compositional training is much less formal. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out why I connect with something musically or lyrically and how I can improve my writing. I’m also fascinated with the recording process and creating sounds, so I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time studying that. I will concede that the majority of the maturity in our compositions comes from Tracy, but I think the combination of our different backgrounds is a great asset.
PP – Let's talk about "At the End of Myself", I assume you are satisfied with the results achieved and positive reviews, following its release in 2013?
WB - We wrote “At the End of Myself” because we wanted to make something we’d love. We hoped others would enjoy it as well but had no idea if anyone would. It’s been great to see the album’s reach and to connect with people around the world who’ve related to the album.
PP – It has been five years between the two productions, what happened during that time?
WB - We’ve worked on “The Way to Us” for the vast majority of those 5 years. After releasing “At the End of Myself,” we were excited to work on something new so we started writing almost immediately. Tracy and I both have families and careers that take the majority of our time. We’ve taken the time we need to make both of our albums to the best of our ability which means investing a lot of hours. In addition to writing, we recorded and mixed both albums ourselves (we get by with a lot of help from our friends). There are certainly pros and cons to taking 5 years to make an album; it’s felt like a long time and we’re definitely ready to write the next one!
PP – Here we are now with a new album entitled "The Way to Us", it was released at the end of August. The album is divided into two long parts "Us Part 1" and "Part 2". You want to introduce him to us? This is an album concept?
WB - The album is meant to tell a story and it’s actually divided into 4 parts: Us (Part 1), Mother, Son, and Us (Part 2). On a very basic level, the album follows the unconventional formation of a family through grief and loss to a place of refuge and joy. It’s inspired by our experiences as well as the experiences of close friends. “Us (Part 1)” tells the story of a couple who struggle to conceive a child and are ultimately unable to have a child of their own. “Mother” tells the story of a mother who becomes pregnant unexpectedly and wants to succeed as a parent but ultimately fails to care for her son. “Son” tells the story of the mother's son who grows up in fear and is ultimately taken away from his mother by social services. In “Us (Part 2)”, the couple is able to adopt the son. This section attempts to communicate the hesitation, but ultimately the joy and comfort they feel with their family complete.
Some of the story is vague so it's not meant to be something that is only enjoyable if you fully understand and relate to the story. There are songs that deal with general emotions that I hope people can enjoy and connect with on some level without worrying about plot and characters.
PP – The line-up seems to be roughly the same, except for Theese WEBER on vocal. On your first album you were 3 regular members, on the latter you are 5, does this mean that you are now forming a regular quintet?
WB - We’ve never felt a lot of pressure to define things explicitly. Tracy and I are the primary songwriters and Rick Kaufmann (bass) has been an integral part over the years. We wanted Joey Myers to sing on the first album but also wanted the freedom to be able to make a change if we felt new music was leading us somewhere else. Having Theese Weber join Joey on vocals on “The Way to Us” allowed us to tell the story in a different way. Some of the songs feature one, some of them feature both together, some both separately; we did this strategically to attempt to communicate the narrative. In addition, we are joined by John Walker on drums at our live shows (Theese plays keys live in addition to vocals). And we couldn’t do what we do without additional support: Brad Jenkins has mixed and mastered both albums and Dean Renninger provided the artwork design.
PP – Are there a few shows planned to follow the release of "The Way to Us"?
WB - We love playing live and are working on putting some shows together for later this year. We’re currently working up additional material from “The Way to Us” to incorporate into our live show.
PP - Technology is evolving quickly, the platforms that are used to promote music change, I think of the CD especially. There are distributors closing their doors due to a significant decline in album sales. According to you how do you see the future of music in the formats that we know?
WB - Man, this is a huge question and one I think about quite a bit. There is certainly a huge shift in how people consume music. I think, to the vast majority of younger generations, the concept of buying a physical product is very foreign. I don’t know that it will ever completely go away but it’s shifting. I personally still buy records and CDs; for me the artwork is a part of the experience. Tracy buys more physical music than anyone I know. While it can sometimes feel like the internet has “cheapened” music, the reach of a band like Echoes of Giants wouldn’t be nearly what it is without it. The advent of these new mediums of music consumption certainly has pros and cons; we will have to see what the future holds.
PP – You certainly listen to music, what are your favorite bands or artists?
WB - Probably the two that I return to over and over again, and that I can never get enough of, are Pink Floyd and Genesis (all eras). We’ve always been fascinated by music that is both very musical/compositional and approachable. Both of these bands do this well. I connected very deeply with the concept of “The Wall” at a fairly young age and I’ve grown with it for many years. Most of my favorite records are ones I relate to lyrically as well as musically; ones that tell a story or capture an emotion.
Other than those two, some of my favorites are Peter Gabriel, The Beatles, Yes, Spock’s Beard, A.C.T, Frost*, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, The Dear Hunter, and so many more. Lately, I’ve been listening to The Weeknd’s new EP, “My Dear Melancholy.” I think it’s brilliant, especially the track “Privilege.”
PP – What are your musical influences?
WB - This is going to sound cliché, but I try to find something to appreciate in everything I listen to. Tracy and I have a wide variety of influences and Echoes of Giants interesting to us because we can pull from all of them; nothing is off limits. It comes out sounding the way it does because of everything we’ve ever listened to.
PP – How do you see the future of Echoes of Giants?
WB - We started Echoes of Giants as a way to create something we love and we’ll continue to do that. Finishing up an album like “The Way to Us” can be a grind but we’re already talking about where album three will take us. I can’t wait to get started.
PP – You have the word of the end...
WB - I think the most encouraging and surprising thing about this whole journey has been discovering the depth and love of the progressive rock community. It’s easy to read articles about the state of the music industry and be discouraged, but the progressive rock community is one that cares immensely and supports artists they love. Profilprog is a part of that and I think we can all be proud of how this community is encouraging artists to keep making music. Echoes of Giants feels incredibly fortunate to be a part of this community. At our core, we’re just music nerds who started out by playing music we love for each other. Let’s all keep doing that!
Thank you very much!