You may not have heard of rock/alternative outfit Shadowplay but they are a band really beginning to lure strong attention outside of their already conquered home state of New Jersey and further afield. Not to be confused with the Australian rock band of the same name, the Mt. Laurel hailing quintet, since emerging in 2009, has honed a sound persistently and hungrily growing and evolving over the years and releases. Live Shadowplay has equally grown into a rousing and exciting proposition, sharing stages with the likes of Tracii Guns, Doug Wimbish (Living Colour), and Hoobastank as well as undertaking two national tours along the way. Time to learn more so we had the pleasure of exploring the heart of the band with co-founder and guitarist Dan Holden talking origins, songwriting, latest album and more…
Hello and thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to the beginnings of the band?
I’m Dan Holden and I mainly play guitar for the band Shadowplay. There are four other members in the band: Andrew Corkery (lead vocals), John Sellers (guitar/piano/bass), Ed Flynn (guitar/bass), and Jamile Wiggins (drums). Shadowplay originated in middle school around 2006. In eighth grade I met Andrew at an after school club where kids got together to jam on classic rock music. This was around the time I just started getting into playing the guitar, so Andrew and I decided to start a band. Over time the project evolved into what we are today. John and Ed were both friends of ours from the same school who joined us later on in 2008 and 2011 respectively.
Have you been or are involved in other bands? If so how has that influenced what you are doing in Shadowplay?
I’ve been in Shadowplay for the majority of my life. I’ve played a gig here or there for other bands and with other musicians at other functions, and I often play solo at local shows in my area; however, I’m mostly committed to Shadowplay. We’ve all come from different musical backgrounds, and we all listen to such a wide variety of stuff that I would say each member of our band has definitely influenced another in some way. I originally was the only songwriter for the band, but when John and Ed joined they brought with them their own creativity that really has flushed out our own sound over time. We definitely have gotten each other into different genres and artists that some of us may originally have not been in to (or rather unaware of), and we go see a lot of concerts together and with our friends.
Photo Cred_Reji Berrouet
What inspired the band name?
Shadowplay comes from the Joy Division song. Just thought it sounded cool back when we were 16 years old.
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and in what you wanted it and your sound to offer and does that first intent still drive the band or has it equally evolved?
I think originally we just thought rock music was so cool and awesome, and we thought what a lot of bands were doing in the 70’s and 90’s was so fun. We also realized at a very young age that we’d love to be able to play music forever. Originally we were very influenced by those two decades of rock music, but as time went on and we were exposed to all the diversity all music has to offer we sort of have been building towards a different idea than what we probably thought we were going to sound like in our early years. Currently, we really want to be doing things that still have the high energy and high emotion that great rock music are capable of, but we also want to offer people a spiritual connection to us a people. I think we’re moving closer and closer to realizing that every day. We are constantly evolving. Our first album was recorded in 2011, and released in 2012. Our second album was recorded and released in 2016, and a lot has changed in our lives in those 5 years.
Since your early days, can you pin down how your sound has evolved?
When we started we had more of a mix of classic rock with prog, grunge, and arena rock style to our sound. Over time we all began to listen to more electronic music genres, and post-rock, so nowadays we sound maybe a little less commercial? It’s hard to say really because we are constantly changing and trying new things.
Those changes are more organic movements of sound or the band deliberately wanting to try new things?
A mix of both for sure…I find it’s always more satisfying when organic change causes us to try something different or vice versa, it is working with whatever we’re trying to do with a specific song.
You hinted on it earlier that there is a wide range of inspirations and loves across band members; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the Shadowplay sound but also your personal approach to creating and playing music?
It’s hard for me to speak on the behalf of the others because we’re each inspired by our own individual experiences, and those effects vary specifically to us as individuals. I personally would say that I’ve been very inspired by movie scores, cinema, and video game composers in additions to all the bands that I love. I’m a very big fan of taking a melody or motif that sets the mood of the song and engrains itself in the brain of the listener, and then taking that melody and changing it over the course of the song in clever ways or building it up to some kind of emotional climax. Think of it sort of like how you have rising tension in your typical film (or rising action) and then a climax before simmering off into the credits of the movie.
You mentioned originally you were the prime songwriter but that has shifted over time; is there a particular process to the songwriting within the band though?
We each write songs differently, and personally I don’t think I approach any two songs in the same compositional order, but generally speaking as a band one of us will present sort of a complete idea for the music of song to the others. Then we see if anyone else has anything to add onto it, or ideas on how to build the song up even more. Once the music is finished we then write the lyrics. Usually whoever the song is the brainchild of will write the lyrics, or Andrew will write the lyrics. It’s not always the same way though. Sometimes we have lyrics first and song later. Andrew writes a lot of poetry based on his experiences as he travels the world fairly often for his career in journalism and media production.
Where would you say inspirations to the lyrical side to your songs most come from?
From my life experiences and the other artistic mediums that inspire me. My lyrics personally are often inspired by film, video games, and literature that I’ve read and how I fit my own personal life into those ideas.
Can you give us some background to your latest release?
Our latest album is called Almost Lifelike and we recorded it and released it in the summer of 2016. We recorded it with our engineer/producer Ted Richardson at Burn Down Studios in Philadelphia. We had gotten connected with Ted in 2013 thanks to the help of our original band manager, and we recorded a single with him called Sandy Eyes out of respect to people in our home state that were affected by hurricane Sandy. We were very pleased with how that song turned out, and had a great experience working with Ted the first time around so we knew when we were going to do another album he had to be the guy we worked with. Our latest album is our second full length CD.
Give us some insight to the themes and premise behind it and its songs.
As I said before we are influenced by our own individual experiences as songwriters. The albums lyrics song to song deal with this, but in a manner that’s got kind of a twist of surrealism to the whole thing. We talk a lot about dealing with loss in different stages of grief, anger, and acceptance. Because of the surreal nature to the lyrics and metaphors we use on the record we said that it’s got an almost life-like quality to it, but not quite exactly like real life. This idea is further explored in the album art in which a man has walked into a record store and picked up an album that looks suspiciously like him buying a record.
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
We try to make sure the song is ready to go once we are in the studio just because it saves time and money, but how we record them and what texture we decide to give it can happen spontaneously as we record them.
Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably as for most, when Shadowplay truly come alive.
We definitely feed off of crowd energy. Playing for a lot of people who are really there to enjoy a show helps us enjoy it more and it’s always more cathartic for both us and the audience that way. I’d actually say that being in the studio is my favorite aspect of being in the band, however.
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it your neck of the woods?
Playing live shows as often as possible and wherever possible, and figuring out what shows were successful and repetitive booking at those venues is really the best way I can describe our success and how a band can make a name for themselves. Philadelphia and southern NJ is a great area for bands to play because there are a lot of quality venues and local artists that can help you network and just keep growing. But as a band you also have to be able to play shows out of your local spot, and we’ve been fortunate to have played in many other states as well.
Photo Cred_Reji Berrouet
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something fully positive or is there an opposite side you have found too?
Social media is a blessing for musicians in an era where there are so many more musicians and artists than ever before. You’re able to work with it to meet new people and keep connections that you otherwise would not have been able to before, and it’s much easier to tell people about yourselves and show them what you’re doing. The only negative I can honestly say is that there might be a bit of oversaturation that could lead to artists getting lost in the fold if they aren’t committed, but if you keep pushing at it good things will happen.
Once again Dan, my big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?
The pleasure is all mine, I assure you! Shadowplay is already hard at work making new music and learning a lot of other music so be ready for our next album sooner rather than later!
Explore the world of Shadowplay further @ http://www.shadowplay.band/ https://www.facebook.com/pg/shadowplayrocknrolland
and the album Almost Lifelike @ https://shadowplayband.bandcamp.com/releases
The RingMaster Review 07/04/2017
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