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Local band The Soil and the Sun records "apocalyptic" third album

The Soil and the Sun recently finished laying down tracks in Chicago for their third album and discussed the new record's guests, sounds and themes.

The Soil and the Sun

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The Soil and the Sun during TEDx 2012 at the Grand Rapids Public Library

The Soil and the Sun during TEDx 2012 at the Grand Rapids Public Library /Photo by Julie Tabberer

The Grand Rapids band self-described as “experiential spiritual folk-rock” and “new Mexican space music” has been musing on the end of the world while creating something new.

The Soil and the Sun have recently finished tracking their third, yet untitled album in a Chicago studio, where they have been recording since the beginning of January. The studio belongs to the Chicago-based music company Audiotree, which specializes in live concerts performed in-studio. The Soil and the Sun have done two of those concerts, and the company now represents the band.

“[Audiotree] invited us to come use their studio, and it’s a really cool opportunity because it’s the first time we’ve had the chance to record in a professional studio,” says Alex McGrath, lead singer and guitarist for the band. “The experience of being in a studio every day has been a dream come true for us.”

As the main lyricist, McGrath says that "The Prophet," a book by Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran, has inspired some of the lyrics. Lyrics have also been influenced by McGrath's interest in different views on the concept of apocalypse.

“There’s some apocalyptic themes happening in the album,” he says. “A lot of the ideas for the songs came from exploring all of the different opinions about that subject. We’re not taking a stance as much as asking questions.”

Two tracks the band recorded for Songs from the Second Floor, “Leviathan” and a yet untitled track, appear on the new album. Guest players on the record include Chris Hainey from Maps & Atlases, Anton Dang from O’Brother and Kellen from Kellen and Me. McGrath says the guest appearances aren’t the only new things on the record.

“We’re experimenting with a lot of new sounds we haven’t tried before,” says McGrath. “We rented a real vibraphone, we have a dulcimer and there’s autoharp. We got a few of our friends to put together a little string section, so there’s going to be more orchestral string arrangements. There have been a lot of different personalities on this album, which is going to make it a very diverse experience.”

According to McGrath the band put in “some pretty long days” in the studio, often going as long as 12 hours a day. The recording process varied between ensemble recording and the recording of individual parts, but even when band members weren’t recording parts they were often in the studio to give their opinions on the sounds.

“There’s been a lot of collaborations as far as ideas,” says McGrath. “It’s been cool to have everybody be there and be a part of each other’s decision making.”

The Soil and the Sun were christened an “artist to discover at South by Southwest (SXSW)” by NPR last year, and their 2012 album, "What Wonder is this Universe!," won two 2013 WYCE Jammie Awards. The band plans to return to SXSW in Austin on March 15 as part of their spring tour, and they recently announced a show with the Ballroom Thieves at the Pyramid Scheme on April 23. McGrath envisions more Grand Rapids dates in support of the album. 

“We’ll definitely have a release show [in Grand Rapids], and we’re shooting for an early summer release [for the album],” he says.

Visit The Soil and the Sun's page on Bandcamp to listen to the music and keep up to date with news from the band on their Facebook page.

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