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First Look: Longwave
By S. Zekovitch

  “Psychedelic Hipsters”

Since their big break into the New York rock scene, Longwave have made a huge impression on fellow New York bandmates, The Strokes, earning comparisons to U2 and the Doves, and marking off two sold out shows at the London’s Brixton Academy. However, their beginnings like most bands was not an easy ride. It all began in Rochester, upstate New York where frontman Steve Schiltz lived until his completion of high school. Deeply immersed in music Schiltz was a self-taught musician who was greatly influenced by all music of all eras, especially from the 60s to the 90s. After graduating as valedictorian he did what most people would not have fathomed. Instead of going to a prestigious college to earn a degree he ditched the sophisticated books to pursue his dreams in becoming a musician.

It was in that summer of ‘98 when the gestation of Longwave began to come about. At the time the “would-be” band members were already in their own bands, but because of their tight friendship and sole interest of music, led to their experimentation with their individual sounds, laying the infrastructure for what would become  Longwave. Throughout the duration in the forming of the band, Steve Schiltz (vocals/guitar) was always the backbone of Longwave and it was upon the recruiting of Shannon Fergueson (guitar) and Dave Marchese(bass) was when things began to move in more serious direction. 

Although  they had a band assembled, frustration also grew about, with every band member holding a day job, making it almost impossible to do road shows. With every dream comes a sacrifice and so they kept hammering away at their music. Momentarily, the band had already consisted of  lead guitars, bass, and vocals; however, there was one more element missing to complete the band piece and they were in dire need of some percussive sounds. After facing many trials and tribulations their prayers were answered after Schiltz’s call to a childhood friend by the name of Mike James. In a matter of days after the arrival of Mike James, Schiltz received a surprising call from the manager of the Strokes asking them if they wanted to do a couple shows with them, immediately, Schiltz and the band agreed. Further after they would eventually accompany The Strokes again on their Europe tour.

It all happened at once, for a split second, the moment stood still for Longwave, giving them a taste of a surreal reality and reassuring all of their hopes. Ultimately, the exposure they received from touring with The Strokes opened new opportunities for them. Not only did they gain fans in the US, but they gave such incredible performances that they gained recognition from fans abroad as well. With great praise and good press they were invited to perform at music festivals in the UK.  It was during one of these performances that another rock revivalist band known as The Vines took notice and had them accompany them on tour. 

For those who automatically assume their association with The Strokes means that they also sound like them, I must altercate that they do NOT sound anything like The Strokes. They may have the hipster style that the Strokes possess, but that comes with their territorial derivations. They forever will always be associated with the New York hipster-venues, but also realize that they do have great potential in making good music. 

Prior to the release of Life of the Party EP, Longwave had already released two albums and another EP. Honestly, I am not too familiar with their first album, Endsong, however I did become very aware of them after the release of their second album, Strangest Things. During my first quick listening session with the album I was not too moved, but again I was only skimming through the album quickly on my way to work. It was not until later that evening I gave the album my full attention. In doing so there were five songs that really grabbed my attention and they were, “Wake Me When It’s Over”, “Everywhere You Turn”, “I Know It’s Coming Someday”, “All Sewn up”, and “Tidal Wave”. Schiltz does an amazing job in taming the distorted background with his raw and decanted voice, as if he was pouring out all his heart in soul onto a platter to serve the listener. With that being said that album was definitely an exceptional album and a decent buy.

Unlike their previous album, Life of the Party EP, is not your usual recycled material most would expect. It is vibrant as ever and much more energetic with symphonic qualities. This album definitely demonstrates their abilities to channel their energy into the extended sects of rock without losing their touch.

 Furthermore, each individual track differs greatly from one another. For instance,  “Life of the Party”, is so distorted in sound that it gives you this notion that it was performed underwater or perhaps insinuating that Steve Schiltz was an aquatic creature (which I highly doubt it, but it’s just a thought), or even an interpretation of a man who regrettably sings to his lover over his disappointment in not seeing her. Perhaps his lungs were overflowing with dread that he began foaming in a drunken stupor anyhow that’s besides the point. I recall reading an interview a couple years back in which Schiltz claims his songs are meant to have different interpretations because half the time he doesn’t even remember the distinct details behind the songs himself, which is understandable. So I guess it’s up to the listener themselves to determine what that track was about or sit back and enjoy the music altogether.

However, the mood begins to shift on “We’re Not Gonna Crack”, it’s performed in such a psychedelic manner, it’s as if they pulled out Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vadar and the Empire and stuck them in the background to duke out their vengeance with their “oh so cool”  light sabers. By the way I was too mesmerized by the sound I didn’t even notice the words to the song. But without a doubt it was very interesting.  On another note, “Here It Comes” was filled with a lot of upbeat propulsive drumming, somewhat very reminiscent of the 1964's British Rock Invasion all over again. I can tell you I was so enraptured by this song that I was ready to bust out my parents’ bell bottoms and groove to the music in honor of that year, but then again I’m too lazy to even scour the closets for such memorabilia, my swaying will do for now. 

Ever so often in albums there is at least one song that tends go in a totally opposite direction from the rest and it’s very apparent on track four, “There’s A Fire”. Unlike the rest of the tracks this song stands out the most because it’s very reposed, emotive, and it’s done in acoustic. The first images that popped into my head as the song played was John Denver and a campfire. Both of these images correlate to one another because John Denver, was a famous folk musician and his songs were often sung around campfires (or that’s what I had imagined as a child). Anyhow the song was a pleasant listen. 

Finally, last but not least“Sunday Nite Health” wraps up the album with instrumentals. Even though there isn’t any vocals to accompany the arrangement, this is by far my favorite track off the album because it sounds like there is an abundance of syncopation involved, which really gives this song a very abstractive atmosphere. Not only does it supply the subconscious visuals, but it doesn’t leave you sitting in the dark corner of a wall slobbering to a  buzzing sound of wires ringing through your ears. In conclusion, this album was more than I had expected from Longwave and hopefully they will continue to keep up with this act of self-innovation.  

Unfortunately, recently Mike and Dave left the band to pursue their own careers and as of now the Schiltz and Fergueson are currently back in the studios working on their next full length album with legendary John Leckie (who produced Radiohead’s The Bends and worked with George Harrison and John Lennon). This album will most likely be out in early 2005. So until then take a listen to Longwave and decide for yourself.

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