Bring seven highly talented, experienced musicians together in the studio, give them creative freedom as well as a common vision, and a trusted, capable producer, and there’s little doubt the results will be extraordinary. The problem, it turns out, is simply getting those artists together in the same room, without neglecting anyone’s full-time gig. This is the part where technology comes to the rescue.
In order to accommodate the hectic touring and recording schedules of the various members of Isles & Glaciers—a punk/post-hardcore “super-group” that includes members of Chiodos, Emarosa, Pierce The Veil, the Receiving End of Sirens, Cinematic Sunrise and Underminded—the core music-writing team behind the project collaborated mostly online by swapping digital files, gradually shaping the group’s upcoming debut EP, The Hearts Of The Lonely People. When the group did finally meet up in the flesh back in December 2008, they had roughly a week to team up with producer Casey Bates (Chiodos, Fear Before, The Fall of Troy) and finalize the seven songs that now comprise the record.
“We recorded all these songs with never once having played them all the way through, never all being in the same room, no one playing an instrument before they were tracked,” says guitarist/keyboardist Brian Southall. “It was sitting on a computer and going, ‘Yep, that’ll probably work,’ and we’ll figure it out later, and somehow it worked. Overall, it was the strangest thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
As oddly animatronic as that process may seem, listeners will barely make it through opening track “Kings and Chandeliers,” before the stunning success of the union is apparent. Instead of seeming cold or disjointed, there’s a fire to every aspect of Hearts that burns as brightly as anything you’ll hear from a year-round touring band, yet Isles has only played one official show—at Emo’s in Austin, Texas, for the 2009 SXSW convention. Yet somehow, the nature of the experience seems to have driven each Isles & Glaciers member to achieve their personal best, and the sum total of those efforts is astonishing.
“When we all met up in Seattle it was just a matter of piecing things together and working our asses off for the little time we had,” says vocalist/guitarist Vic Fuentes. “I had so many amazing songwriters involved at once, so I had to open my mind a little more to their different styles. I think this was one of the most difficult parts for all of us. We had to learn how to work with each other without offending or stepping on each others toes, so to speak, but once we broke the ice and got to know each other on a creative level, it was much easier and things started becoming very fun and interesting.”
One of the obvious weapons in the band’s arsenal is its staggering three-man vocal onslaught of Fuentes (also of Pierce The Veil), Craig Owens (ex-Chiodos) and Jonny Craig (Emarosa, ex-Dance Gavin Dance). Fuentes and Owens contributed heavily to the lyrical content, pulling ideas from assorted notebooks and journals, and then arranging each singer’s lines for every song, deciding how to best play up to everyone’s individual strengths. Craig, who brings a more improvisational aspect along with his unmistakable power and soul, worked closely with Fuentes to capture the singer at the absolute top of his game.
“Craig [Owens] and I both brought a bunch of our personal stuff to the table,” says Fuentes. “Jonny is much more of a freestyle singer, and comes up with awesome stuff on the spot, just by singing along. I’ll usually work with him personally and tell him when I hear something that sounds cool. I really admire Jonny for his natural abilities.”
“I’m happy for Jonny, because I think everyone brought out the best in him and really got him to shine,” adds Southall. “Vic was kind of a producer—he just kicked Jonny’s ass the whole way. I think a lot of the stuff we had him sing really catered to what his voice is, more so even than his own band.”
While the same obstacles that delayed the completion of Hearts continue to hamper definitive plans for Isles & Glaciers’ future endeavors, it’s clear that should the planets once again align in such a way that its seven members can reunite, great things can be expected. Until then, Hearts is a breathtaking testament to the power of creation, whatever the medium or mechanism may be.
“I fucking love how everything came out, and I am super thankful to be a part of a record with so many talented individuals, including my little brother Mike,” says Fuentes. “To be honest, it was very intense and crazy trying to get so many different perspectives and creative thoughts into one place, but I think it came out to be such a special and unique album, just because of the road we had to take to make it happen.”