It’s not easy to start a band. First, you have to have the time to spare, the finances to afford your instruments, a modicum of skill at your chosen instrument, plus the ability to creatively write music. On top of it all, you need to find a few other individuals whose wants and needs align with your own – all with the necessity of having (at least slightly) compatible personalities. While this contingency-riddled goal may be easily reached for some, many aspiring artists have a tough time getting the ball rolling. No one is more familiar with how tough it can be than Virginia-based instrumental progressive metal outfit Retrosphere.
Retrosphere started out as many bands do, with a full line-up of guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. Early on, they had a different stylistic vision in mind, citing a few influences to be Saosin, Dream Theater, August Burns Red, and Rush. Then, a less than desirable – and expensive – recording experience, paired with the departure of multiple members, left the band with a nearly empty roster and little to show for their efforts. Yet, guitarists Byron Hernandez and Seamus McDaniel still had a clear and compatible vision in mind. So they switched gears and turned their early misfortunes into opportunities. We got a chance to speak with both of them.
‘Despite the hardships we had getting started, we were determined to create music we’d be proud of. After finding a groove with our writing process, we’ve been able to compose music that we’re extremely happy with and enjoy playing.’
Both guitarists agreed that in order to achieve their goals, it would be easier to remain a two-piece and self-produce their music. When asked about their writing process and how they learned to self-produce, they told us:
‘As far as writing goes, we really had to stress quality control with what we were writing. If there wasn’t an instant connection with an idea, we knew it wouldn’t make for a song that we’d be able to easily compose for and elaborate on. In the beginning it took a few months to figure out how to go about structuring and developing good instrumental progressive songs, but once we found our way around, the process got increasingly clearer and we started to create music that we really love. For recording and self-production, we just compiled knowledge from YouTube and written tutorials online and went through a lot of trial and error, eventually creating a mix we were happy with, given the amount of time we put in.’
The end result of all of their patience and time comes in the form of their first full-length album In Motion, a ten-track record of bright and upbeat instrumental progressive metal songs influenced by fellow genre acts like Polyphia, Intervals, Plini, and Sithu Aye. In addition to the plethora of catchy guitar riffs, the band has included sections of 8-bit video game-styled MIDI tracks that add a strong positive element to the atmosphere of the album. Instrumental progressive metal fans will feel right at home with In Motion, and that’s exactly how Retrosphere intended it.
‘The world of modern instrumental progressive music is vast and we’re really trying to compile all of our biggest influences to create something new that fans of any of the aforementioned bands can also enjoy.’
With a collective fifteen years of playing guitar and bass under their belts – plus taking on the tasks of handling graphic design, marketing, and management – it is evident these two young musicians are serious about their craft. When asked what music means to them personally, they were quick to answer:
‘Music to us is a few different things. It’s not only a way for us to express and enjoy ourselves, but also something that we can use to challenge ourselves in order to progress musically. There were a lot of parts in the songs that we wrote and recorded that proved to be very tough for us to play and comprehend up to speed, but as we learned and got accustomed to them, we ended up becoming better guitar players and writers. In the end though, we think that what we want to achieve in music is to create songs that are intricate, well thought-out, and perpetually interesting to any listener.’
Retrosphere are currently in the early stages of writing and recording a new EP. While it is still too early for an album title or a track list, the band did confirm that recently added drummer Matt Stevens will be writing his own parts for the upcoming songs. As far as personal goals for the new album, they seem to be focusing on their identity and place in the progressive realm.
‘While we’ve been branching out and trying some new things on this record, we’re also trying to really hone in on a more unique and individual style that we can call our own. With all the experiences we’ve gotten out of the songs we’ve created in the past year and a half, I think we’re beginning to create our own sound in the world of instrumental progressive music.’
We here at ItDjents are excited for some new tunes, and wish Retrosphere only the best in their future endeavors!
Byron Hernandez – Guitar
Seamus McDaniel – Guitar
Matt Stevens – Drums