Rebels In Stereo – CoVault

 Rebels In Stereo – CoVault

Rebels In Stereo – CoVault – EP Review

Interesting name for an EP that’ll likely fly right by a whole lot of people out there…including myself when it comes right down to it.  I looked at the word CoVault for a second, realized I was thinking about Cobalt the element, and then thought to myself out loud – “I actually have no idea what CoVault would mean.”  So of course I jumped on my good ol’ Google machine to have myself a learn, and I gotta admit, there’s something oddly satisfying about being dragged down the rabbit-hole to find absolutely nothing.  CoVault as a word, doesn’t have a definition.  It could be a place…there are lots of ‘Covaults’ out there, yet none that I could see were tagged to Chicago according to the internet, which is where Rebels In Stereo are based out of.  So unless they’re giving extra props to a company in Scotland that spells CoVault this exact same way and specializes in “flexible and affordable work spaces” across its country – honestly, I’ve run out of ideas as to what the heck this four-piece band is referring to in this record’s title.  Maybe some things are meant to remain a mystery…maybe it’s something that the band is aware of that Google just ain’t…maybe I (definitely) chose the wrong thing to write about in this intro and I’ll be wondering what the heck a CoVault is for the rest of my life & how it applies to the songs on this EP.

In any event, what I can tell ya, is that it looks like CoVault was long overdue.  Rebels In Stereo started back in 2014, released their music professionally online around 2016 if my math is correct, dropped their debut album Rebuild in 2018, an EP called Look Ma, No Hands! in 2019…and then…radio silence for nearly three years, with CoVault coming out at the end of last year.  Time away isn’t always necessarily a bad thing…sometimes we just need time to figure out those next important steps, and sometimes that time we wanna take to do that takes a whole lot more time than we originally thought – that happens.  Then there’s that whole rare circumstance of a worldwide pandemic that would apply to this particular timeline that Rebels In Stereo is on…that would have been occurring right in the middle of releasing their last EP and putting out this one here.  So it’s hard to say what exactly has kept them away…it could be a million other things too…but I suppose the important thing is that they’re back in action, doing what they love to do.  Word on the street is that they’re working on a new full-length album that is due out in…hmm…well my sources say in spring, but there’s only like, what, another six days of that season to go?  Let’s say sometime in 2023…y’all know how time works in a musician’s world…so give’em some.

Anyhow.  What have we got here on CoVault…I suppose Punk/Pop with a hint of a Metal edge at times, but with tracks that roar into the five plus-minute terrain & beyond to nearly eight-minutes, you might even have to argue that the Punk element is not the dominant trait here, and could even be mistaken for Progressive in many ways given the lengths they’re working with.  That being said, they start this EP with the most standard definition of those main two genres of Punk/Pop combined as they get things moving quickly with the lead-single “Lace Of Steel.”  Honestly, it’s an interesting tune…to me, it’s written through a fictional approach, but something gives me the feeling this is somewhat based on a true story too.  It’s eventually about a “teenage superhero” – so I’ll let you decide what’s real and what’s not – but I do think there are many definitions as to what quantifies a superhero to us all, and to me, this first cut seemed like it was a somewhat tributary toast to this young lady named Lacey…an anthem of positivity.  Maybe that’s just my interpretation…maybe it’s all fiction…you’d have to ask Rebels In Stereo, I’ve only got theories.  I like the way the story is told on a lyrical level though…and for as many words as there are, it comes through pretty clearly.  It’s a mouthful, as Cassidy Paige (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) would surely attest to…but it’s performed as well as anyone could when needing to sing so many words.  To be truthful, “Lace Of Steel” is a good tune…I don’t think I’d call it my favorite of the bunch on this particular EP, but I do get why it would have been chosen as the lead-single to represent this record, and it’s really the only track that has the length that’d qualify.  The only thing I’m not loving about “Lace Of Steel” is the sound of the snare…it just seems like it’s a little on the lifeless side is all.  The playing is fine – Kristyne Operzedek (Drums/Backing Vocals) can clearly hit the skins solidly…I’m simply talkin’ tones here y’all…I feel like something with a bit more crispness to it would potentially go a long way for them on this song, especially if it’s gonna be left out there bare in the wide open, like it is around the 1:45 mark.

With more time at their disposal, we get to have a better glimpse at who this band really is and the true ambitions they have for the music they’re making.  Look…calling them Progressive earlier was just me having some fun with the term and referring to the length of the songs…genres are completely bullshit anyhow, in my opinion.  That being said, are they more than a mere Pop/Punk combination?  Quite clearly, yes.  “The Standoff” would have wrapped up two full minutes earlier if it was simply trying to adhere to some stringent concept of what genres are supposed to be like…you can tell that Rebels In Stereo are looking to expand their sound, and for as Punk as they are at their roots, I have the feeling that they’re more than willing to shift their music in a much more artistic direction than the genre of Punk or even Pop typically implies.  Like…take the main hooks of “The Standoff” for example…that’s not typical stuff by any measure…it’s complex, it’s involved…heck…I’m still not even 100% convinced that they’ve gotten the absolute maximum potential out of how cool this moment truly IS at this point on the EP, but it’s really darn close.  Mired in confusion and turmoil, lyrically “The Standoff” will be relatable to many people out there, even though it never directly spells out what it’s truly all about…which I like.  It gives this cut a savage dose of our own interpretation and internal projection…like, I’d tell you that it’s about a relationship struggling to find a reason to stay or a reason to go, and never really finding either.  Which…if you think about it, is definitely the reason to pick up and get the heck outta there, but that’s a whole other story and psychological conversation for another time.  The hooks are sharp in this track – it’s a deep cut y’all…the memorable melody of this song will cling to your bones, and I dig that too.  I also felt like we get an even better listen at how Jimmy Natividad (Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals) and Wayne Pombert II (Bass/Backing Vocals) contribute to the music in this band as well, with a bit more space added into the mix/instrumental sections that greatly add to the diversity and interest this track generates.  At her absolute best, Cassidy has got an electrifying personality and genuine gift for melody; there are a few questionable high notes that’ll make you raise an eyebrow or two, but for the most part, she’s magnificent in the lower-end of her register, a perfect fit for these songs, and dynamic as they get.

The attack at the start of “Hauntress” is stellar…though I’m still gonna advocate for Rebels In Stereo finding a snare sound that gives their music more punch and contributes to the depth these tunes truly deserve.  No issues with Operzedek…she’s solid and reliable timing-wise, and that’s all we ever really need at the heart of it all.  I just feel like a snare should have more BEEF to its sound – is that such a bad thing?  If that makes me a villain, then so be it I say!  Admittedly, it’s not as noticeable or as much of a factor as I felt like it was to “Lace Of Steel” earlier on…but if I was Rebels In Stereo, I’d at least play around with it a bit, experiment with different snare sounds, and see what else is out there…sometimes a tiny change like that can unlock a whole new level.  “Hauntress” uses this band’s dynamics in a seriously effective way that’s bound to be noticed as they shift between the serenity of a gentle melody, into the raging intensity of the more aggressive side of their sound.  I really loved the use of harmonies on this track that much more than the others on the EP…they really support the main melody, and it makes a huge difference to the way that “Hauntress” connects to us as listeners.  As for Cassidy…this is exciting stuff!  Not only do I think she gives you some of the absolute best of her more delicate side, but she unleashes the beast and lets the venom out in her transitions between verses & chorus on this cut.  “Hauntress” is a seriously empowering song at its core…it’s about the reclamation of who we are after a messy breakup…it’s about not surrendering to the doubts and pain caused in the aftermath, but rising above it all to thrive & become an even more powerful version of ourselves for the future ahead.  “I am the pain, I am the vengeance” is a remarkably nuclear first line of the chorus in “Hauntress,” we’re talkin’ about material that’s hellbent on scorching the earth and borderlines on what many would even consider to be a revenge track as a result…which even I’d admit, you could interpret this track that way.  Personally, I like to dig a bit deeper…so to me, in hearing these words, I could feel the emotion without a doubt, but I also recognized the evolution at its core too…”Hauntress” is really all about the refusal to be taken advantage of, the justified reaction to being gaslit or mistreated, finding the strength required to avoid those scenarios from here on in, and realizing the true value of our uniqueness & who we really are.  Again, feel free to add your own interpretations…that might just be mine, but that’s how I’m hearing it.  This is an anthem for those that have been pushed too far and are no longer afraid…the song that people need to hear to know they don’t have to settle for anything less than what they want in this lifetime…and a reminder to those that truly suck, that good people will haunt their crusty souls, forever.

Back when the band This Day Burns was still around, I used to listen to their combinations of melodic lead vocals and the intensity of a harsh growl as the backup vocals in a call & response approach, and think to myself…like…”I mean, yeah, it works well enough…but what else could it be?  Is there more potential than this method allows for?”  And don’t get me wrong, it’s a stylistic choice…some people out there completely love it, as I’m sure that Rebels In Stereo do too, which is why you’ll find this method threaded into the fabric of the verses on the final track “Albatross.”  It’s a moment where you’ll find the backing vocals flashes the savageness you sometimes want with your Hardcore/Punk vibes…and I can understand that…but if we’re talking about pure accessibility, it’s the same method that can often be a bit of a hindrance or throws off the average everyday listener.  Normally, I don’t care…do what you do, make the music you wanna make, and who gives a rat’s ass about what anyone else thinks – even me.  It really is about being the band YOU wanna be more than anything else…that’s what’s important.  If it’s true to you and the vision you’ve got, then rock the fuck on I say.  Great guitar work from Jimmy at the start of this track…it’s wicked stuff to listen to, 100%, and the band takes its cues energy-wise from what you’ll hear there & the furious beat of the drums from Kristyne.  “Albatross” is the most mammoth cut we’ve got that lends any credence to my Progressive comment from earlier on…because ultimately, it IS a Progressive track with so much going on that’ll take it through Hardcore, Punk, Pop, Alternative, Indie, and just about whatever else you could name aside from Country and Jazz…you get the point, there’s a whole lot going on.  It’s adventurous and ambitious…and as a result of going that direction, they’ve got the freedom to pretty much add anything and get away with it.  Which is why, sure…they can have some gnarly growling in the backup vocals and no one’s really gonna call them out on it when it comes to “Albatross.”  I’m not really gonna either…it’s the kind of approach that screams IT IS WHAT IT IS, whether we dig it or we don’t.  Having said that…I’d point out to spots like the “Look to the skies for good luck or demise” hook and how MONUMENTAL it is…should they have moved on so quickly from that, or exploited it more thoroughly?  That’s a Linda Perry level of awesomeness y’all, straight up.  Heck…I’d have been mighty tempted to rebuild the entire track around that one part of the song, or the incredible hooks they discover around the 6:00-6:30 mark later on even.  I’m not saying what they’ve got overall doesn’t work – lemme be clear, it does – I’m just saying we’re mixing a lot of natural accessibility with what will make a lot of those same listeners squirm a bit in their seats as well.  If that’s the desired effect, then again, rock the fuck right on.  To be fair to Rebels In Stereo though, you get a little something for everyone on “Albatross,” which is a strategy that can work for and against ya, but always speaks strongly on behalf of the art and the craft.  Like…LISTEN to that glorious switch in direction between the 4:30-5:30 mark, where they basically take you right into a choir-like opera-infused moment – you weren’t expecting THAT, now were ya?  Amazing!  Bonus points for the rippin’ bass-lines after that point, and I loved how the backing vocals play a role in the aftermath as it heads towards the finale too…make no mistake and don’t get it twisted, “Albatross” is outright EPIC, it’s just bound to be one of those tracks where everybody comes to a different conclusion on what their favorite part is…that’s all I’ve been getting at.  I think for the well-seasoned listeners out there with far too much grey in their beards (like myself), we understand how one part needs the others, and that for a softer sound to be as effective as it can be, sometimes you gotta play the most aggressive cards you’ve got on either side, and vice versa.  I don’t know that it’s always possible for folks to end up loving an entire song in a design like that for the exact same reasons, but I think we can all appreciate the extreme effort it would take to include and incorporate so much into one single song.  So heck yeah…you’re probably gonna find some of your favorite highlights exist on “Albatross” without question, but you also might find a few spots that you’ve gotta thrash through in order to get to’em too.  I respect the fact that “Albatross” definitively proves that Rebels In Stereo are thinking about how to go about doing MORE with their music…that they’re more than a mere Pop/Punk combo…and if I had to hazard a guess, I’d readily tell ya that this song could very well be the real blueprint for their pathway forward from here.  I love hearing passion, ambition, and ART like this!  I’d also tell ya that, for being nearly eight-minutes in length, there’s precious little I’d change about it if anything at all…”Albatross” might even be their most complete cut when it comes right down to it, which speaks serious volumes about what this band is capable of.  They’ve definitely got my attention at the end of this EP…they pretty much had it before that mind you – I’ve enjoyed this experience in many ways from start to finish – but they’ve secured it for the future to follow with this enormous finale to CoVault, and they’ve got me believing in what they can do.  So whether that next full album arrives in the spring, summer, or some other random time in 2023, you betcha…I’ll find my way back to their pages again, and I’ll be listening.

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