In the art of progressive rock, musicians are brave. They take a whole lot of chances that could simply be avoided. Arguably, filling the gaps in their playing with a vocalist capable of carrying the show and entertaining a crowd is one way to avoid taking a chance. Captivating vocals can glaze over any weakness in musical ability.
On Night Verses’ latest record, From the Gallery of Sleep—released on Equal Vision Records June 29—after parting ways with former vocalist Douglas Robinson, there was no place to hide. Fortunately, the newly minted instrumental trio are brave and ready to take new chances with their art.
After a visit to the YouTube channel of drummer Aric Improta and a visit to the Los Angeles band’s channel to catch glimpses of how they write, it’s obvious guitarist Nick DePirro, bassist Reilly Herrera, and Improta are the show. They create the art. Improta elaborates on their writing, “Nick does a lot of recording at his spot, but we always start a song in a room. We’re just big on that. All the bands we grew up on in the ’90s, those were based off the muscle memory and the ideas. Even though we use Nick’s home studio to record and listen back, all of the ideas start between the three of us in a room.”
Long before making the decision to go on without a vocalist, these three musicians began working together to craft Night Verses’ sound and feel. “We are just stoked, because we are publicly a new instrumental band,” Improta says. “We had a singer for the last five years, but in the time before that, me, Nick, and Reilly would perform instrumental locally just to keep our chops up and to find singers. We’ve been lucky that we’ve done two tours this way, and both of them have been with instrumental acts. It helps audience-wise, because they know what they’re in for.”
What audiences are in for with Night Verses is focused music that may be considered addition by subtraction. The places in their music where the vocals used to live aren’t gaps—the lack of vocals creates space for art. “We are really comfortable writing this way,” Improta says, “because as long as we’ve been in Night Verses, the music started, and then, when vocals would come in, we would normally remove a layer to make sure there was room for Doug to write melodies and stuff. It feels very much at home, because it’s the same way we’ve always written. We’re just not trying to make room.”
There’s definitely something to see and hear live on From the Gallery of Sleep, and it will definitely make you feel something. “When the entire audience is watching your hands, fingers, watching every note and analyzing what you do—in the past, we’ve played show where people are dancing, headbanging, they’re not really micro-examining everything,” Improta comments. “It forces you to play better. If you mess up, everybody sees it. At the same time, it’s refreshing to see that kind of attention being paid to live music. You see more people gravitating to electronic acts and less to live music—bands playing with instruments, physically hitting their notes. It’s refreshing to have a lane to go into where people do care about what you’re physically playing and working something out creatively. It’s exciting. It’s just more pressure.”
Night Verses’ art and music is an exploration of the mind at rest—or at work, depending on one’s interpretation of what’s accomplished by dreaming. “The whole album is centered around dream sequences and the similarities between art and dreaming,” Improta explains. “Obviously, in dreams, you can have a dream that feels like it took four hours, but you were asleep for 20 minutes. Even in art and creating art, you jam on a part that feels like you spent only 10 minutes playing it, but an hour went by. We want to make it feel like you’re slipping into a different state of mind.”
Night Verses’ decision to move forward with instrumental music and their immense talent for playing live feels like it was in the making since the band formed. They thrive on the pressure to create, which can seem counterintuitive, but it’s what makes them interesting. There’s a great deal of art and deep thought in the way that they create and play music. They’re back to basics in some ways, but the basics are very complicated and profound. The musicians themselves are on display: every note they choose, a brush stroke in time. In their case, there is no weakness in ability, just vibrant thinking, like red on a canvas, about esoteric ideas. They’re masters of craft—their craft of music, art, and dreaming.
According to Improta, From the Gallery of Sleep is “the real, personal examination of how you’re operating in these scenarios where you’re creating art or enjoying art. Then, how you’re operating in your day-to-day life: looking at what you put value on and what you want to spend more time living in. Whether you like admitting that you enjoy art or not, most people on the planet can recall the experience of having a really intense dream. I feel like art is a way to escape but also a way to enjoy your life.”