Graduation Speech are unveiling their new record, Maintenance Required, today on Black Numbers. Check out the full stream here!
Most solo projects seem to fall into one of two categories. First, there are those that resemble a simpler, stripped down version of the artist’s primary band—think John K. Samson, whose solo albums could be mistaken for Weakerthans records despite lacking the tell-tale guitar leads. Conversely, there are those projects that allow the artist to express a separate side of their musical identity than they can with their primary band—like Stephen Brodsky, who’s quirky solo songs contain mere shades of Cave In and Mutoid Man.
Graduation Speech, the solo endeavor of Kevin Day (who leads pop-punk grumblers Aspiga) somehow fits both categories. On the project’s second EP, Maintenance Required, Day takes his band’s songwriting approach and extends it in a more dynamic, tender direction.
On 2017’s Quiet and Calm, Graduation Speech’s debut took the form of a quiet project that showcased Day’s saccharine vocals over simple, shuffling chords. But the first few beats of “Your Heart. My Lungs” suggest Maintenance Required will be more than another acoustic endeavor. Indeed, distorted electric guitar winds between Day’s scratching, acoustic chords on this opening track and throughout the record, and light percussion punctuates each almost every measure.
Drums thump on “Ourselves,” a song whose momentum bridges the gap between both of Day’s projects. Likewise, both “Love and Patience” and “Shedding Myself” feature a full drum set alongside a steady bass, a flickering electric guitar, and even chiming piano bringing these beautiful song to life.
Day succeeds at expanding Graduation Speech’s sound by adding but also by taking away. The chorus on “Small Apartment” pulses with pounding toms and glinting accents, but each verse creates open space for acoustic chords and harmonic notes to breathe and bend into infinity. “Straighten me out when I lean into you / Straighten me out in the frames of your eyes,” Day sings, his acoustic snapping against the throbbing beat, a meandering piano melting into the sizzling guitar lead.
Maintenance Required shows a solo musician doing what he has never done before and what he can’t really do with his other band. More importantly, though, Graduation Speech manages to do what most solo projects cannot—that is, appeal to Aspiga’s fans while letting Day explore a more sentimental side of his songwriting.