Since the release of its debut album in 2012, the band has been pushing the concept of art rock beyond the musical medium of sound and silence.
“We’re Weapons of Mass Creation,” said bassist and vocalist Aric Shapiro. “We paint. We make sculptures. We make videos. We direct plays. We’ll fucking make a mural, write a song, do a poem, do performance art. We make films. … It’s just what we do.”
The four-piece band includes members of Reno Art Works, the Potentialist Workshop and Good Luck Macbeth Theatre Company. In the last several years, Shapiro estimates they’ve collectively taken part in the creation of somewhere around 15 large sculptures, 20 murals, 50 plays and six movies, among other things.
It’s little wonder that putting together their new album, Generation WE, has been a challenge for the time-strapped band mates. But their busy schedules were only part of the equation.
“It was a labor of love getting this album done,” said guitarist and vocalist Joe Atack. “It’s like somebody cursed the album to not be ready until it was time.”
Work on Generation WE began about four years ago. A series of setbacks started shortly thereafter when the band’s former drummer quit out of the blue. After that, the recording studio handling the record had a meltdown. Atack was in a car accident. And a close friend of the group died.
“Crazy stuff, constantly—divorces, deaths,” said Atack.
“And births, too,” said drummer Steven Sperber. “I had a child. [Vocalist Pan Pantoja] had a child during the recording of it—so not all bad.”
And the delays, it seems, have not diminished the scope of the project.
“Whereas our first album was a very social justice-oriented album—this album has that in it, too—but to a lesser extent,” Atack said. “It has a lot more personal storytelling.”
“We talk about mortality a lot, and we talk about an afterlife, and we talk about, you know, what it is to be a decent human, I guess,” said Pantoja. “And it’s done through different stories and fables.”
It’s also done through different media. In the lead-up to their April 15 album release at the Saint, the guys have called upon the help of around 20 artists.
“It’s trying to, where we can, blend some art forms—so painting, video, dance,” said Atack.
“There’s an animatronic head involved,” Pantoja added.
“And various audiovisual components, costuming,” Shapiro said.
The goal, Atack explained, is to “bring all of those things cohesively together in some way. And sometimes not cohesively, like jarringly together. And we want … the audience to be able to participate in some of that too—to make some of that interactive.”
They want to keep the show’s interdisciplinary details a secret, but they did say that Generation WE is a lengthy album with 20 tracks. And the band is only releasing the second half.
“I know that sounds weird,” Atack said. “The plan is that, down the road, when we release the first half, we will then play the entire Generation WE—from beginning to end, all 20 songs.” That should be about six months down the road.