We turned you on to Axis: Sova last month, the fuzzy robo-rock creation of Chicago-based Brett Sova. And today, we’re happy to share a stream of their new album, Motor Earth. So while you’re enjoying what may be the first few moments of a real autumn day, put some headphones on, turn the volume all the way up, and slip into this shredding record. And read our interview with the band below. Motor Earth officially drops October 14th on God? Records. –Maya Eslami
You began as a one-man band, so to speak. Have you always been making music on your own?
Yes, definitely, but in bands as well. I remember making a cassette album for a senior thesis project in high school, that coincidentally my friend recently found a copy of at one of the public libraries in Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up. But I was singing in a band with my friends at the same time. It’s great to be able to occupy both spaces, actually. Making music alone has its rewards in that there’s often little conflict in direction or focus, but making music with others is satisfying in that you give up some control and let synergy take the music somewhere outside of yourself.
What made you decide to expand your sound on Motor Earth?
I made Early Surf (the last Axis: Sova album, from 2015) almost entirely on my own – from playing to recording – but once it was finished I realized I’d need a band to effectively play most of the songs on the album live. So I started recruiting friends to join the band: Tim (Kaiser, guitar on Motor Earth) came on board pretty quickly, our pal Jeremiah played organ for a minute, and then Tyson (Thurston, plays on about half of Motor Earth) took his place but on bass. We spent time touring while I was simultaneously writing new material – the basis for what would become Motor Earth – which we routinely jammed at practice. Sometime around the Early Surf shows our friend Cooper Crain floated the idea out there that he’d like to record us in an actual studio as a band some time. While I think he imagined something like making a single, it felt like we had enough material and energy to go for a full length, so that’s what we did. In the same way that I was ready for the Axis: band, it seemed like the right time to record in a studio, and Cooper was the guy to do it with – he’d mastered the last couple Axis: Sova records and was very familiar with the vibe. And that’s a long-winded way of saying, “it just felt natural.”
The new album, to me, is much grittier than the previous one. Did recording live ultimately lead to that transition?
That’s funny you say that, since Motor Earth definitely has greater fidelity than any previous Axis: recording – some basic track elements of Early Surf were recorded using a cell phone! But if you mean the playing, I think the overall aesthetic of the band is fully present on Motor Earth, which is certainly indebted to a particular type of saturated and distorted tube amp sound people have been going for on guitar for decades – that kind of sweaty, musty basement feel. Having that live energy in the studio also meant that Tim, Tyson and I pushed each other to the fringes with each take, which is particularly apparent when listening to a song like “Love Identity.” Throughout the course of that eight-and-a-half minute song, we all reach places I don’t think we anticipated reaching and certainly didn’t write beforehand. Our collective exuberance got us into those hard to reach places.
You shred on guitar. How long have you been playing?
Playing since I was 14 or so, but shredding doesn’t come til later, boss.
Before, when you were doing it solo, what was the recording process like?
The tracking process was always spontaneous – if I was working while I had access to my 4-track or 8-track and a mic, I’d record that way. But if I hit a particularly sweet spot while I was playing and had fewer options, I’d take out the cell phone and record using that, because I wanted to capture the first takes, the hot takes, and build quickly off that energy. Always aspire to capture the inspiration, not perfection – it’s a lot less stressful and will increase longevity!
Mixing has always been a much more cerebral affair for me, however. I can overdub and mix for days, going deeper and deeper into the worm hole, until I find the proper universe and landscape for a song. And even then, mixing with headphones on or just mixing alone, it can be hard to tell if I put it in the sweet spot or the outer limits.
How did you and GOD? link up?
I’ve known Ty Segall, who runs God?, since way back when he was the underage member of Sic Alps. He wanted to hear what I was working on and happened to dig it.
I read that Axis: Sova is an homage of sorts to Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love. What is your favorite Hendrix song? (if that’s true – if not, Tell me about the band name?)
Haha, well, Axis: Sova didn’t intentionally start as a band or even as a long-term thing, it began as a one-off show. I was asked by a friend to hop on a bill and do a solo guitar piece, and after goofing around on what name to perform under, Axis: Sova sounded the most solid AND most ridiculous. It’s loosely an homage, sure, in that I’ve always dug Jimi and was listening to that album a lot that summer – but I liked it as much for it’s evil implications and the fact that it represented a new start for me musically, where I didn’t have to rely on anyone else in bands like I’d had to previously, or give way to anyone else’s input, agendas, or emotions. Having played in bands to that point, Axis: Sova meant the world could now revolve around just me, basically. Fast forward to today’s future, and I’m sitting here talking about is how great the Axis: band is – these things shift and change shape, expand and contract like the universe. Speaking of the universe, favorite Hendrix jams at the moment: “Message From Nine to the Universe,” and “Ezy Rider.”