“The amount of hours that we’ve all put into this is crazy,” says Native Construct singer Robert Edens about his band’s debut album Quiet World.
And you can tell. The record features a sprightly smorgasbord of styles smattered over seven songs, flitting between orchestral interludes, blast beats, avant-garde theatricality and just about everything else.
It’s intricately, thoughtfully composed and you can imagine each note was given a serious dose of loving attention – so it’s perhaps little surprise that the album was written and recorded by this US three-piece when they were studying hard, heads in books, at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. It’s difficult to avoid the Dream Theater comparison – the band’s original core members John Petrucci, John Myung and Mike Portnoy, of course, attended the college in the mid-80s and jammed it out in the rehearsal rooms before they later became leading lights of prog.
“We’re really aware that Dream Theater have come out of Berklee,” says guitarist Myles Yang from the Boston apartment he shares with Edens. “There’s is definitely an inspiring story. But we’ve never thought that we’ll become anything close to what they achieved.”
You wouldn’t bet against Native Construct making a massive splash, though. Their knack for forging the perfect melody amid moments of crunching rock aplomb caught the ear of Metal Blade Records and it is this harmonious sheen that should entice listeners from the prog sphere and beyond.
As Edens says, Quiet World has been a long time coming for this band, who are completed by bassist Max Harchik. Writing for the concept record originally started in 2011 – the year of their genesis – but a packed college schedule slowed the progress.
“It took us so long to finish because of school,” the vocalist adds. “We were full-time students during the writing and recording process. It was definitely time consuming.”
In the absence of a real-life tub-thumper, Native Construct plumped for programmed drums – but you’d never know – whilst a “very small budget” meant that “basically anything outside of the rock band” circle was virtual instrumentation.
It doesn’t sound synthetic, however, and instead exudes a rich, keen warmth – perhaps helped by the prevalence of orchestral inspiration, with strings aplenty.
Whilst Yang notes influences such as prog metallers Between The Buried And Me – whose long-time producer Jamie King recorded the album – there is a hefty classical nod that stems from a youth that seems less guitar plectrum and more bow.
“Robert and I were in a string quartet in our school. We played at events and weddings,” he says. “We also played in school orchestras for almost all of our school careers, so we have a strong classical influence.”
Ignoring the deluge of fleet-footed instrumentation on the record, Quiet World is a concept album at heart, with fantasised lyrics streaming throughout.
Like all the true artists, however, it seems that Native Construct want the audience to earn their crust and interpret much of the meaning by themselves.
“We don’t want to be too specific about everything that happens on the album, because we want people to gleam details from the lyrics and the music,” Edens says. “But what I will say is that the story is about this guy who feels dejected and ignored and unaccepted and in a kind of fantasy world he creates his own universe that he has control over.
“The story is fictional – we came up with the concept because wanted a compelling story to put music to, so it’s kind of like a play or a rock opera. But the themes, like loneliness and dealing with acceptance – we’ve all dealt with stuff like that in our lives.”
With influence extracted from all corners of the music spectrum, flamboyant playing and a ruddy great big concept rainbowing over it all, it’s pretty clear Quiet World fits snugly in the prog world.
Yang, however, isn’t too keen on the band being pigeonholed. “The word prog itself should be distinguished from the word progressive,” he opines. “Prog has become more of a genre in itself. When you hear the word prog you hear a specific sound. And there’s progressive, which obviously means pushing things forwards and trying new sounds. The most influential bands are doing this kind of very distinctive sound, and then other bands follow suit. The word progressive to me goes far beyond that – it’s more of a general concept. I like to think of it as being original and coming up with new sounds.”
The next step in the rise of Native Construct meanwhile is developing their live set, which has been neglected due to studying and recording. Other musicians will be recruited to supplement the sound and translate Quiet World’s grandiosity to the stage, and touring is hoped for later this year.
So how far can Native Construct go? With an action-packed, gung-ho album that can probably appeal to followers of Dream Theater and Between The Buried And Me almost as much as fans of melodic pop rockers Panic At The Disco or film scores, it seems the sky might very well be the limit.
But it appears this modest band aren’t quite so optimistic – yet.
“Obviously there’s a number of different benchmarks of success that we’d like to achieve, but we’re trying not to set any expectations yet,” says Yang. “Right now we’re working hard and seeing what happens. This is all very new to us – we have no idea where we’re going to end up.”
Quiet World is out now on Metal Blade. See http://www.facebook.com/NativeConstruct for more info.