It’s a story as old as the tattoos on Ozzy’s knuckles. A rock band form after one of their number returns from a spell as a travelling missionary.
It could be the beginning of any band’s story, really.
But this tale belongs to Atlanta’s Microwave, a four-piece possibly named in honour of Percy Spencer’s invention. The quartet – whose line-up features guitarist/vocalist Wesley Swanson, bassist Tyler Hill and drummer Timothy ‘Tito’ Pittard – formed when Nathan Hardy returned home after a three-year stint “out west” and quickly set about self-releasing their debut album, Stovall in 2014.
“We put that out,” remembers Hill, “and started doing as much touring as we could. We started out small, doing regional weekend runs. We’d get off work at 4 o’clock on Friday and then roll into Atlanta at 5.30 on Monday morning and go right back to work.”
A hybrid of punk, post-hardcore and Southern-tinged indie rock – think somewhere between Brand New and Manchester Orchestra – Stovall is a magnificent record, full of ruminations on heartache and growing up, friendship and brotherhood and life in modern America, all with a heavily existential and understandably spiritual angle that truly made for one of the best albums of the year. Yet nobody noticed. Not at first, anyway. As time drew on, however, people started taking notice, including SideOneDummy Records, who signed the band this past summer and will release the band’s new split with Buffalo’s Head North on October 9. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a lot more attention on them ever since.
“It’s definitely becoming easier to get our new stuff out,” says Hill. “I remember when we were releasing our stuff on our own, I was spending hours emailing anybody I could possibly find and asking them to just listen to our music and, if they liked it, to maybe post about it or write a review or something. And now we have a whole team of people helping us do that, so it’s definitely a huge plus.”
If you’re worried that these songs are only going to be relatable if you, too, lived the life of a missionary, don’t. As Hill explains, these songs and their meanings, extend well beyond Hardy’s own personal experiences.
“I can translate these songs to my own life,” says Hill. “I’d gone to college for engineering, because I’d always felt that I was expected to do that. I was expected to follow a certain path, and music as not that path. So his coming of age and realisation in the religious world is kind of like my realisation in the real life world that, actually, you can do what you want to do and you don’t have to do what’s expected of you. That’s where it hits home with me. And of course, the other realm of his lyrical songwriting, about past relationships, I can definitely relate to on a personal level.”
It’s still early days, but Microwave’s songs have the power to become truly transcendental and break the band through into the big time. Not that Microwave are getting anywhere near that far ahead of themselves.
“I think the second that this band started,” says Hill, “we all had the same goal in mind, which is just to be able to play music full-time, because there’s nothing greater than that. The entire tie, we’ve been willing to put the work in and working hard to make it happen, and that’s still the goal right now. We’re still mostly doing double duty, working day jobs and touring when we can. Hopefully, there’ll be more touring and less working eventually! We’re heavy in the writing of LP two, so fingers crossed!”
For more information on Microwave, visit their Facebook page.