By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
We don't necessarily want what's good for us — from chili cheese fries to that one last Jäger shot to a late-night booty call. And sometimes we must give thanks for the circumstances that thwarted us and led to a later sense of relief.
So it is with dramatic indie rockers The Epilogues, who had a major label deal in hand, only to watch it dematerialize when Sony changed presidents and the incoming chief shuttered all the label's small imprints. Of course, it didn't feel like good news at the time, but now that the Denver quartet's finally released its debut LP, Cinematics, getting dropped doesn't seem like such a bad thing.
"They just kind of pulled the rug right out from under us because we thought we'd done it. It is such a familiar story, but we fell victim to that, 'Oh, this is it. Everything is going to be great,'" says singer/guitarist Chris Heckman. "We made some poor choices, where we kind of jumped the gun on some things and started spending money we didn't have — like on radio campaigns. But at the end of the day, that album changed so much that we can look back and I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
Heckman and keyboardist Nate Hammond met in a high school guitar class as freshmen and have been friends ever since. They started the band in the early Aughts while being drawn into the electroclash/New Wave revival. They bought synthesizers as if they were trading cards and absorbed the music of Muse and the Killers, beginning with three synths in the lineup.
That eventually gave way to the chunky, guitar-driven epics they now fashion, with sweeping arrangements soaked in atmosphere and power chord riffage that draw comparisons to Silversun Pickups and Manchester Orchestra. Indeed, at times Heckman's voice sounds remarkably like that of Manchester frontman Andy Hull. (Though Heckman's quick to note that the synths remain and many of Cinematics' fuzz-laden "guitar solos" are actually grimy, grunged-up Moogs.)
"I think we all had the same influences growing up. The reason I started singing that way was from Damien Rice. He was, like, the fist person I latched on to, and when I heard Andy Hull for the first time I was, like, 'Son of a bitch,'" he recalls. "[As for] Silversun Pickups, I hear a lot of Mew in what they do, and that's another band we've been listening to for years."
They got a huge break when Denver radio station 93.3 KTCL put their 2010 single "Hunting Season" into its rotation. It not only proved a local sensation but drew the attention of major labels. They spent eight months in negotiations with Sony, not doing much else, so when it came crashing down, so did their spirits. That's reflected in the searching, depressed, and aching tone of tracks like "Paradigm Shift" and the slow-burn rager "Call Me a Mistake."
"That was the hardest thing — we didn't have anything going on. We were sitting in our studio for so long just thinking, 'What the hell are we doing with our lives?' that you run out of things to say," he says. "Five years ago, I would've never admitted to any shortcomings. It would've been the end of the world for anyone to know any of my dirty secrets or things that were less than flattering. Now I don't care anymore. I think we're just becoming more accepting of who we are as people."
The out-of-pocket cost of finishing up the album has limited their touring, keeping them shackled to Denver since March 2012. They've also begun work on what will be at least an EP and what they hope will develop into a full-length album by the end of the summer. But first, they must hit the road.
"We're going stir-crazy here at home," Heckman says. "It's been a little tricky. We've got guerrilla-style everything lately just to try to keep our album going and keep our heads above water. But we're really excited to get out in front of people again."
The feeling's about to get mutual.