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Pianos Become The Teeth have never been the kind of band who are easy to distill into a simple soundbite and that’s more evident than ever on the band's fourth full-length Wait For Love, an album that sees the Baltimore-based act reconciling their aggressive past with the atmospheric turns of 2014's Keep You. The result is a collection of songs that eschews stylistic traps in order to focus on songwriting and feels like a full-realization of what the band have only hinted at in the past. The players—vocalist Kyle Durfey, guitarists Mike York and Chad McDonald, bassist Zac Sewell and drummer David Haik—may be the same this time around but their lives have continued to unravel and that journey lies at the emotional core of Wait For Love, which is a creative collaboration in the truest sense of the term.
“For Wait For Love my goal was just to write really interesting songs that pushed us forward as a band and allowed us to do something different than we had ever done in the past,” York explains. In order to get out of their comfort zone, the group isolated themselves in a cabin on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for extended writing excursions and ended up with a windfall of 30 songs by the time they entered the studio. Although Durfey—whose wife had recently had a child—was absent at some of these sessions, ultimately that event allowed the vocalist to approach Wait For Love from a different perspective. “I had so much more time to sit and ponder these songs and how I wanted to approach them,” he recalls. “I think that changed by approach to vocals because it wasn't this immediate thing, it was more thought out.”
In order to capture their vision the group once again joined forces with Keep You's producer Will Yip (Title Fight, Circa Survive) who acted like a sixth member when it came to shaping these songs. “Working with Will made us a better band as a whole because I think it helped us refine who we are and think about how to approach this record in a different way than we would have on our own,” York explains. That isn't to say that Wait For Love didn't have its share of setbacks—mainly the fact that Haik experienced a mysterious back injury a few days into the recording session—but even those unexpected events ultimately contributed to the overall sound of the album. “I think a goal of both of us and Will was to write solid songs and not be afraid of being catchy while still sounding like Pianos Become The Teeth,” Durfey explains.
Correspondingly the album opens with “Fake Lightning,” a transcendent musical meditation that pairs ambient guitars with impassioned vocals and Haik's driving drumming. Seamlessly that song gives way to “Charisma,” which features fuzzed-out bass and melodies that hang in the air long after the moment has passed. “I really wanted this to be an album where things weren't neatly defined and there were moments where you couldn't tell what was a guitar and what was a keyboard or sample,” York explains. This is exemplified on “Bitter Red” a song that's cinematic in scope yet nuanced enough to fit perfectly in the band’s catalog. In a similar spirit, Durfey's lyrics are still just as poetic but see him shifting his perspective from the loss of his father to what it feels like to be one himself.
“This album all ties into the idea of love and how love comes to you during different times in life in good and bad ways,” Durfey explains, adding that it was refreshing to further stretch out stylistically on this record after he transitioned from screaming to singing on Keep You. “To me this everything on this record is incredibly personal and as specific as it has been on every record but it's not solely based on one specific figure the way it has been in the past and I'm happy about that,” Durfey explains. That said, those familiar concepts of loss are present on the album's closing song “Blue,” which approaches the topic from a more hopeful perspective as a new father imagines the endless ways his own son's life will play out.
Pianos Become The Teeth could have easily remade a screamo-inspired album reminiscent of 2009's Old Pride or 2011's The Lack Long After and no one would fault them for it. But Wait For Love is a rare example of a band still discovering their sound over a decade into their career, a fact that’s present in every note of this expansive album. From the haunting “Dry Spells” to the experimentally minded “Bay Of Dreams,” there are moments on Wait For Love that are so dreamy they’re otherworldly, whether the catalyst is a sample or a single note. “This album has some of our most interesting guitar work but also some of the most pulled back ideas of what the record should be,” York adds.
“I think we all made an effort to be open to things and see what came out especially in the studio with this album, “Durfey summarizes when asked about the ambitious nature of Wait For Love. “When you've been playing music together for as long as we have it's easy to get in a rut,” he continues. “Wait For Love still sounds like us but there are different kinds of songs here and I don't think that would have happened if it weren't for making records like Keep You and being open to pushing forward into that uncharted territory. I’m just really excited for people to have their own experience with the album.”