Review Fix chats with musician James Hrabak about his new project Slack Armada and its debut EP. Along the way, discusses some of the EP’s tracks and how he’d like his music to affect those that listen in.
For more information on Hrbak and his wickedly mellow and deep tunes, click here.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this EP?
James Hrabak: The greatest inspiration for this EP and Slack Armada, in general, is time. Stepping away from music for a number of years, I desperately wanted to get back. My kids are, thankfully, sleeping through the night now, and that gave me more time to create. Finally, I wanted to set an example for my kids and inspire them to be creative. Watching them grow up, I wanted them to have something from me that was more than a photo or an old watch or some type of conventional keepsake.
Review Fix: You played all the instruments on the EP. How taxing is that?
Hrabak: It was more mentally taxing than anything. Thank technology for that. The guitars and some of the bass are traditional instrumentation. The rest, including the drums, are programmed. I tried to get the drums sounding as natural as possible and that was the greatest challenge.
Review Fix: How hard is it to have so much control over the content?
Hrabak: Not hard at all. My day job as an investment strategist demands that I make decisions constantly. The hardest part of having total creative control on this project is knowing when to stop. There’s a lot going on under the surface on this EP. At some point the layering and instrumentation can cross over from musical necessity to demonstration of capability.
Review Fix: How do you want your music to affect people?
Hrabak: There are no bangers on this EP. This is music that requires a bit more patience of the listener. My hope is that those who embrace it will allow it to take them to different places, either to revisit fond memories or to places they want to go. For those who learn more about me as a person and an artist, I hope it inspires them to tap into their own creativity. This world needs more people who are committed to creating amazing things.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Hrabak: My creative process for this EP was a bit start-stop. A good chunk of time was committed to learning the equipment and software. It was not as smooth a creative flow as I would have liked. Most of the songs started with rhythm tracks and the melodies and progressions were built around the beats.
Review Fix: “Rebirth” is such a deeply-woven instrumental song. How was it written and how do you want people to look at it?
Hrabak: “Rebirth” was the first song that really started to come together for me. There’s a lot going on, but most of it is subtle. It started with drums and I worked up a couple of simple guitar lines for the first section. Many have mistaken the guitars for keyboards, but that’s because the guitar parts are heavily affected. The first half quietly builds up to the middle section where more traditional rock drumming takes over. The back half keeps a more aggressive drum feel, but the instrumentation shifts to more piano tones. What this song felt like to me, once it started to coalesce, was a reflection of my creative rebirth. It starts slow with some tension. Then there’s the breakthrough. Finally, as the landscape is surveyed and understood, you can progress on the journey.
Review Fix: What inspired the guitar work in “Looper”?
Hrabak: I played in a noisy, riff-heavy, band in college and I wanted to see if that vibe would come back to me. It’s a super-simple two-chord riff and I do a lot of tinkering under the surface with loops and effects. It’s a bit stoner-rock, but it was fun to make. Looper is the one song on the EP that feels a bit bare without vocals.
Review Fix: What song do you believe is most indicative of your style?
Hrabak: I wish I could give you a good answer on that. All of the songs reflect me in some way. My philosophy for Slack Armada is to release only EPs. That way I can get the music out more frequently and each release will be a very concentrated dose of what I was doing at the time. I will say that the next EP will be much leaner, more song-oriented, and will have vocals. We’ll see if a particular style emerges after a couple more releases.
Review Fix: How do you want this work to be remembered a few years from now?
Hrabak: I would like for this debut EP to be viewed as a solid foundation for a musical career that progressed and got better with each subsequent release. Review Fix: What’s next for you?
Hrabak: The next couple of months will be spent building a fan base and developing Slack Armada’s social media presence. Doing so much of this on my own has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about web design, photo and video editing, etc. It has been a blast. My goal is to get back to creating music in the spring and have a new EP ready by late summer. My goal is to keep a perpetual creative cycle going between music and digital art and trying to connect with as many people as I can along the way.