Progressive rock continues in a new album
One of our favorite albums of 2020 was “First Animal” by Trevor Bates.
The Little Rock musician ticked all the boxes for DIY rock ‘n’ roll, delivering a fuzzy punk track that looked like Sebadoh crossed with Iggy and the Stooges. It is heavenly.
And now Bates, 35, is back with, uh, a progressive rock record?
It’s true, and it’s great. “No Way Out” is a single track that spans almost 20 minutes with multiple segments, mood swings, drama and complex musicality. It’s rock, jazz, theater and all the other pitfalls of prog and tells the story – and in prog there is always a story – of an insect that gets caught in a spider’s web. .
Find it on Bate’s Bandcamp page, trevorbates.bandcamp.com/album/no-way-out, or the usual streaming outlets.
Recorded on tape by Nathan Moore at Rosebud Studios and mixed by Jason Weinheimer at Fellowship Hall Sound, the project features Aaron Shaneyfelt on drums, guitarist Charles Wyrick and Bates on vocals, keyboards and bass. Moore also painted the perfectly progressive surreal cover.
While the jump from the punk garage of “First Animal” to the awe-inspiring “No Way Out” may seem shocking, Bates’ past indicates it’s not all that surprising.
His dad, Sam, blasted progressive rock when Bates was a kid.
“Progressive and classic rock is what I heard growing up,” he says. “There’s a very strong connection to my dad. That’s what I heard around the house – Kansas and Yes and Rush. It was his thing.”
When Bates started making his own music, he turned to the complex approach, the more progressive it was.
“It wasn’t until college that I discovered stuff like Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr and simpler bands and songs,” he says.
But while these influences marked the more aggressive “First Animal”, his natural instincts were still firmly rooted in progressive rock, even if it wasn’t so hip.
“It’s not cool at all,” he laughs. “It took me a long time to come back and say, hey, that’s part of my musical identity. I have some of these songs that I need to get out of my system.”
With that in mind, we chatted with Bates about the Top 5 Progressive Rock Albums that influenced him the most, which we feature in a list that has been edited for clarity and length:
1. “Mask” – Kansas: “My dad’s favorite band. I grew up listening to ‘Masque’. The first two songs are really old-fashioned and you just have to ignore them, but the rest of the album is pretty prog. Starting with ‘Icarus’ all the way to ‘to the last song, “The Pinnacle”, which is an epic 10-minute, Kansas and’ Mask ‘really influenced my prog outlook for the rest of my life. “
2. “Power and Glory” – Gentle Giant: “Another band my dad introduced me to. It’s about as technical and pretentious as it sounds. They all play multiple instruments. They have this very complex voice that they are known for and have been emulated by lots of prog bands. There are some super tasty parts of it. They were a huge touchstone for me. ‘Valedictory’ is super groovy but also really weird. “
3. “A wizard / a real star” – Todd Rundgren: “I turned to this in college and it’s kind of the first album that was my progressive music and not my dad’s. There are more pop and psychedelic elements. I think. [Rundgren] had just experimented with a bunch of psychedelic drugs but was making super complex music. The whole first side of the album flows like a long song. One of my favorite albums of all time. “
4. “Flying teapot” – Gong: “They were part of the Canterbury scene with bands like Soft Machine; really jazzy prog, lots of brass, abstract drum parts. What sets them apart from Gong is that they still retain that psychedelic feel. There’s this extended experimentation and they’re going to break into a jazz-rock fusion. “
5. “Love is a fool forever” – Daniel Romano: “He’s Canadian and very prolific. It’s one of the albums he released last year and it’s a 22 minute single, very similar to ‘No Way Out.’ A theme that runs through him. I listened to that a ton last year while recording “First Animal” and it was a huge inspiration for me to revisit the prog. I was like, man, that’s cool. That has a link with the prog bands my father loved but also the psychedelic stuff that fascinates me. “