Q&A — shadow work Searches for Meaning on New EP “Imago”

Denver-based trio shadow work makes music that washes over you like a tide raging beneath the full moon, ripping you from your feet and casting you out into the unknown and uncertain, now at the mercy of something greater than yourself. It’s simultaneously comforting and disorienting as you let it take you further into the sea, forced to trust it. But trust it you shall, because this is music to be swept away by, destination be damned, the ride beautiful and introspective.

Their upcoming EP “Imago,” set to be released on August 1st, takes you down into the depths and their darkness before offering you a hand wrapped in sunlight to grasp as it pulls you up for air. It’s alive with rich soundscapes created by each member of the band’s intricate playing who weave around each other deftly and with confidence.

The band spoke to 303 Magazine about intention when creating mood, the power of influence, creating depth as a trio, the beauty of covers and more.

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303 Magazine: You’ve described yourself as an “art mood-rock band” and, after hearing “Imago,” I’d say the music very much fits the description. Could you talk a little bit about how you’ve been able to craft such a unique sound? 

shadow work: Geddy Lee once talked about originality as something that emerges when the artist has too many influences to keep track of and that’s certainly something that has played itself out in our story. We each have a different yet highly omnivorous musical diet, so to speak. The sounds and grooves that result often function as new connections between personal styles that we can expand on in the future. The recurring “moodiness” is sometimes purposefully defined, other times occurring organically. Ultimately, we don’t try to force uniqueness. The discovery and description of a given mental picture is at the forefront of our craft.

303: Your music is so rich and deep, at times incredibly complex yet cohesive, something made even more impressive given that you’re a three-piece. Can you talk about how you achieve this level of cohesion amongst the complexity?

shadow work: Being a trio is a huge part of that. In fact, working in an ever-trilateral creative space might even make it easier to maintain that cohesion because there are fewer limits to how much space any one of us can take up. It is quite apparent and easy to work around when that limit is pushed. But generally, there is so much space to fill when we confront a blank space that we might even use a complex idea as a starting point and introduce simpler ideas later to temper it.

303: I would like to talk about lyrics as well. They’re almost a bit sparse on the EP. A lot of the time you really let the music speak but that means the lyrics to hit harder when they do appear. What informs your lyrics and are there topics you find yourself really gravitating towards? Is it personal experience, outside inspiration or anything in particular you could tell us about? 

shadow work: During the process of writing “Imago,” Rafael’s (lead singer and guitar player) mind was contemplating several different topics: life and death, spiritual uncertainty, self-worth, trust, a desire for security and understanding from those around you. The feeling of holding it all together even though you feel yourself unraveling. For the most part, these lyrics were Rafael’s attempt at keeping steady ground mentally in a world he doesn’t always feel fully equipped for. Almost all of the songs on “Imago” started as a poem of some sort. He was trying to return to his creative core as a writer while disregarding the guard rails of traditional song structure.

303: Your live shows are incredibly high-energy and engaging, the passion and talent on full display. What makes a great performance in your words?

shadow work: We practice religiously, so a big part of performing is cultivating the skill of divided attention – maintaining loyalty to both the song and the present moment. A great performance in any environment or volume level often enables the listener to go “somewhere else.” We very much believe that music has and is always using the power to teach and to heal, so one might count that as something among our goals. It’s no small achievement for any musician to get someone to close their eyes.

shadow work

303: “Imago” seems to represent a certain amount of evolution for y’all as a band. It’s confident yet vulnerable, dense but accessible. When crafting an EP or just new music in general, is the idea of evolution something that y’all think about? Can you walk us through your creative process a bit and give us a little insight into how you craft a new project?

shadow work: We definitely stay conscious when writing. We are mindful of the territory we’ve already covered and are at least vaguely aware of where we want to go. But it’s also important to us that we don’t spread ourselves thin when it comes to vibe, texture, style, etc. We certainly try to avoid repeating ourselves, but we aren’t on a mission to hide the transformations either. Some songs are expansions of past ideas, recast by a new understanding. At the end of the day, nothing is off-limits when we write, and that never changes. What does change is how we narrow our options to make decisions on the path to a completed work, which is something one can always be better at.

303: Let’s talk covers. You do an incredible reimagining of “Somebody to Love” on the EP and I’ve seen y’all play a pretty monstrous “War Pigs” before. How do you go about choosing which covers you’re going to do and what steps do you take to make them your own? Do you have some particular favorites? 

shadow work: Expanding the repertoire is always a joy, whether that involves a re-imagination of the structure or something more faithful to it. The covers we choose are generally classics, which gives them a special function in the set: they provide contrast to our own sounds, and we simultaneously get to pay respects to certain members of the great multitude that have inspired us to do what we do.  “Changes” by Black Sabbath (in the style of Charles Bradley) is a collective favorite we love coming back to.

303: Finally, is there anything you have coming up besides the EP release?

shadow work: You can catch us in Denver on August 13th at Lost Lake, performing alongside The Giving Moon. We’re also very excited to have a headlining spot at Endless Fest in Fort Collins (August 24 – 26). And this fall, keep an eye out for a music video of a song off this EP.