The Star Prairie Project is the brainchild of Nolen R. Chew Jr., a songwriter from Star Prairie, Wisconsin. As he collaborates with musicians and producers from LA to London to bring his songs to life, The Star Prairie Project includes Nolen R. Chew Jr., the mastermind songwriter behind the creations, Rudiger, exuding talents on vocals, instrumentation, and production, Marcello Vieira tackling vocals, and production, Ricardo Dikk undertaking the instrumentation, engineering, and production, as well as his manager.
Releasing their second album, “Surreal,” on December 18th, 2020, the intoxicating sounds don't miss a beat as they sway between styles of hard-charging Rock anthems to seamlessly woven with silky smooth ballads. Although each song has its own life, the full work as a whole remains top tier as a concept album. As a venture through fresh, stylish melodies with lyrical adventures, listeners are in for the ultimate sonic voyage.
Beginning with a dystopian fueled ambiance drenched in futuristic elements, “Area 51,” takes us into the depths of, “Surreal.” With the soothing elements floating on top of the enticing instrumentation, the lively presentation of each note progressing through this particular piece has the speakers feeling full as it matches the ampleness of your heart. Oscillating through each winding road of this composition, your mind follows each melody shed as you fall deep into the music presented. The Star Prairie Project sets the tone instantaneously as you are swept into their sonic emissions that have you anticipating what’s next to come.
“Hang in There Becca,” gracefully emanates a slower tempo as the mellifluous creations illustrate abstract imagery as you take in each word carefully crafted. The depths of the vocal range match the efforts of the instrumentation in an effortless manner as each instrument has its own time to shine underneath its well-deserved spotlight. The pulsating resonance has you weaving in between the tight drum patterns and opulent guitar chords shed. As the vibrant rhythm is set, we are fully engrossed in a softer more delicate side of The Star Prairie Project offered up as we digest the mesmerizing arrangement.
In the deep echoes of, “Contemplating Plato,” we waver in a weighty Rock filled anthem that shakes us to our core. Displaying raucous talents offered up as we sip on something a little harder in order to capture the full potential this track has, we eagerly hang onto each word shed in this journey of disorder, chaos, and finding yourself. A combination that fits together more often than we’d like to admit. Delving into numerous musical melodies, “Contemplating Plato,” has us wrapping our head around the depths that The Star Prairie Project will go to get messages across. We can anxiously say that we’re all for it.
Commencing with the warm strums of an acoustic guitar, we see yet another side of the multidimensional talents offered up by The Star Prairie Project. “Sophia,” acts as a ballad that shows utter appreciation and love for the lovely recipient, Sophia. A heartfelt performance is doused in raw emotion as we escalate through the highs of a record of this caliber. Wistful thinking has us sinking into our seats as we take in all that is the fourth song on, “Surreal.”
Electronic atmospheres fill the soundscape in a cosmic display of artistic versatility in, “A Sacred Space.” The washy timbres that reign from within have us immersed in the full storytelling method approach that was approached in order to bring the melodic composition of this record home. As we dip into a realm where the prevailing keys being played stand out as a staple piece, we continue to bop our head to the welcoming tempo that greets our mindset in the most pleasant manner. “A Sacred Space,” lives in our minds rent-free as we can relate to our headspace being a sacred space of our own.
“Steady as She Goes,” transports us into a utopia of ease matched with grace. Emanating a particular hopefulness as this composition presents itself in a seamless fashion, we find this song so flawlessly fitting as a soundtrack to our lives. The elegance and charm that hails from “Steady as She Goes,” makes it so the vocals cascade upon the instrumentation in the most pleasant listening fashion. The Star Prairie Project captures the cordiality of this story as we find ourselves fully engrossed in the captivating methods they use in their music as we fall just past the halfway mark of this album.
The eighth song to come in on the tracklist of “Surreal,” is “Sea of Change,” a zesty performance that has us swiftly feeling the ambiance of what it’s like to coast through a sea of descendants. Presenting a buoyant essence in the vivacious tones set, we’re opened up to a world of nostalgia as our minds transport to the windows rolled all the way down in our cars as we hit the freeway and cruise in the balminess of the sun. There is a certain warm embrace that pulls us into the composition of, “Sea of Change.” We find ourselves hooked to each electric beat shed as we fully take in what this track has to offer.
As we slow the motions down through distortion and sentiment fueled timbres, “Watching and Waiting,” offers a deep retrospect into the boisterous angst shed by The Star Prairie Project. You’ll want to turn the volume up a few notches for this instant headbanging record. As the rambunctious spirit of the guitars chugs on in an electric fashion, we dip in and out of the piece as our attention shifts whenever the instrumentation changes. “Watching and Waiting,” has us feeling victorious in a pool of conquering notes blistering through our headphones. This track flows in the river of dominance.
“Hello Darling,” has an inviting presence that has your curiosity peaking at an all-time high. With the reverberated appeal of the vocals stealing the spotlight, we can hear striking words of love plummeting into darkness through forgiveness, a lack of, and evolution. Every true sonic voyage needs a rest stop along the way and “Hello Darling,” manages to act as the deluxe breather to refresh our ears, while fueling the inner fire in our souls at the same time. Through the progression of the arrangement, we’re encouraged to get charged up as we take flight and coast simultaneously. Quite magical.
The tenth record that we are treated to on, “Surreal,” is the groove infectious, “Home of Hope.” Taking an Alternative detour in the expedition that we have set sail on, we’re invited to use a lens of confidence to shape our vision of what’s to come. By not allowing fear to conquer our hopes and dreams, we get on the top tier elevated level that The Star Prairie Project emboldens into us. With each electric strum and powerful drum hit, we capture a new essence from this collective aiming to inspire and enlighten minds.
As we near the end of this powerful concept album, we reach the immense hit, “The Crying.” Raspy and mellow vocals create a euphoria of meaningful and empowering voltage that surges through us like a birthright. Taking small droplets of power-driven spirits, the ripple effect that is created acts superior in the colossal method that The Star Prairie Project chooses to deliver this message to listeners. Gloriously exploding to the surface of Rock with each tune resonated. We keep the tempo just like the liveliness of the bass setting the rhythmic ether intended.
“Life’s Too Short,” is the final record on “Surreal,” that allows us to reflect on the smooth vocalization presented in this song. Dipping our toes into a refined ambiance, we can hear a polished edge that trucks on as we’re able to place our focus on the delicate lyrics written. Presenting a prevailing message of life being too short to live in misery, we see the spirit of The Star Prairie Project shine brightly through layers of enthralling musical ascendency. The unmatched guitar solo fits like a high fashion glove as it washes over us in time to capture the final chorus and outro of, “Life’s Too Short,” and the full album of, "Surreal"
Welcome to BuzzMusic, The Star Prairie Project! Congratulations on the release of your album, “Surreal.” What was the inspiration behind making this a concept album?
Nolen: Early on in 2020 I kept hearing the word surreal being used to describe the crazy schizoid events that were occurring around us in this bizarre of bizarre years. The first song of the album we recorded was 'A Sacred Space'. It was full of esoteric studio effects and metaphysical lyrics. A friend said the song sounded surrealistic. That's when I first thought of calling the album surreal and developing a concept theme for the album. Surreal: having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic: It was a perfect theme! The discerning listener will notice how the songs are juxtaposed between moods of darkness and light and hope and despair. The concept album alternates between songs like the dystopian 'Hello Darling' to the upbeat and soothing 'Home of Hope'. The album ends on the bright promise of renewal in 'Life's Too Short'.
Do you have a specific track out of the twelve songs that you dive into that resonates with you more than others? What’s your reasoning behind this pick?
Nolen: That would have to be 'Contemplating Plato'. I had finished the music for the song and was having problems with the lyrical lines. I had previously thrown out several sets of lyrics. Nothing seemed to fit what was teasing me in the recesses of my mind. I decided to just leave it to rest for a day or two. The next morning I drove my wife to a hospital appointment in St. Paul. I didn't want to wait around for more than an hour in a hospital waiting room in the middle of the Covid epidemic so I went out to the parking garage and sat in the car and started reading a book. The book mentioned Plato writing about his famous shadowy cave scenario and his referral to the ancient antediluvian city of Atlantis falling. I started thinking of the great logical and reason-based mind of Plato and today's post-factual conspiracy frenzies. 'Contemplating Plato' was born. I wrote the words down on an expired copy of my car registration that was in my glove box. It fit the concept I was developing of the album perfectly. I love that song and Marcello and Dikk did such a great job of setting the mood that set the stage for the lyrical melody.
What was it like working with the various talents that you did on, “Surreal?”
Nolen: We had the same team working on 'Surreal' that worked together on our debut album 'Panacea'. So we had some experience working together and had some time to develop a bit of synergy. Between Rudiger and Marcello there was quite a disparate vocal style and range. Between Rudiger and Dikk there were also very contrasting guitar styles. This made for an interesting range of genres, styles, and moods. The fact that all three were awesome producers and sound engineers just took the project to an entirely different level. I think we were all on the same wavelength from the very beginning. At one point Rudiger was mixing 'Hello Darling' the same time Marcello and Dikk were mixing 'Watching and Waiting'. I heard the final mixes the same afternoon and it was downright eerie how much synchronicity there was playing out considering Rudiger was in LA and Marcello and Dikk were in Portugal. It was downright 'Surreal' Ha!
Could you please take us into a glimpse of what the creative process looked like when bringing this album to life?
Nolen: I am blessed to be surrounded by so much musical talent. All three collaborators on this project are experienced musicians and producers. I am the primary songwriter although we are doing more and more writing together. For this album, about half of the songs were written during the recording session time frame. The other half were songs I had recently written and had demo tapes prepared but hadn't fully produced. Then there were a few songs that we didn't have room to fit on 'Panacea' but had pre-released as singles like 'Steady as She Goes' and 'Home of Hope' that I wanted to get on the album. I have total trust in these guys! Total! When I prepare a demo tape and send it out to one of them to produce, I give them a big leash! It's part of the fun of the project to see how the song is developed and arranged and how the instrumentation is choreographed. It is truly a team effort and the creative process explodes when we feel unfettered and that the creative field is wide open. That's one big advantage to being an Indie recording act; our music is uninhibited by the establishment or executives who want to put their finger in the pie and "make things better" ha! We feel like our music is fresh and authentic and hope to keep it that way.
What themes and messages would you like your listeners to take away from “Surreal”?
The themes and messages on this album are abundant and diverse. They run the gamut of our emotional ranges. I feel that's what makes the album as a composite so powerful. This is a Pandemic album no doubt. It was written at a time of upheaval and change. Political, social, cultural, technological change, and upheaval. Our perspectives seem surreal. We seem to swing from moods of anger, terror, depression, and anxiety to those of hope, renewal, innovation, and acceptance. The messages conflict and collide in a cacophony of clashes and retreats. That's what 2020 was. That's what a concept album in 2020 has to be! For The Star Prairie Project anyway.