There is a direct kinship between Anthemic Indie-Rock and Alternative carried through with smoldering depth on their debut album, 'Siren Star'—the band's most erupting-sound yet. Rather than catching your attention with occultism or strangeness, Viserra hooks us with their soaring vocals from Lexi, reminiscent of an earlier rendering of a Young Hayley Williams, and singing to us with passion soaked grit of her own blend; enticings us with the driving band behind her.
Viserra, the LA-based four-piece band, splits open into the intro on "Light Years," "I found you out there, a dark place," with effortless control as she continues, "you knew there'd be no time to waste," before the instrumentals slowly evolve from an anthemic rally, into a shapeshifting down tempo bridge, before the final cries in the epic chorus. Like pandora's box, the band surprises, making it clear that the journey they're about to take us is on one worth immersing ourselves in totally. Viserra's sound is tight yet unwinding as it seems tailored by enormous rock instrumental orchestrations, but magnetically, in a way that pulls our curiosities from one end to the other.
On "Weightless," which clamors down on the first beat—sounding thick and encompassing—Lexi's impassioned vocal uproars with a raw grit in quality, amplified by the sharpened edge of the guitar and bass who propel the anthemic surges of this stadium filling record to new heights. But then "Falling Faster" is next, and it feels like a light tap on the brake pedal.
Here this is space, allowing for a more whimsical atmosphere before Viserra begins dialing up the reverb and echo effects and attaching a forward-moving momentum through the densely sampled drums. It's all busy but feels inviting end-to-end, even as it wavers close to overwhelming.
Viserra's trademark artistic flash and beckoning guitar riffs are sustained with a uniform aesthetic on "Harder To Breath," where our fondness of Lexi's centered vocals grows. She squeezes every last drop out of each fervid word before Michael Riffle's backup vocal provides the heroic callback, "we're already falling faster," as their harmonies unify together and evaporate into the umbrae of a blistering guitar solo. The smoldering and exaggerated bend of each note at the tipping point of this song says more about the nature behind the band's collaborating producer, Brandon C. Rogers, further than his list of worked-with artists ever could.
The opening moment in "Midnight Sun" sounds straight from a guided mediation tape before it divulges into a saturated mix of epic proportions—a distinguishing characteristic of Viserra's fundamental tendencies. Lexi's vocals distort as she reaches her highest sopranos on this part of the album, providing a new texture for the instrumentations to build off, as their intensifying energies become prevalent.
'Siren Star'—with cover art that transforms in color for each partnering track—shows fluency in articulating its heroic and venturous themes through its long stanzas and efficient rock 'n' roll drive, evident in the potent drums and blazing guitars that unmistakably operate as a cornerstone in their writing.
"Far From Over," the final track feels like a cousin to the climax in "Falling Faster" from earlier, But in contrast, Viserra's figure takes on a more whimsical star-gazing persona as it imparts a unique after-glow: conferring the finishing polish over the plentifully robust touring of this L.A. Rock band's debut catalog. When Lexi sings, "I'm tired, I'm tired, lost in time," it's an embrace of loneliness and the limitations of our expansive universe—a statement with the unflinching sentiment. It all comes to an end with a hopeful release, as Lexi's voice yields the final crescendos, like howling at the moon in anticipation for something more meaningful in the beyond.
Listen to 'Siren Star' here.
Can you walk us through what it was like working with Brandon C. Rogers for this record? What kind of producer-hat did he have on for the creation of 'Siren Star'?
Raf: Aside from being an incredibly talented industry veteran of 20 years, Brandon’s one of my closest friends, and has become very tight with the band over the past few years, supporting us from the start. With regards to the album, Brandon was initially just going to record and produce the vocal tracks but more than anyone, he truly saw their potential and became involved top to bottom -- mixing, mastering, and producing the whole thing. I’m sure there were a few times along the way where he wanted to strangle me, but nothing we wouldn’t laugh off over some hot chicken. In all seriousness, he really elevated the entire production immeasurably.
Lexi: Working with Brandon was such a blast. His positive energy is definitely contagious which made recording this album so much fun. He pushed me past my comfort zone vocally and helped me from holding back.
Steve: Brandon has been great. His experience was fantastic in guiding us through the recording process. We have been playing these songs live for 2.5 years now, but hearing them through Brandon’s vision and the mix has given them new life to my ears. He’s really taken the tracks to levels we couldn't have imagined.
Mike: Brandon is the kind of person who's willing and able to tell you that you sound bad, but do it in a way that doesn't make you feel bad. Working with him got my backing vocals to a place I was happy with. He really brings out the best in all of us.
What proved to be the most challenging part of the recording and releasing this record?
Mike: We had all the songs pretty much ready to record for a few months before we actually started, and I think the biggest challenge was the sheer volume of effort that went behind recording and producing all the tracks. We had it in our heads that we could get it all done in less than a month and it quickly became pretty clear that would be impossible.
Raf: There was no shortage of challenges along the way, one of which was the sheer volume of live shows we kept committing to throughout the process. As Mike alluded to, we’d actually scheduled a release party before the album was even finished, believing it would give us a hard deadline to get it all done, but we must’ve been out of our minds. I think we had literally one track finished by the time of the show, so we had to revise our entire timetable. One month soon turned into six or seven, including some COVID-related delays. After 2.5 years of meeting up constantly, the four of us haven’t actually been in a room together in months, so that’s been a challenge, as well.
Lexi: My nerves. I tend to doubt myself in the studio vocally at times so knowing that this was going to be recorded and permanent was pretty nerve-racking. Fortunately like I mentioned before, Brandon truly got me out of my funk and showed me what a badass I could be on the mic.
Steve: The anticipation. As Raf and Mike mentioned we were pretty stoked to get the album out on a much shorter timeline, and I was definitely a driving force behind that. Originally we were considering producing the album ourselves, but as soon as I heard the first track from Brandon, I knew that we were on the right track and patience would be a virtue I’d have to pursue a change. The lockdown has also had an impact, the final tracks had to be approved in a very old school way of passing the tracks around.
How did the four of you meet, and when was it confirmed that you'd be forming Viserra and releasing a debut album soon after?
Raf: Well, “soon after” is a bit generous, but backing up, Mike and I met almost a decade ago in a dodgeball league, of all places. Not long after, four of us from the league formed a cover band, and while that was short-lived, it was a stepping stone. Over the next few years, we bounced around a few different bands together, but the ultimate vision we shared from the start was what eventually became Viserra. The interesting thing is, even though we didn’t form the band until 2017, we knew Lexi would be our singer back in 2014 -- or we hoped, anyway. I came across her videos online and fell in love with her voice and energy immediately. Turned out she was actually moving to New York City, so the timing wasn’t right, but lucky for us, she came back to LA a few years later and we got right to work. We spent the fall of 2017 just learning a ton of Flyleaf and Paramore covers, just to get used to each other and key in on a sound. We spent 2018 gigging, writing and fine-tuning the Siren Star songs, and 2019 gigging even more, and finally had the right situation to get the album recorded when Brandon came on board. By the time the album drops, it will have been three years to the day since we formed, and I think it not only benefited the music, but the band chemistry as well, as we’ve really grown in that time, and needless to say, it won’t be three years till the next one.
Mike: As Raf said, he and I have been collaborating for ages. I pulled Steve in when we decided to start the project that became Viserra. Steve and I met playing in a jam group that I found through the bassist of the cover band Raf mentioned, and it just made sense to bring him on. The rest is history.
Steve: I spent a few months jamming with a group of people with a constantly rotating line of drummers and Mike was one of those. After a few times playing together, Mike mentioned he had a friend (Raf) who knew of a singer (Lexi) and was looking to assemble a band and about two months after that we were playing in a rehearsal space together.
Lexi: The boys pretty much got this covered! But I will say how nervous and flattered I was when they reached out to me. I was writing indie sad songs by myself so I loved the concept of a rock band. I’m so grateful that they were patient with me and still wanted to work with me when I returned back home!
What can we expect to see from you as a group in the latter half of 2020? Should we be on the lookout for an exciting collaboration or some new singles tailing into autumn?
Steve: More epic bass lines.
Lexi: Expect the unexpected! Viserra is just starting so buckle up.
Raf: You can absolutely expect more from us sooner than later. Before we recorded Siren Star, we started writing the next set of songs and even played some of them live, so we’re very eager to get those out into the world and keep the momentum going, probably as a series of singles this time around, every few months hopefully.
Mike: And if we play our cards right, we'll also be putting out some additional media as well. Siren Star is a concept album, so there's more to it than just the music.
What are you doing to keep inspired and motivated through these tough times?
Lexi: Well, I got a puppy! He keeps me busy! I have also been teaching myself the ukulele and re-teaching myself piano.
Steve: I’m one of those people who can’t sit still. Being stuck inside has driven me to take on a whole bunch of new hobbies such as building animatronics and creating new ways to project video into props like astronaut helmets and whatnot. These will definitely take Viserra’s live shows to new levels once we start playing shows again.
Mike: With everything going on it's definitely hard. I took my family on a trip across the country in an RV. Nothing quite like the night sky in the middle of nowhere, or sunset on the rocks in Utah or Colorado to really spark something inside.
Raf: I’m still trying to convince Mike to trick out the RV in Viserra/Siren Star shrinkwrap while tossing promo packs into the windows of passing cars, but the jury’s still out on that one. Honestly, just getting the album across the finish line and securing AWAL as our distributor, while getting everything in order to promote the album, that’s basically been our spring and summer, so it’s gonna be amazing to finally have it out there, and see where it goes from there.