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GYPSY ROAD: Letters To A Friend, From Interstate

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May 24

Often you can tell a lot about an album from the title alone. Although there is no set formula, as a general rule if the title is ambiguous and/or has many potential meanings, then the band has obviously put some degree of thought into the naming rights.

Which is why when I came across the debut album from Melbourne outfit Gypsy Road, I instantly found a plethora of thoughts and musical emotions swirling through my tainted mind as to how emotionally deep and rich these eight songs would be. A sense that would dive deeper after reading the press release which states the songs offer a “sonic journey highlighting the emotional struggles the band faces throughout the whole project”.

While on the surface Letters To A Friend, From Interstate may not spark instant feelings of melancholy, the countless different meanings and references this could point to paint an entirely alterior landscape. Could it be a tale of unrequited love? Lost friendships? Holiday travels? Or something more sinister?

There’s only one way to find out and that’s to hit play, so off we go into the unknown and first track Sky High. A gentle guitar riff greets us from the outset, setting a calming and almost ambient platform, which is soon joined by a healthy dose of drums that usher in a swathe of engaging vocals that soon take centre stage.

This is essentially a softer rock number given added urgency by sudden splurges of intent from drummer James Dagiandas that are nothing more than fleeting moments of insolence amongst a sea of pleasantries.

The drums quicken considerably about halfway through, which in turn allows vocalist/guitarist Alex Centofanti the freedom to further explore the rougher side of his tonsils without straying too far outside of the realms of hard rock. It is a well-crafted and solid opening track that shows Gypsy Road are willing and capable of getting down and dirty without actually getting their hands too dirty.

Not an easy thing to do…

The 7 Stages Of Grief rides a wave of longing before settling into an even-paced and unobtrusive number that has an underlying sense of loss and/or sorrow bristling around the edges.

Centofanti uses his voice to great effect here, allowing subtle moments of harshness to breach the surface while maintaining a rhythmic and consistent tempo that allows the track to rise and fall like the ocean tides.

These guys certainly know how to play to their strengths, playing with and almost against each other to create a harmonious balance that has just enough by the way of simmering hostility to keep you guessing. Not that I am expecting a massive breakdown of sorts – but this music does not need nor cater to that. Instead, it is an exploration of sonic division that is given substance by the emotional commitment of its members.

What I Know is next, a subtle guitar run kept at bay as Centofanti leads from the front with an authoritative vocal intro of contrasting moods and emotions. It’s difficult to pinpoint what bands or music his vocals remind me of, so I will give up trying to compare and just say it is a refreshingly layered range that covers the full spectrum of musical integrity and precision in a way that has you riding the rollercoaster of life almost as an involuntary passenger.

This is a whimsical and almost dreamy tune that has feel-good sensibilities painted all over it. Upbeat and happy, it seems Gypsy Road know enough already at this early stage of their career to write a decent tune.

The title track rolls into place next, a comforting guitar riff guiding us down a path into more aggressive territory that sees Gypsy Road succumb to the anger that has been circling the album in a brief moment of intensity that seems to clear the air enough for the band to return once more to calmer waters.

This is definitely the heaviest track on the album so far but is cleverly handled in that it doesn’t lose itself completely to the darkness, offering up moments of more punk-infused rock sensibilities that manage to capture the feelings of discontentment without spilling over completely into the rougher waters that threaten.

The wickedly titled James Boags Draught takes centre stage with an up-tempo and chirpy disposition that is carried by a tasty drum pattern that compels the rest of the band to follow lead and gradually increase momentum until it becomes almost an anthemic beer-swilling number. It’s made me thirsty anyway.

Honestly, This Gave Me PTSD has the best title on the album and after a brief spoken intro, Gypsy Road further explore their punk influences with a fast-paced and angry little number that bristles with anarchic intent. The way these guys flip haphazardly from and between genres is a highlight of the album. The transitions are seamless and effective, reducing the potential for things to get even slightly stale or monotonous without getting their ambitions mixed up with their capabilities.

I’m not even going to try and pronounce the next one, but if you find you can read it out loud and make even part sense of it then you’re a better multi-linguist than me. L’antipasto è buono, la pizza ancora di più! is the name of the song, which I’m pretty sure might be Slovakian for What The Fuck, but I am terrible at geography so let’s just focus on the song shall we?

A tasty guitar run kicks things off before retreating into a vocal-led track of obvious sorrow and neglect. Centofanti is almost screaming at his intended target, seemingly kept in check only by the calming acoustic strains that surround his every note.

It’s an interesting and different number that is surprisingly much better than I am making it sound. It accentuates the age-old notion in music of less is more on occasions, highlighting the fact that you don’t need a multitude of instruments or samples to make a song breathe.

Then I look back to the tracklisting and realise that with three minutes down we still have another three to go, and for the first time I find myself hoping for some form of intervention to spice things up a little.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a soothing and reflective song that purrs in all the right places but I also know my attention span for the milder side of life has its limitations, so I’m not upset or ashamed to skip the rest of the unpronounceable song to take me to the album closer Catch22.

This starts with an almost apologetic sincerity, awash with a swirling guitar riff that hints at a meandering close to proceedings. But Gypsy Road have other plans, finding their groove quickly and increasing the intensity in gradual increments that threaten to topple into darkness but manage to waiver unnervingly on the fringes.

The guitar sounds great on this track, allowing Centofanti the opportunity to fully showcase his chops, but you almost get the sense this track is as much about the band members jamming to their own sonic demons rather than facing the battle together. It is a wicked piece of opposing cohesion that comes full circle by the end of the song to send Gypsy Road back into the wilderness of music as a singularly functioning unit without a clear and distinct path laid before them.

Which is something the music industry needs more of.


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