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Godstick's Darran Charles on Being Accessibly Progressive

April 16, 2013
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ON GODSTICKS’ SOPHOMORE release, The Envisage Conundrum, the U.K.- based trio—Darran Charles (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Steve Roberts (drums, keyboards), and Dan Nelson (bass)—further refines its contemporary take on progressive pop rock. The music adheres to primary prog principles, including the use of tricky time signatures and sophisticated chord changes, interspersed with bursts of virtuosic soloing, but those elements never detract from the flow and melodic seductiveness of the songs.

“Our music is littered with odd time signatures, and I think it’s a common perception that odd time signatures are confined to progressive music,” says Charles. “But a few years ago, I attended a concert by English folk singer Kate Rusby, and as I tapped my foot along to the music, the nerd in me began to notice that there were lots of different time signatures at play. In fact, quite often in folk and country blues music, a lyric or a melody seems to force the band to add or subtract a beat at the end of a bar so as to not interrupt the flow of that phrase. They aren’t confined to a time signature, and if done well, the listener rarely notices. Now, if you write out one of our tunes on manuscript paper, it may look like the most pretentious music imaginable—just because of the vast array of time signatures on display. However, we’re often just employing the principle mentioned above: We add or subtract a beat or note as necessary to allow an idea to flow.

“When writing your own music, I don’t think there’s any better way to find inspiration than transcribing the music you enjoy listening to, as this often leads to chords, progressions, or phrasing you’ve never played before. I remember learning a Steely Dan tune and discovering an ugly sounding chord that I struggled to finger correctly. In order to feel comfortable with the fingering, I practiced different ways of playing it—arpeggios, chord stabs, etc.—and I came up with the intro to “Put Seven in Bold,” which features that very chord. The two songs don’t sound remotely like one another, which illustrates how transcribing can subconsciously inspire new ideas.

“I don’t believe in compositional ‘rules,’ but there should be an element of continuity to the music in order to retain the listener’s interest. For example, our song ‘Withdrawn Was the Giveaway’ builds in intensity toward the end of the first chorus, but rather than using a slightly amended version of the first verse for the second verse, we acknowledged that increase in intensity, and we wrote a second verse with a completely different feel. That change may sound alien to some listeners, but we felt like we were allowing the song to develop itself—however pretentious that may sound.”

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