Inner Wave’s new album, Apoptosis, is all about leaving the crowded space.
The dictionary definition of “apoptosis” is “the death of cells which occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development.” Inner Wave’s transformation during the past year was not the easiest. They dropped “wyd” at the beginning of the pandemic. A tour was to follow, perhaps another EP right after that — neither of those things happened. Since then, two members contracted the COVID-19 virus at the peak of the pandemic last December, a longtime member departed, and a new one joined.
But Apoptosis only briefly brushes through the resigned feelings of loss and reminiscence. Instead, the undoubtable maturing sound and the typical Inner Wave nonchalance serve as highlights of the album.
“One in a Million” immediately sets the groovy undertone. The guitar riff following the intro feels prominent at first, until all the different elements roll in subtly. ” Lead vocalist Pablo Sotelo’s vocal echoes lightly over the spacey track. A journey of mystery were to be expected.
Both “Rey” and “Fever” feel almost aggressive — each in a very different manner. “Rey” has a tempo on the slower end, but the mix of instrumentation spins wildly and competes with each other. “Fever,” on the other hand, has a steady disco-inspired tempo that allows the different instruments to blend. Though inherently different, both songs test the boundary between complete chaos and skillful execution. The tracks feel full, but not crowded.
Much of this album relies on the music to narrate feelings. “I hope one day we’ll meet again / I hope you won’t forget my name,” emotions seem to flow through the seamless electric guitar and the occasional bass line in “Memory(Trees).” It’s a secret message from an old lover, but it’s also a never-sent letter from an old friend. With just one prominent line, “You are my life / You are my love,” “Reach” is a distant murmur that never got spoken aloud. The infusion of ’60s psychedelic and ’80s voice synthesizer makes the song timeless and, to an extent, almost unreal.
Feeling stuck is not the norm for Inner Wave. When the pandemic forced everyone into lockdown, and having a longtime member departed from the band during that same period, Inner Wave had to step out of their comfort zone.
The result became Apoptosis — a tale of steadily leaving the past behind while still trying to figure it all out.
For the bigger players, many had a choice when it comes to whether or not to delay an album; for independent bands like Inner Wave, they did not have a choice. Somehow, Apoptosis became the first Inner Wave album that was fully recorded in an actual studio.
“When we first started making this album, we were all together in this room making demos in real time,” Sotelo says as he pointed around the room he was in (also known as “The Swamp” to Inner Wave fans), “but then COVID got pretty bad in LA. And our drummer Luis and I actually ended up getting COVID around the same time. So meeting up was not a possibility at all.”
“But carrying the same vibe of the demos, I ended up making a handful of songs for the album alone in here,” he adds. “‘Bones’ was one of the [tracks] that just happened so fast. By the time I was done recording it that night, it felt like it perfectly encapsulated how I felt in that whole month of quarantining and missing my girlfriend, missing my friends, missing everyone. So I think I’m pretty proud of that one.”
Luckily, their newest member, keyboardist Jose Cruz owns a studio.
“Jose’s like a big tech wizard when it comes to audio gear,” Sotelo says. “What started that idea of going to a studio [was that] we could go there, just bunker down and live there for two weeks. We don’t have to worry about exposure to other people or our families. We’re literally just only going to be around each other for two weeks and just record. I think it helped develop the sound.”
“We had everything mapped out beforehand so we had a schedule to be on, but then once we got there, things were flowing so well — I think we were ahead of the schedule,” Elijah Trujillo adds. “It felt like the ultimate sleepover.”
Sure enough, the guys went all out with the studio space and tested the limits. Many tracks on the new album feature a symphony. There’s harp in some of the songs, and Trujillo’s trumpet parts appear quite a few times. “I played trumpet originally when I was in elementary school by accident — like accidentally signed up,” Trujillo says. “I didn’t pick the trumpet up until a few years ago. I was taking lessons from our friend Iz Burns last year to get my chops up. This is my first album to have trumpet on it. So that’s been new to me. It was a fun, new area to record in.”
On that same topic, Jean Pierre Narvaez adds, “I feel like sometimes we’re layering more and more tracks on a song (then) we find ourselves in a very crowded space. So then we have to start pulling back. While we were writing the string parts for some of the songs, we would go a little far out, and then just bring it back. But it’s fun to go far out. You know, it’s fun to start diving in and really get lost, I guess.”
But even though this album is definitely a more dramatic one, it’s still very much an Inner Wave album at its core. “It was recorded live onto a tape,” Sotelo says. “I think that’s something that will get people excited for sure, it would get me excited as a fan.”
The “going all out” mentality caused by the pandemic also resulted in Sotelo becoming the director for this album’s music videos. The video for “Fever” is newly released, and the band already released the videos for “Take 3” and “Mystery,” where Sotelo carefully played with the extreme ends of color theory and alternate dimension vibes.
“I think for me, I love subtext, and I love not being so explicit with meaning,” Sotelo says when asked where he gets his inspirations. “That’s why I think a lot of the videos that we’ve been doing are really narrative based, they’re just more visual. I think sometimes the feeling you get from watching something can be so much stronger than someone telling you something directly — because it’s yours.”
Everything is up to interpretation, everything is fair game, which is why the band is more than eager to go back to live shows again.
“I can’t wait to see people’s reaction to the new songs, like, track number two, ‘Rey.’ That one’s really balanced, fucking dramatic,” Narvaez says with a laugh. “I can’t wait to execute that one and have it come out of huge speakers and listen to it in a huge room.”
“We had our first taste when we went to Chicago last month for Ruido Fest,” Trujillo says. “Just those two shows was like, ‘Oh my god, this is crazy.’ At that time, we had the song ‘Take 3’ and ‘June’ out — people really dug ’em. Right when the baseline came in of ‘Take 3,’ everyone was like, ‘Ohhh, this is that!’ And they were singing and I was like, oh shit, it’s cool. To have people excited about the new stuff ensures us that we’re moving in the right direction.”
When asked to sum up the album using only three words, the guys gave very different answers.
“I love you,” Narvaez says while everyone on the call giggled.
“Can it be one word? Catharsis,” Sotelo adds.
“Beautiful, fun,” Trujillo starts. After a brief pause, he adds, “and somber.”