I don’t know why I sent Jon Visger an email on some random Tuesday last October. As a fan of his earlier projects and a former Michigan resident (we’re kind of crazy about the guy’s music in his native state), I was excited at the idea of hearing some new material. It’s not that his recorded output had come to a screeching halt in these last few years, with some seriously satisfying tracks coming out in the form of releases under his solo moniker, Absofacto.
But, there were some specific tracks I was waiting to hear. Maybe a year earlier, while I was interviewing him for one of Detroit’s alt-weeklies, Visger had previewed a few tracks from a new project for me in his home studio. The songs were similar to what I’d heard from him in the past; they had hooky melodies, booming rhythms, long-time collaborator Brian Konicek’s Jazzmaster-thin guitar parts and some meaty, grounding bass bits. But these songs were something different from Visger’s past output, and it only took a few bars of scrolling through the still-being-recorded tracks before it hit me that the songs were amazing.
Since that visit, I hadn’t heard a note from those songs again—well, that’s until that random October Tuesday. Singles rolled out from Absofacto, but none of them even hinted at the tracks I previewed months before, which reeled back a little bit of Visger’s quirky, funny side and hinted at something a bit darker. Okay, so maybe I was a little worried—where the did these songs go?
Tyler Kane ?10/18/11
to Jon Visger
What are you up to? What’s going on? What happened to those songs we talked about? Hope all is well.
Jon Visger? 10/18/11
... You have no idea what crazy timing you have…
The response came hours later, and my musical prayers had been answered—Visger had finished that set of songs that day. And now he’s got a new band. It’s called Hollow & Akimbo.
“The name itself describes a duality,” Visger says. “‘Hollow,’ a vulnerability, an emotional softness, the fear of the unknown inside and outside of ourselves, a ghostly haze obscuring our vision while being strangely beautiful in its own right. On the other hand, we have ‘Akimbo,’ strength, fortitude, defiance. It’s an unwillingness to surrender to the fate of simply being blown about by the wind.”
And like the reasoning behind the band’s name (and how it would react with the music), the album Visger sent out was fully realized upon arrival. Everything was there—from the album’s slick, consistent production to the disjointed, oddly perfectly fitting artwork by Chris Everhart that could later be integrated into the band’s live show. And in a world of internet hype, bands testing material on the road and through rough-quality SoundCloud previews, Visger and Konicek were able to utilize something that most present-day artists wouldn’t dream of: Restraint. But that wasn’t necessarily an easy thing to do.
“There’s always the feeling that it’ll never see the light of day,” Visger says about the album’s long process.
“That’s just a long time to work on anything. It gives you a lot of time to second-guess yourself. ...It’s [the song’s] skeleton that comes out immediately and then everything else about it takes two years, basically.”
From start to finish, that’s exactly how long the album took to complete after finally gathering steam in its final three months of production. Visger and Konicek, with the help of drummer Sam Gould and bassist Zac Fineberg, put a final push on the album, setting deadlines, reworking and rerecording tracks at home and getting huge results under the time crunch.
Furthering the focus on the album, Visger and Konicek’s collaboration and attention to detail are the reason the songs sound brilliantly arranged, but not overthought, and why the band’s self-titled release holds its own as an album, not a package of songs recorded over a long period of time.
“Jon had a lot of the seeds started,” Konicek says about recording the album. “We would work with a drum beat and a vocal on a track and we would take it from there. So a lot of it we just sort of built the songs from scratch and some of the other stuff was halfway written. From my recollection, it was the closest to a pure collaboration that we’ve ever had.”
And now the album, save some minor details, is complete. And maybe one of the best examples of the whole project is the album’s second track: the winding, impossibly infectious “Singularity.” Over some heavy-handed synth work, the band lays out its core elements: those shimmering guitars, the commanding rhythms and melodies (which Visger states are at the root of every track). But, as promised, the whole idea of “Hollow & Akimbo” doesn’t end at the album’s last track, the glitchy, funky “Fever Dreams.”
For now, the unsigned band has released a handful of tracks, with a full album release expected for later this year. It’s not something I get to say often, but without any label pushing the album forward, and no current live show showcasing the band across the country, it’s a pleasure to introduce these guys.