The band Arliss Nancy, fronted by lead singer and rhythm guitarist Cory Call, has seen their share of changes since the group’s founding in 2006. Call and Chris Love, the band’s keyboardist, are the only remaining members from Arliss’s first album, Dance to Forget.
In 2008, Arliss added a missing piece with GB (Kyle) Oppold, a bassist with a raspy voice that complemented Calls’ vocals. “This is where I feel the band really started,” Call recalled, and Arliss produced their first stand-out album, Simple Machines. The band followed up Simple Machines with their best album to date, Wild American Runners, which contained tracks like “Vonnegut” and “Nathaniel” which catapulted Arliss Nancy into the hearts of rock lovers everywhere.
After that record, however, the band’s drummer pursued a different career and the lead guitarist departed the group. “There was a small moment where we were like what the fuck do we do,” Call remembered after the two musicians departed, “but damn…me, GB and Chris Love worked so hard for years! Just grinding. We weren’t done!”
Indeed, Arliss wasn’t done. The three figures critical to Arliss’s sound still wanted to play. Call, with his trademark raspy voice and apologetic lyrics; GB, whose vocals and bass lines complement Call’s unique sound; and Chris Love, whose keys feature prominently on most of Arliss’s songs. The band added Chris Chavez on drums and hit the studio. Call had already written many of the songs for Greater Divides and the remainder of the album was produced quickly. “We had all the divisions of our own,” Call remembered regarding the album’s name, “mainly a division from the band in the past to the move forward with new members.”
Greater Divides is stripped-down Arliss Nancy, a four piece band that dumps the extras and keeps Arliss the way it should be. Love’s punctuated keys; Call’s apology-laced lyrics and tempo-changing rhythm guitar; and GB’s ripping bass lines.
The album starts with “Alluvial Fan,” a reference to fan-shaped soil deposits created by streams that emerge from narrow corridors onto flatter plains.
“There’ll come a time, when wars will be won. …my greatest fight will be slowly lost for fun, spread out like an alluvial fan.” “Now I know I can be a little bit hard to bear, I’ve been a little unwell, drink my way from my sweat as the waves wash me under here.”
The album’s second track, “Don’t You Forget,” is the polished “sing along” song on the album. Arliss fans will be bellowing this chorus in cars, malls, grocery stores, and of course, with Cory and GB at their shows.
“Cause I know that I’ve..I’ve made some mistakes before but I won’t be around to let you settle the score.” “Listen to me once, listen to me twice, I can leave you faster than a Saturday night, don’t you forget it.” “Drivin down the road, missin’ all the shows, I can quit you harder than you’ll ever want to know.” “I know that change, change can be rough. And all that it proves is that it never mattered enough.”
“Dufresne” starts with Love’s deep, brooding keyboard and slowly builds momentum with Call’s guitar and vocals. The song appears to reference the fragile history of the band; a narrative filled with members’ lukewarm commitment to “the cause” which eventually led to a “great divide.”
“There was once a way we could burn like your horizon, for your wind and snow covered my great divide.” “And now its nights like these, body takes poison, it’s better than…wasting away like a corpse in a coffin.” “I got to know what’s your commitment to this cause. Are we old enough to give in, call it off, I got to know. I got to know.”
Call wrote “Brother I Tried,” for his brother, not long after the two had a serious accident the two in a lumber yard. He had started the song years prior, but he could not remember anything but the title. Call knew he had to finish this song — and fast. “I wrote the whole thing start to finish,” Call remembers, “That never happens. Songs are usually a process. That one came out. For him.”
In true Arliss fashion, the band saves the best for last. Listeners quickly discovered that “Vonnegut,” the last track on Wild American Runners, was perhaps the best song on the album. On Greater Divides, “Momentum” occupies a similar position as the last track and a powerful ending that summarizes the album’s theme. The song begins with a smooth bass lick, followed by Love’s keys.
“I got to thinking, about the friends I lost on the bridges I burned just to get here. I was kicking at some coals that ain’t gone out.”
For Arliss fans, Greater Divides is a home run. The record is long-awaited musical nourishment since Wild American Runners. The album contains everything that is wonderfully raw and powerful about Arliss. For those who have not listened to Arliss, Greater Divides is a solid introduction to the group and will ensure Arliss’s songs maintain their rightful place among the elite of today’s original, rock-infused music.
Words: Chris Dishman, AltCountry&Beyond @altcbeyond