Introducing: waveform* – an interview with Run For Cover’s newest signing
waveform* keep busy. The Connecticut duo of Jarett Denner and Dan Poppa self-recorded and released three LPs in three consecutive years: 2018’s library, 2019’s Shooting Star, then 2020’s Last Room--and that’s not counting their 2018 split with Melaina Kol or the four (now-deleted) Bandcamp releases pre-dating library. While waveform* broke their own streak by not releasing an album this year, the band maintained momentum in the form of a record deal with Boston’s Run For Cover Records. Today, in celebration of the signing announcement, Run For Cover is reissuing Last Room (on vinyl for the first time) with new mastering by Will Yip.
In some ways, waveform* conspicuously carry the torch of their “bedroom pop” forerunners. Denner and Poppa (quite literally) record themselves in a bedroom and make melody-oriented music that explores any number of genres on a song-by-song basis at whatever rate of commitment or depth they feel inclined. The band’s consistent use of film photography as album art, commitment to Bandcamp as a platform (at least partially enabling and encouraging their prolific release pace) and experimentation with recording fidelity easily recall the faux-genre’s Tumblr heyday. On top of all that, they have not shied away from professed Alex G fandom, who notably released music on their now-label.
At the same time, to categorize waveform* as well-meaning acolytes of a bygone era is to assume a singularity in influence (or output) that their burgeoning discography unequivocally forecloses.
library, the first proper waveform* LP, leaned heavily on downstroked acoustic guitars, plodding percussion accompaniments and layers of deadpan vocals. Its concise, subdued arrangements (with names like “snail” and “dog”) recall core tenants of mid-era Alex G, especially when decorated with the occasional falsetto or pitch-shifting in songs like “library” and “lake”. Where library might not have reinvented any particular wheel, it forecasted developing songwriters trying their hand at a proven formula in a way that felt intentional and reverent.
In 2019, waveform* released Shooting Star, the first release they recruited Gleemer’s Corey Coffman to mix and master. While Shooting Star re-treads some of the familiar foundation that library laid, it enjoys a step up in songcraft. Throughout the record, structures are stabilized, choruses are catchier and melodies feel more deliberate. Shooting Star marks the debut of another component of waveform*’s emerging sound--distortion. Songs like “Mean” and “Hazel” see the band marrying its customary ride cymbal and acoustic guitar arrangements with sudden riptides of churning fuzz, only to retreat to their safe harbor on songs like “Blythe” or “Honey”.
Across its 26-minute runtime, Last Room sees the band transitioning fluently between floating, acoustic ballads on songs like “Favorite Song” or “Hello Goodbye” and lead-driven guitar rock on “Tell You” and “Shooting Star.” But even in the songs that lend themselves to convenient genre tags or descriptors, waveform*’s arrangements highlight an underlying spontaneity that makes the record unpredictable and fresh. “Blue Disaster,” for example, which initially positions itself as a Blue Album-esque rocker, devolves into a post-chorus of drum machine and acoustic guitar bends before launching back into distorted chords. Even the borderline industrial dirge in “Book of Curse” takes a brief pitstop among tremolo-laiden clean guitars and synth twinges before resuming the dark march to its ultimate conclusion.
waveform*’s records are not “genre-defying,” per se. None of the songs on Last Room are overly avant garde or drawing on influences that would feel foreign or unclassifiable to the typical indie rock listener. If anything, Denner and Poppa are simply documenting their own development by recording (and releasing) whatever music they find exciting at any given time in their own sonic journey. And doing so at an extremely high level.
Where it clearly does not want for unbridled creativity, Last Room is also an exercise in restraint. A collection of songs reaching so far in a number of sonic, exploratory directions would have been a very different proposition at a 50-minute runtime--or without such dedication to sensible composition. The longest song on the record, its closer and title track, checks in at 3:36. Corey Coffman’s mix plays to the band’s strengths, allowing their more daring instrumental moments to take center stage when appropriate, without ever losing sight of the underlying songs themselves. Because beyond the window dressing, a well-crafted pop song resides at the core of any waveform* track. This commitment to the effective simplicity of their underlying melodies allows the band to deploy far-ranging sounds and styles in a way that feels cohesive throughout their records--and they are only getting better with time.
Along with the signing to RFC, the band are releasing a new Leander Capuozzo-directedd video for "Favorite Song." We also caught up with waveform* to discuss the signing, the band's history thus far, their next album, and more. Watch the video and stream the album below, and read on for our chat...
Congrats on signing to Run For Cover! How did that happen?
JD: Thank you. That was kind of the reason we started the band--a lot of the acts that Run For Cover were working with at the time, in like 2016/2017. We just naturally started making music within that realm and I think that’s maybe why we eventually got their attention. Because we were so clearly into a lot of the stuff they had been doing in recent years. We eventually got hit up by them and it was awesome.
You released an LP in 2018, 2019 and 2020--how do you stay so productive?
DP: I guess because we both songwrite and make full songs, so each album is almost like a split. Except for some of the earlier stuff, that was mostly Jarrett, but I think that makes it easier. And we kind of do it all ourselves so it’s not hard to record stuff.
Tell me a little bit about the waveform* releases before library.
JD: We put out three releases, technically--right, Dan?
DP: There was Gum, Cards, Fishing Songs and Drawing--all of those. Four, technically.
JD: The way it worked at that time was we would both work on things instrumentally and then I would write the lyrics and sing.
DP: We were also in high school.
JD: Yeah, this is when I was a freshman in high school and Dan was a junior in high school.
How has the band’s creative process changed over time?
JD: I think the most significant change is that Dan started singing and writing vocals for his own songs, rather than sending them to me for me to sing on them, and we try to put more of an emphasis on each of us doing half of the record. It’s not been exactly 50/50, but we try to keep it that way. Before, it wasn’t really like that. library is pretty heavily my songs and my vocals, but now it’s a pretty even split.
How does the songwriting process work in waveform*?
JD: When I was writing songs in high school, everything felt so dramatic and it was really easy to feel inspired. But I think something that had to develop over time is figuring out how to inspire yourself without like, bullshit drama happening in your life. You have to actually dig into yourself which makes it more rewarding, ultimately.
DP: In high school, we forced ourselves to make songs for no reason, basically.
JD: Making songs was so new back then that you just wanted to do it every day.
DP: We would just play random chords and sing over them--well, you would sing over them, but now there’s more thought being put into it for sure.
Talk about the recording process a little bit. I understand you self-record and you swap songs back and forth along the way.
JD: Even from the beginning, and still continued now, it does kind of feel like Dan has had a really good sense of how to elevate songs to an actual composition. I think that is a unique skill of his.
DP: Thanks, bro. I didn’t know you thought that.
KD: Well, there you go.
So will you send acoustic guitar and vocals over his way and then he’s adding electric guitar, drums, synth? How would a typical “start to finish” waveform* song unfold?
JD: That, kind of weirdly, is exactly what we do. Like all the instruments you just named. He plays all the drums on every single song that we’ve ever recorded. But we do play a lot of different instruments between ourselves.
DP: Keyboard is split between me and you, and bass.
JD: We used to do a lot of weird sampling stupid shit, and Dan was always kind of into that more than me.
He was more into the stupid shit than you were.
JD: He was typically leaning toward the stupid shit.
Tell me about working with Corey Coffman. How did you come to interact with him? Have you learned anything from that relationship? What have you taken away from working with him?
DP: He found our music online before library came out, when we had the album Drawing. Our friend who plays in the band Milly showed him it or something--I don’t really remember how. But he would post about it on Twitter and shit, and Gleemer is kind of big, so we thought that was crazy. When we had the idea of getting Shooting Star mixed, we emailed him and he did it. And he wanted to do it, which was why it was kind of cool. He just knows what we want to achieve. He listens to the same stuff we do and he has liked our music kind of since the beginning, so it just makes a lot of sense.
Your recordings have got these dense layers and instrumentation is varied from song to song. How do you arrange for the live show? Do you think about the live show at all when you are writing or recording?
JD: I remember when we were starting to put together Last Room, we were kind of thinking it would be cool to put out an album where we could theoretically play every song live. I feel like personally that’s been informing my ideas a bit. I don’t want to make convoluted songs, I wanted them to rock or whatever.
DP: I feel like we didn’t take that into consideration, we just put a bunch of samples and shit on there. It’s kind of cooler if it sounds different live than the recording as well.
JP: Yeah, that’s true.
DP: But they’re still all very playable because they have simple guitar parts and stuff. I don’t know.
What is next for waveform*?
DP: We just recorded the next album.
JP: Yeah, that’s true. That’s probably next.
Is there anything you want to throw in there or shout-outs you want to do?
JP: Milly, they are definitely very important to us. Melaina Kol is the homie.
DP: They Are Gutting A Body of Water.