Have you ever dreamed of entering a painting?
A painting that invites you to live an “unknown reality”?
Joshua Corum and Brandon Cousino from Head With Wings invite us to their own canvas, a space in which progressive rock show us parallel stories whose nuances flow into one place: our own lives, and it’s not a magical mirror, music is the reflection of our experiences, sometimes full color and sometimes in chiaroscuro.
Important works of art were created in collaboration, and music is the art where perspectives and visions converge for the same purpose. The album From Worry to Shame is one of them. Their creator, the duo from New Haven, Connecticut, Joshua and Brandon, received the support of another Modern Metal promise, Jamie Van Dyck and Frank Sacramone from the band Earthside, whom participate in the production process.
Along with the full media coverage of Head With Wings second album, I talked with Joshua (vocals and guitar) about the experiences that encompass their new record, the world building through music and the creation of a continuous and transcendent piece of music.
Today he tells us the story of an artistic journey, the narrative in music and what it means to leave the nest to neverland but to fly forever in experimentation.
Would you enter to see the whole picture?
Progressive. Of progress. Adj. That progresses or increases gradually
“I became obsessed with the idea of doing Head with Wings when I was in college. During the first half of my college career, I was singing in a pop rock band that ultimately wasn’t musically ambitious enough or remotely indicative of the more progressive music that was starting to truly move me (although prog isn’t inherently what made me want to be a singer in the first place)”.
No matter how technical progressive rock is classified, it is a genre that flows to reach a peak difficult to ignore, a story in crescendo capable of emulating the deepest feelings and ending in an ecstasy to the ears.
“I really had no background in music theory but always had an interest in poetry and storytelling. My music school was my time spent by myself, associating certain feelings with the sounds that would come out of my guitar and sometimes they’d be promising. When that was the case, it made me eager to share my development with my musical peers that I thought might understand me and interpret what I was doing”.
“The experiences of writing and recording Living with the Loss and From Worry To Shame have really helped lay a great precedent for Brandon and I to build on and we have an undying interest in the evolution of our sound as it continues throughout our body of work”.
I think I can speak for Brandon and say that we’d rather be dead than live without our freedom of expression
World building through progressive music
Music acts as a thread of a whole that allows our senses to reach that level of understanding that the mind seek when we watch a movie, a series or play a video games. It is the drop of water that allows us to draw with our fingers and build worlds around a story, but at any moment you can change the shape. Music makes it more digestible, more beautiful and clearer.
This is a role that Progressive Rock and Modern Metal have strengthened with the entrance of new experimental proposals at the service of stories development in music.
World building and continuity is very important for Joshua when composing his songs. He opens his mind to the possibility of expressing their songs in multiple formats.
“There are three main artistic mediums that inspire me: Music, film and video games. I’m fascinated with the idea of world building just as much as I am with emotionally connecting to people through melodies”.
“That doesn’t mean that every album we do is going to be hyper conceptual or steeped in fiction, as there is a lot of truth to what we’re working on. In terms of a format, I think bands like Coheed & Cambria and The Dear Hunter steal the show with the interconnected nature of their works through a continuous narrative. That’s something that we try to do with our music videos, but in terms of our album art, we follow the same school of thought as bands like The Mars Volta, Mastodon and Amorphis who have a great sense of continuity within the artwork throughout their discography”.
Continuity is something that we wish to maintain throughout our work both visually and musically but we’re still willing to take risks. I do also enjoy albums that can be seen as isolated experiences within one’s catalog
From Worry To Shame songs are episodic in nature, each song acts as a chapter of a nine-part story that reflects different aspects of the protagonist’s life, situations that could be reflected in a television series, an idea that excites Joshua.
“A recent review in Powerplay Magazine noted that the albums story felt primed for a TV series and I was really pleased to read that because I’d very much like to adapt this album either as a feature film or a mini series/TV series”.
Complexity of emotions has a voice
Perspective changes a fair amount within the music just as it does in life. To me, this is what is most real about our lyrics, is that at any point during the day, people at the flip of a switch can have such a monumental shift in attitude. Life sometimes feels dire and desperate but at the end of the day you might find peace even if it only lasts for a little while. We try to capture this complexity and give it a voice
Hearing Head With Wings and analyzing the imagery behind the From Worry To Shame artwork as well as their previous record Living With The Loss, makes me visualize (and feel) different stages through the whole piece: a dark side, nostalgia due to sweet memories and the anger of the character.
From the artwork to the songs and its stories, those three aspects were drawn vividly in my mind.
“I’m relieved to hear you say that our music shows you more than just the sadness. It’s supposed to capture life as we see it as artists. We take the good with the bad and focus on both at different times”.
“Some songs deal with making lasting memories, while others scream to forget them. The music has a lot to do with acceptance”.
“If you’re referring to our EP Living with the Loss, that was written after a period in my life where I was coming to terms with losing some very close family members, one of which, my Aunt Cindy who really believed in the pursuit of the arts and she lived her life the way she wanted to. Each song deals with a different type of loss, be it a family member, childhood friends, innocence and basically just growing up”.
Leaving the nest
The time to leave the nest is attributed to the fact of leaving home in which we grew up and to leave the comfort offered by our family and love ones, however it is also a deja vu along our lives, and every time that appears, a transformation takes place, even in music.
“The song For When You’re Gone and its first verse, My guardian, guardian of the way that I play, that I play/See me running for the door, not a baby anymore, yet you stay, yet you stay, has multiple meanings for me. On one hand, there’s the notion of moving out of your childhood home to become more independent, but all the while having the fear that it might be too soon to fly the nest”.
“And then on the other, I can look at the first line as if Frank and Jamie as my producers have been guardians of «the way that I play», as they’ve been instrumental in helping develop our sound and would probably argue that there have been times when we’ve wanted to fly the nest to soon”.
“It goes to show, true meaning is found in the eyes and ears of the audience. What’s necessary for me, is that we have intent behind what we create”.
These are your shoes, do you recognize them?
It’s easy to identify with Head With Wings’ lyrics and I would dare to compare the name of the band with the involuntary act performed by the human mind when it connects with a song, the act of exploration that puts every word and note in the right place, the right experience and the right memory.
Part of that reality that touch and evoke the band through their songs, is the reflection of a society that is not always positive, but nevertheless, their actions leads to reflection.
Much of the new Head With Wings album, draws the ravages of schools shootings in United States. It is a drawing that the media does not show. Is internal but not erased.
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“If I’ve painted a bleak picture of American society, it’s because a lot of the negative societal trends and incidents that we touch on don’t seem to improve. They get fabricated or spun into some sort of agenda, when really what we need to be doing is paying closer attention to the people in our lives”.
That’s a big theme on the album; what life could be like if we paid closer attention to the ones we love and less wrapped up in selfish pursuits
“The song «Somewhere, Something Gives» is the moment on our album that contains the inciting incident (a school shooting that claims the life of his daughter) that sends our protagonist and his wife down a grief stricken path. After his wife kills herself, he has to then decide if he has the will to carry on. It’s not just their loss that torments him, it’s knowing that he didn’t seize every possible moment when they were alive and that ultimately drives him to madness. A lot of the inspiration for our protagonist and his family comes from stories that my friend Paul told me about losing his youngest daughter and the deterioration of his marriage”.
“Every song on the album has this familial thread running through it to some extent, but the main focus of «Somewhere, Something Gives» comes from questions that arise in the wake of school shootings, or at least questions that arise to me”.
When these tragedies happen, I put myself in their shoes
“I wonder if the families of slain children will ever be able to find forgiveness in their hearts and make peace with the killer and his/her motives. I have to imagine that these teens that commit these acts aren’t getting the attention they need at home or maybe too much of it. And then I wonder if the parent(s) of the murderer can find forgiveness within themselves for knowing that their child grew up to become a murderer. Ultimately the song is asking questions but not posing a direct solution to these issues”.
Jamie and Frank: a progressive synergy
There are many things that unites people, but the most powerful is music.
Earthside is one of the most acclaimed Modern Metal bands by fans of progressive and experimental music, but beyond central figures, virtuosity and titans from metal heroes prototype, this band, also from Connecticut, is shaped by humility, closeness, unparalleled talent and the vision of its members, including Jamie Van Dyck and Frank Sacramone. Those qualities also take part of Head With Wings personality.
Both participated in From Worry To Shame production, helping Joshua and Brandon to understand and give identity to their sound in this album.
“Honestly, from the beginning, Frank has had a pretty clear idea of what makes our band unique sonically. He helped us to understand that we’re largely mood music. We always had a general idea of how we wanted to portray the band tonally, but he always finds ways to make us sound just a bit better”.
“Jamie on the other hand is almost like the musical equivalent of a Google search engine, where you could type in a phrase and it says, Did you mean to say this instead? That’s what Jamie does with songwriting, note choices and musical passages. He’s always searching for ways to improve the piece and get it as close to timeless as possible. When you combine that with Frank’s perfectionism and production prowess, you have a recipe for success”.
“To work with talent on that level, you have to be willing to practice a lot of patience and have the faith that they won’t move on without you as they get busier in their own careers with their own bands that have their own artistic agendas”.
Producer David Castillo, known for his work with bands like Katatonia, Bloodbath and Opeth, also participated in the album working on the amplification of heavy guitars.
“I was fortunate to meet David Castillo a few years ago at a dinner party at my favorite Indian restaurant Cumin India in Hamden, Connecticut. David was visiting the US (I believe for the first time) and stayed with Earthside while helping them work on some live pre-production. Other than that, all of our work together on the album was entirely mediated by Frank long distance, as David re-amplified most, if not all of our heavy guitars. This gave the album a little taste of Sweden and David’s crisp tone”.
The next plans for Head With Wings are promising and it seems that they will leave the nest many times more with the wide coverage and interest that their new album has received. Joshua remains open to the opportunities that are to come.
After years of wondering if this album could truly see the light of day, we have all the evidence that we need to prove that the fight to uphold art is worth it
Telling the story of others, putting yourself in their shoes, evoking experiences in people and being able to transform them with your melodies is the ultimate purpose in music. Whoever has this purpose clear, like in every great piece of art, will leave a mark or several traces on the inner and outside world.