Say It Again: Play It Again - The Echo

Subatlantic, a band comprised of Phil Pracht (drums, background vocals) Rebecca Rice (lead vocals, guitar, keyboard) Sean Chapman (bass, cello, background vocals), and Adam Kaul (lead guitar, background vocals) has become one of my favorite groups in the local Quad City scene. While they have been around since 2008, I was first exposed to their catchy sound in 2016 soon after they released their 2015 EP, “Not Louder but Closer.” They were opening a show for Phox at The Mill, the once legendary, but no-longer standing mainstay of the Iowa City music scene. They immediately caught my attention, and I was astonished that they were from my town, but it took a show in a city 50 miles west for me to become familiar with who they were. I have seen them several times since, as they have played some of my, as well as your, favorite local venues, including Rozz-Tox, The Racoon Motel, the unfortunately now defunct Daytrotter venue downtown Davenport and Codfish Hollow, with countless others in between. In 2016 they even toured through France, taking their sound to spaces many could only dream of.

Speaking of dreams, they have a dreamy new album coming out July 28th, called “Say It Again” with a lead track titled “Critic” that is already available to hear on their Bandcamp page. While there is definitely a new-wave-inspired sound to Subatlantic, their music isn’t easily pinned to a single genre, and that is shown on all their releases, Say It Again, included. If you see them live you’ll witness front-woman Rebecca Rice switch between guitar and accordion, while Sean Chapman trades his bass for a cello. They move from dark to dancier post-punk without hesitation, and at times have a sound that could have been pulled from Athens, GA in the mid-80s.

Say It Again opens with Fate, a slow building intro peppered with lead singer/guitarist Rebecca’s unforgettable vocals, that are beautifully haunting, layered over the synth-laden tones that then blend perfectly into the album’s lead single, “Critic”. It’s a bit absurd to review a song with such a title, but this post-punk wash of sound has been finding its way back into my head since the first listen.  With lines like, “Dig through the ashes, burn everything down” it is easily applicable to modern times, and honestly to most eras of time. These two seamless tracks then bring us to Ava, a song with a brooding, and more difficult to pinpoint sound, that still had me moving. It showcases a more experimental side of the group. The slight use of cello in Ava is spot on, and the drumming carries through the song with metronomic precision. It was unexpected but still fits so well into the soundscape of the band.


“New Leaves”, the middle track of the album, starts with a crisp and driving beat, and the change into the chorus with its harmonious vocals momentarily had me thinking of a cross between Blondie and Kathleen Hanna minus the chaos. The vocals added even more layers to a song and album that kept me on my toes listening for all that was mixed into each track. There’s a lot to be discovered.


“All of Me, You Want” dials back the energy a bit, with a rhythm-heavy on shakers, it’s a really good shift, at a moment where it is needed, even if the listener may not know it. If anything on the album was dubbed slow jam, this is it. Though as is their style, even when more reserved on complexities, the bass lines tend to carry me through the songs with my heel tapping along to the rhythm.


While the album does not feature a title track per se, the title comes from the hook in the album’s seventh track, “Sidecar”, which has one of my favorite drum fills of the entire record. This one moves a bit from the darker new-wave tones earlier on “Say It Again”, and I can surely see some semblance of Midwest legends The Replacements in it, which is a sound I will always come back to.


The album closes with the song, Veronica Speedwell, a wash of cymbals and driving distortion that is easily the most unapologetically energetic song on “Say It Again”. It is a perfect way to close an album that presents so many pieces it seems impossible to not find enjoyment in it. I am a sucker for the closing tracks on albums, as a writer I think the way one closes a creation to be equally as important as one opens it. I tend to judge albums a lot on the final track, and the caterwauling close on Say It Again, with the way the feedback continues beyond the confines of a song to carry us through to the close of the album is done so masterfully and I can’t wait to see this one live. Upon first play listen this one is definitely my favorite on the album.

I was already finding songs getting stuck in my head by the second listen-through of the album, and it kept drawing me back to listen to more. It’s an equally great record to take in while watching the day begin over your morning coffee or while cruising down the road on a sunny summer afternoon with the windows down and speakers blazing.  You can pre-order the album now through, before its official release (physically and on streaming platforms) on July 28th. Rebecca, Adam, Sean, and Phil put a lot into this record, as did Pat Stolley at Futureappletree, an extremely pivotal person in the local scene for well over a decade himself, and it deserves your attention. Pick up a copy, and/or make sure you get out to a Subatlantic show this summer, you will not be disappointed by either. 

 Subatlantic is far from new to the process of writing/recording an album, and I have loved what I’ve heard of the new one. What would you say are the most notable changes between your first record and recording now, or even between 2019’s Villains and now?


Phil: From a technological perspective, a significant change we’ve embraced is the shift from using ProTools to incorporating the use of analog 16-track tape. It has been quite a transformative experience for us as a band and has forced us to prepare songs from beginning to end well in advance. The synergy and collective live energy in the studio during the recording sessions I believe shines through in the final product as well.


Adam : In terms of songwriting, this album is not just a collection of songs like our previous projects. A lot of albums from a lot of bands turn out that way – as in, “Here are all of the songs we’ve written lately.” But we made a really intentional choice to make a whole album this time that hangs together cohesively in terms of tones, instrumentation, and the general “sonic landscape.” We really hope that that comes through when people listen to it. That was a big shift from our last projects.


The world has obviously seen a big shift between the time of ‘Villains’ and now. Did that impact the songwriting process in any sense? I have seen a lot of darker tones in art/music in the modern era, but also a lot of artists focusing on more radiant subject matter. Have you seen any changes in lyrical content or the actual sound during such unique times?


Adam: We’ve heard and seen that darker tone reflected in a lot of art lately too. For us, we were already in that darker space with Villains. It is reflected in the title, it shows up in the songs themselves, and even the album cover for Villains is really dark. We thought that the title and the image reflected a lot of the angst we were feeling at the time. We wanted Say It Again to be a kind of response to Villains in that sense, making something that was bright, fun, and celebratory. We’ve still got massive challenges in the world, and artists have a huge role to play in terms of commenting on all of it. But we also have a lot to celebrate, including just surviving these last few years, and we want to express that as well. It’s not that there aren’t darker undertones in Say It Again (I’m thinking of songs like “Ava” or “New Leaves”), but overall this album is a lot more playful and danceable, and even the cover art is bright and reflects the full sun.

What would you say were the primary influences on the record, either in relation to other music, art, life changes, or otherwise?


Rebecca: Lyrically, the album’s themes center around change, young love, societal/cultural critics, and gender imbalances. Those themes were present on Villains in a broader, more political sense, but Say It Again is a more personal album, at least for me. I work among teens, and observing their behaviors and struggles on a daily basis reminds me of how difficult it can be to navigate those verging-on-adulthood messy feelings. Relationships are hard enough for adults, so I can’t imagine how hormones and the noise of social media make being human that much more confusing for tweens and teens. Most of the songs on Say It Again touch on these notions. While the themes on Say It Again might not be all that uplifting in nature, some of the melodies and music are. “Critic,” “Sidecar,” “Diner,” and “Veronica Speedwell” come to mind.

“All of Me, You Want” and “Storm” are what I think of as the young-love songs. They are about the fine lines between hopefulness and hopelessness, and light and dark. I hope they make listeners feel a bit nostalgic.


While 2019 was the last full-length release, you have put out several singles in the 4 years since. As a band, how do you decide what qualifies for a single release and when to hold off to compile a complete LP? Is there a set process and/or plan to knowing when a song deserves its own individual release…maybe they wouldn’t have made the final cut for the album, or is it more that they are simply put out as inspiration comes calling?


Adam: We are very proud of the singles we released in between these two full-length records. They were a great way to keep the creative process going. I think several of those singles could have easily made it onto a full-length album. But we really wanted to create something from whole cloth for our second record, so including any of those singles was out of the question. We also have a couple of other new songs that we could have added to Say It Again, but we were pleased with the way these ten tracks held together. It can be difficult to know when a project is finished and when to stop adding new stuff, but we are a very editorial band. We like doing more with less.


Sean: I think it’s kind of like painting, where there’s this tipping point where a canvas moves from just right to over-the-top. I argued for a bit that we should include a couple of singles, but that seemed like cheating, really. As Adam says, these 10 songs hold together and make the record cohesive and one that we’re proud of. That said, go download those singles!


Phil: Not so much a process but a feeling. Releasing those singles between Villains and Say It Again really offered us an opportunity to stay connected with fans while keeping our creative momentum alive. Once we’d written “Veronica Speedwell” we all knew we wanted to expand on that for a full-length record. We still very much believe in the power of a well-crafted album, where each song contributes to a larger narrative, taking listeners on a journey from start to finish and I’m very proud of how Say It Again accomplishes this.


Rebecca: It felt good to create and release our singles during those days when we were all isolated from each other and the rest of the world. As the guys said, it was a way to keep the creative process rolling. But “Veronica Speedwell” just felt different. We wrote it as we were all tentatively dipping our toes back into socializing without fear of making each other sick. We were all exhausted and ready for something completely new. It’s our “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” song.

I know you worked with Pat and FutureAppleTree for Say It Again, and have worked primarily with him in the past. I actually interviewed him for our first studio feature in February and he mentioned how beyond his personal band (Running Man) Subatlantic is practically the only act he works with (in a recording sense) post-pandemic. I would imagine this must make this process easier for everyone. What’s the biggest benefit to this consistent relationship when going into the studio?


Rebecca: Being friends and having similar tastes in music helps tremendously. Pat’s style is really laid-back, which also makes it really easy to record with him. He’s definitely one of the reasons we’ve been able to streamline our recording process. Historically, we’ve been known to perseverate on the minutiae of effects and layering. Pat’s editorial ear and expertise in the studio has taught us to have a better sense of when to stop fiddling and call a song done. Lastly, he’s just a fun person to be around.


Sean: In addition to working with tape instead of recording software–like ProTools or GarageBand–we recorded all these songs live at Pat’s suggestion. We’d go in and run a song for an hour or so as Pat set up, then record them through several times and choose the best. We stopped using headphones part of the way through so we could just listen to each other. Unlike before when we could spend an hour adjusting the pitch on a note we missed using software, we rolled with it, and it made for a much more organic experience in the studio. We’d grab the best take, then come back in for vocals and added lines–a cello here, a new keyboard sound there, but we’re very happy with the resulting fresh sound.


Phil: I’ve known and worked with Pat since his early Daytrotter days. I’ve always admired his approach to the songwriting process and his expertise working with bands in a studio environment. To me, having him engineer/produce the entirety of Say It Again really means we’ve got a 5th member of the band and a collaborator. We’re very fortunate to have him involved.

As a band that has been together since 2008, do you find the songwriting process has gotten easier over the years, or do you find yourself hitting the same roadblocks? If so, has the time together helped make it easier to move beyond any issues?


Rebecca: I definitely think the songwriting process has gotten easier. We’ve gotten to be kind of like that old couple who can finish each other’s sentences. We can better anticipate the direction a song is going to take. We also did something different for this album in that we had a songwriting weekend away during the winter of 2022. We rented a small cottage on the banks of the Mississippi River in rural Illinois and spent three days creating. Four solid tunes emerged, as did a new sound. One new song followed after another after that weekend. It was very inspirational.


Sean: I think that weekend showed us the way for this record. All four of the songs Becca mentioned ended up on this album, and like she said, a new sound emerged, so once we got those four anchor songs, the rest just fell in around them.

I know there are several shows coming up for Subatlantic this summer, including at the 2023 edition of Alternating Currents. Are there any other big plans centered around this release, and/or following its release? I would imagine it must be exciting to get out and introduce fans, new and old alike, to these songs.


Adam: We don’t have a record release party scheduled just yet. The time it takes these days to produce vinyl is shocking! So we are releasing this album in stages. On July 28, 2023, Say It Again officially drops on all streaming services and for downloads, and CDs will be available for purchase then too. We are also taking pre-orders for the vinyl version, which we are really excited about. Fans will have a classic black vinyl option, or for just a few bucks more, a collectors’ version of the actual vinyl record in color. So people should check out our website and various social media platforms for how to pre-order the new album and stream it, and then also look out for a release party. .


Rebecca: It is really fun and exciting playing the tunes off of Say It Again for new and old fans alike. We played two shows in Arkansas earlier this summer – – one in Hot Springs and one in Fayetteville, and the reception was incredible. We’re also really looking forward to Alternating Currents. We’ll be performing at two venues we’ve not yet played in the QC – – Devon’s Complaint Department and Stompbox Brewing.

What is your favorite song to play off the new record, and what makes it so?


Adam: That is such a difficult question to answer, in part because I truly love all of these songs but more importantly because our ears are so close to it now after writing and recording the record that it is hard for us to hear anything objectively. It’s one reason why we are so excited to get reactions to the new songs because we can finally find out what people think. We love hearing what peoples’ favorite songs are or which ones they’ll sing along to or dance to at a live show.


Sean: I like that my favorites keep changing. One day, I’m loving “Sidecar” and the next I’m really into “All of Me, You Want.” I love that these songs aren’t scared of being pop songs–we embraced 1/4/5 (a traditional rock chord structure) and several of these songs are really catchy to me, so I tend to like the one that’s stuck in my head at the time.


Phil: I’ll bite! “Veronica Speedwell” stands out above others as my favorite song to play off the new record. It’s hands down the fastest song we’ve ever written. But it’s not just the speed and intensity that make it stand out. The song also showcases our dedication to crafting intricate harmonies that add a layer of depth and melody. It’s a fun balance of chaos and harmony, which I always find incredibly compelling. The song is also an energy drain so we typically end our live set with it.


Rebecca: Oof. That’s a hard question! I love playing “Storm,” as it’s the only song on the album on which I don’t play an instrument when performing it live. Not playing the guitar or keys allows me to focus on the emotion behind the lyrics and melody. “Ava” is another favorite because it’s driven by this amazing electronic underlay that Phil created on his drum pad. I love seeing the audiences’ reaction to them hearing this for the first time. It’s definitely a sound that is a departure from our earlier tunes, and one that I look forward to using on future songs.

You can pre-order the album now through, before its official release (physically and on streaming platforms) on July 28th.

Subatlantic, “Say It Again” artwork.










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