brief history of Akacia, by Mike.
history is simple.
A lot of
prayer and seeking went into the foundation of the band. At first, we joined
with a view towards recording one album. I would write and direct the project.
It would be one of Christian Progressive rock. Those who came along for the ride
were kind enough to lend their talents and follow my vision. Many of the musical
themes and ideas had been in my heart for some time - years. I wanted to record
an album that would glorify God.
Phase 1 -involved settling the line up of the band for this album.
The line up settled with myself as the guitarist, keyboardist, and
occasional vocalist. Doug Meadows still astonishes me as a drummer. Man, he's
good! I've been thrilled to play with a drummer as skilled as him. Eric Naylor
would lend his considerably appealing vocals. The final member to settle in,
Stephen Stortz would share his considerable natural talent and bass guitar
Phase 2 - involved learning and recording our first album - An Other
Life. It should be said that we were all experienced musicians, but none of us
ever took on a project as involved as writing and recording a progressive rock
album. It's been said that "vintage" sounding prog isn't truly
progressive at all, but regressive. Well, true in a sense. But for us as
musicians, the process of writing, recording, and playing the album "An
Other Life" live was an experience which helped us to "progress"
as musicians. I should also mention Danny Lee, who had done sound and
engineering work before. He worked with us throughout the project as an engineer
and co-producer. Danny and his wife Trish also opened their home to us to do
some of the recording of vocals. Danny's sense of humor enhanced those sessions.
Money was not readily available for An Other Life. But time was. We put a
long time into recording the album, working initially with an 8 track analog
recorder. As we continued to move forward, a friend of Doug's, Don Oliver
invited us to complete the album at his digital studio, which we did.
From the beginning, Akacia was a project, but also a band. But the ratio
earlier was something like 80% project, 20% band. By the end of the project,
Akacia was a band, 100%. We wanted to continue to work together, and play live.
Looking back, it was such an encouragement the way the guys each took up more
ownership of the band. Doug assisted in production of the CD, Steve funded the
initial release of 1000 CDs (the ones with the blue cover), and Eric's home
became a 2nd meeting place for informal acoustic rehearsals, listening sessions,
Our first album - An Other Life
opens with heavy riffs and frequent time changes as the title track "An
Other Life" unfolds. It's the song about a guy who's had it with life as he
knows it. He sets out to flee. He hopes to make an other life for himself, and
he does. Thru numerous musical passages and moods, his story develops until he
comes to a realization. He can't escape from one thing. It's the one thing that
really led him to desire an other life in the first place: he cries "Me!
It's a problem I can't flee!" This track runs around 17 minutes long. Doug
goes thru more driving time changes on this song than . . .
than . . . well let's just
say there's a lot of time changes! Steve grooves along steadily, and I had lots
of fun playing a variety of different styles of guitar solos in different places
- all in one song! Good fun to play, "An Other Life" is.
"Mary" follows up. A shorter track, but 6 minutes, it's a blend
of prog and blues rock. It starts out in almost "Hendrix" fashion with
a blues rock groove, and the lyrics (influenced by an old spiritual which I
think was written around 1900) enter, pleading - "Oh Mary, Oh Mary, Oh Mary
don't you weep - Martha, Oh Martha, Martha don't you moan". The chorus is a
tapestry of parallel chords and modal interchange backing the assurance
"the horse and the rider are sinking like a stone". The instrumental
interlude moves thru some striking passages before returning to bring the song
Me" - The intro is progressive - at first a conscious effort to do
something dissonant, sort of Crimson-like, then we got moody - kind of Pink
Floydish maybe? The rest of this song is just high energy bombastic rock song.
time of working on the project, "Journal" was the thing for me. More
than one review referred to it as a thru-composed, but I think they may have
missed many of the "variations on themes" interwoven throughout the
composition. True, lyrically, there's little recapping, but that's what you'd
expect reading someone's journal. I expressed my heart and faith in this piece
and it captures the core of what I hoped for musically and lyrically for the
Around the time of the completion of the CD, we played our first full
length concert (free) at a coffeehouse held in Easton, Ma, at New Hope Christian
Chapel. David Stratton, a close friend, and a keyboardist guested on part of
"Journal". My friend Kenny was there and said he thought we sounded
good until David started playing with us. He said when Dave got up there he felt
he "should've bought a ticket". Shortly after, David was in Akacia.
In the meantime, album two was already in the works.
Steve and I were driving to Foxboro Stadium.
To perform. I wish! . . . Ok. We were driving to Foxboro Stadium to pick
up tickets to an upcoming Yes concert. He hit me with the basic story idea for
The Brass Serpent, and this became the foundation for the album. We began
working on the music and road tested the four songs that wound up on The Brass
Serpent album before heading into the studio.
We rehearsed and played some local shows here and there. An Other Life
began receiving very encouraging reviews. (We believed in the work, but many of
our favorite albums were panned by critics when they were fist released, so we
didn't know what to expect.) Encouraged by the positive feedback our first CD
was getting, we sent a copy of An Other Life to Musea Records and they chose to
release the album in 2003. The Musea release has been remastered and has better
cover art thanks to the generous work of Randy George and Jonathan Allen
Cummings. Around this time, I think, the CPR discussion group was started. John
Collinge of Progressive Magazine put us in touch with the New England Art Rock
Society (NewEARS) and we played our first concert for them. At this concert we
debuted The Brass Serpent, which was still a work in progress.
Then NewEARS was kind enough to have us back to open up for Neal Morse
when he performed in Lowell Ma. shortly after the release of his Testimony CD.
Randy George was playing bass with Neal, so we got to meet in person which was
great! I wish we could've spent more time together. Also, I greatly admire Neal
Morse as a writer and musician and have often regretted that at the time we met,
I couldn't think of much to say. Nonetheless,
it was a memorable evening.
For our second album, we recorded at Mark Rabuck's studio, and we were
able to record a more professional sounding CD.
The first song is "Postmodernity." It's really about wrestling
with the idea of relative versus absolute truth. "If 'nothing is certain',
then how can you be certain that 'nothing is certain' after all?" The song
moves thru several passages: edgy guitar, swirling mellotron, as the song moves
thru three movements. A different version of this song appears on the CPR
compilation CD. (By the way, at Mark's we also recorded a Moody Blues cover
"The Tide Rushes In" which may be released on another compilation
album - a Moody Blues tribute album on Mellow Records - in the near future.)
"The Brass Serpent" is an
epic piece set in Old Testament times, about a man named Z. I don't want to tell
the whole story, that's available on the CD. But to provide some idea - Z has
crossed thru the Red Sea. Z has eaten the food God provided for his people in
the desert. Z's wrestling with whether God's really good to them or not. He
thinks it might've been better to stay in Egypt. Z's bitten by a snake and is
facing death as a result, but God has provided the cure if Z will only look upon
the brass serpent. There's a lot to this epic. At roughly 35 minutes long it is
the heart of the album. Musically, it's got a little of everything that Akacia's
"Olivet" is a mystical
piece of music based on the Olivet discourse. As with the original text, we
present the lyrics in a manner that's open to the interpretation of the
reader/listener rather than offering our own interpretation of the text.
"The Grace of God" is
more of a straight ballad, though it evokes proggy atmospheres and has a lot of
modal interchange. It is, as the title suggests, about the Grace of God.
Dave had several life changes to undergo and so he left Akacia. We remain
good friends, and he may pop up behind keys from time to time at a gig. We
played as a quartet for a few shows, until Dave was replaced by Trish Lee. Trish
is a polar opposite kind of keyboardist from Dave. Whereas Dave is classically
trained and moved from that technical, orchestrated background towards the music
of Akacia, Trish is more of an atmospheric, free, improvisational kind of
musician also moving towards the music of Akacia. Trish has been a friend of the
band from the beginning, and is married to Danny, who helped with An Other Life.
Trish and Danny have created "Paradigm Studios" where Akacia now
rehearses, and I have acquired new digital recording equipment of my own for us
to continue recording together. We have already completed our 3rd album
"This Fading Time" and we are in the process of determining where to
go from here. Through it all, we fellowship, grow stronger as friends, and
continue to pray and encourage one another in our faith. We hope you enjoy our
music. Drop us an email and let us know what you think if you'd like.