By Danielle Capalbo – Contributor
The last time we heard from The Refectory, singer-songwriter Robbie Vozza was commanding a four-piece adept at indie rock earworms, uncommon rhythms and tricky instrumentals: an irresistible kind of prog-pop reminiscent of Pinback. Now as a three-piece, the band is poised to release its sophomore self-titled EP—and while they’re leaner as an outfit, Vozza and company have never hit so hard. Necessity, it turns out, is the mother of reinvention.
What hasn’t changed is The Refectory’s aptitude for uninhibited, unconventional and totally memorable songwriting, or their willingness to veer from heavy heavies to soft softs on a hairpin turn—a journey of gratifying twists in the capable hands of Vozza (guitar), Ben Stokes (bass) and Brian Dicrescenzo (drums). Yet a new dimension of propulsive angst makes itself apparent within the first thirty seconds of opening track “Three Towns Away,” which crushes forward in a catchy swell of sludge, feedback and stoner metal magic. The Refectory still shimmer as they did on Spiral Staircases, but when they pummel here, they pummel.
More likely they’re doing both on this substantial five-song collection of extremes in contrast, perhaps as a means to emulate and exorcise the emotions of self-reflection that underpin Vozza’s lyrics. The hypnotic “Bull in a Zoo,” for instance, begins with a single guitar plucked in sparse and pretty repetition before building incrementally, across seven minutes, toward a hardcore crescendo. “I’m tired, I’m tired of waiting, waiting for you,” Vozza sings in his clear, clean voice. “Pacing, pacing around like a bull a zoo.”
It’s not surprising that expanses of time and space—spent waiting, wondering and working out the riddles of life—are the focus of an EP that clocks in at a continuous 35 minutes. Yet The Refectory never feels longwinded. It feels deliberate, insistent and unhurried instead, awash in elevated details at the meticulous engineering hand of DeCarlo. (The band recorded its own EP live at Mother Brother Studios in Bethel, Conn.) Some of the most delicate moments occur between songs, in beautiful, spacious transitions: from “Three Towns Away” to “Bull in a Zoo,” or “Din” into the slow-grunge “Drove Back.”
Among this heavy collection, “Din” (written largely by DeCarlo) is the most bombastic and quick-changing, a headbanger with corrosive lead guitar that travels the band’s signature peaks and valleys, fueled on yearning, before it builds into a gorgeous, full-throttle ripper. In a powerful wish to the universe, Vozza issues forth: “If I come to find a nameless face that stares at me beyond the glass / Set me out into the woods and let me rest / And let me rest where I can find something real to know and love again / The things I’ve lost were never ever mine.”
“Pretty Rows” is another standout track, an exercise in tension and feeling that epitomizes the band’s overall efforts. “It’s all I’ve swam up stream for,” Vozza croons again and again, as the song struts forward. “A love that’s never felt so pure.” Not until we pass the three-minute mark does the levy burst on that stream, and then it’s not so much a matter of swimming as being swept away.
Listen to The Refectory EP below: