The very beginning of Amrita’s existence is a situation that is not often discussed; quite a bit of time has passed and many changes have been made since Patrick Riley, Mike Del Principe and Matt Robinson started jamming together. At that time, Del Principe had somewhat recently parted ways with his high school band, The Academy Is…, and the three found themselves at the same fork in the road that, really, any of us face during that pivotal point in our lives; uncertainties about what kind of life to pursue only pointed straight toward getting their sound together. The inspiration to do so, can’t be retraced back to a single group—each member takes their own influences from different sources—but at the time, independent musicians had plenty to be inspired by; “Incubus, As Tall As Lions, and The Mars Volta,” says Del Principe, “that was who we wanted to sound like at the time.”
As a three piece, Amrita’s sound was mostly the brain child of Patrick—he was the driving force behind the sound with his guitar as well has his voice. Soon, he would decide that even though the music (melodically and lyrically) was his creation, ultimately singing and playing guitar was too limiting. They tried out guitarist until settling on a keyboard player and a lead singer to get closer to the sound that they had envisioned. Their first EP, Innertides, was released in late July of 08. Just a couple days before the release date, Amrita ousted their key player and hooked up with another: Jason Kearney. Jason would not only learn the band’s existing tunes in less than a week, but would introduce styles from some of his more sophisticated influences: Phish, The String Cheese Incident, and Widespread Panic.
More than anything, Innertides marks a point of transition. Indications of progress as a band were compiling; the chemistry between Patrick, Mike, and Matt was comfortable and songs had come out naturally. The release date is also significant in that it marks the end of the band’s meandering. Instrumentally they now had everything that they needed: a tight rhythm section, Patrick could suddenly look to a well-versed musician, who studied Jazz at Fort Lewis University in Colorado to play both rhythm and lead on keys, and—most importantly—they had an interesting sound. That undoubtedly-ambient sound is deliberately feeling-first-and-foremost and is reminiscent of several Chicago-based acts that came before: Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco, and Wax on Radio—who’s former drummer is a still-close childhood friend of Riley.
Amrita’s roster made its final change when Amrita made the decision to start looking for a more appropriate singer. “We owe it all to ‘our guardian angel,’” says Patrick, speaking of Donna, an older and quite motherly friend of the band who adores live music and attends every local Amrita show with her husband. “She saw Aaron play an acoustic show somewhere, liked his voice, and after the show, she very sincerely told him to get in touch with us.” Aaron Graunke was officially a member of Amrita in October of ’09 and has taken majority-control of lyric composition since then.
Their sophomore EP Release, Outside the Paradigm, one of their most proud accomplishments, was recorded at IV Lab studio and masterfully produced by Manny Sanchez (Patrick Stump, Umphrey’s McGee, Andrew Bird)—a detail Amrita greatly appreciates. The EP was recorded quite warmly within the thick walls of IV Lab and is a 6-track glimpse of things to come. In contrast to their previous release, Outside the Paradigm is less guitar-intensive; partly because now Aaron and Jason were supplying the pleasing mid-range tones but also because of the ever-present, ever-necessary goal to write “simple quality tunes,” Patrick explained.
Since then, with some struggle to “get their name out” Amrita emphasizes their live performance in the band’s attraction. Improvisation is a key-point of the band’s live show; audiences can recognize the on-the-spot communication happening throughout an Amrita set. In terms of repertoire, the band now has a hand full of covers and renditions which they might play depending on the venue or occasion but primarily plays music of their own creation.
One might ask, exactly what kind of band is Amrita in terms of genre? Stylistically, their music is rock--guitar driven--yet not as classically structured as one might expect from the “rock” genre. These days, while the guys are still enamored with bands like The Mars Volta, they’re more attracted following in the footsteps of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Yes. “Progressive rock” is another potentially fitting genre for Amrita. In the tradition of progressive bands, they occasionally use time as a theme in their music, they write songs with emphasize dynamics of volume and aggressiveness, and, also a characteristic of the progressive archetype, they intend not to huddle around any single member; unlike many popular bands, Amrita hopes to deliver their message evenly rather than being lead--and ultimately defined--by their singer or guitar player. A true collaborative effort. Another defining characteristic of “prog” bands is virtuosity; no, the guys don’t consider themselves virtuosic, but aspire to compose interesting, well-written, classic and ultimately virtuosic parts.
Since the release of Outside the Paradigm, the band has been playing shows, writing, recording and living life as comfortably as possible. They keep a steady practice schedule, and recently finished two studio new recordings at IV Lab. Amrita looks forward to working hard in the future to write great music and acquire bigger, better shows.
Written by Mike Mara (1/26/2012)