South Bend, Indiana-based post-gaze outfit SPACESHIPS release their fourth full-length, Ruins, today, March 24 via Friend Club Records.
Recorded by lead vocalist/guitarist Nat FitzGerald with the other members individually throughout 2021 and 2022, Ruins is a collection of songs born out of the social polarization of the pandemic, protests, and political upheaval of 2020 and the fractured relationships with those standing on the other side of where the dividing lines were drawn.
SPACESHIPS was originally formed in 2013 as a continuation of singer/guitarist Nat FitzGerald’s old solo project A Rocket Named Justice, but after recruiting additional members to play live, SPACESHIPS very quickly became a distinct project. Guitarist/keyboardist Ben Gooding originally joined as bassist, with Joel Sanchez joining on drums in 2015. Bret Wood joined on bass in 2018, with Gooding moving to guitar and keyboard. They have released three previous full-lengths: I am a Storm at Sea!!! (2013), Son of Man (2017), and Pillars (2020) as well as an EP, Tiny Fires (2019) and a split, Retrouvé with fellow South Bend post rock band analecta.
This is the heaviest SPACESHIPS record to date, both lyrically and musically. The band marches through vast spacious atmospheres punctuated by sludge plumes of fuzz. Extensive pedalboards and acrobatic drumming underpin vocals that shift from a whisper to a roar.
The lyrics largely focus on the relational toll that the last few years of social divisions have caused. Heated arguments with friends and family members are replayed in “Sinews” and “Seedlings,” close relationships are marred by flippant remarks in “Spillt” (which features Ryan Osterman of Holy Fawn) and “Chatroom,” and the nature of God is weighed against his so-called followers in “Measure.” Sonically, much of the record was flavored by FitzGerald buying a baritone guitar, which he plays on six of the eight tracks.
“This is also the first SPACESHIPS album that wasn’t tracked live since I Am a Storm At Sea!!!, which has its tenth anniversary this year. I spent years multitracking albums as a solo project before SPACESHIPS, so I’ve wanted to do everything we could to capture the energy of a band in a room, and the best way I thought to do that was to literally record a band in the room,” FitzGerald says. “But between lockdown and the juggling act of new kids and jobs, we couldn’t do that this time around. Instead, I brought everybody into my basement studio one by one and worked on a section at a time. It was far more time-consuming, but every part of the song got a lot more attention this way.”
The process also allowed for more complex arrangements, with their heavy guitar-centered approach augmented by acoustic guitars, keyboards, drum machines, and saxophone, as well as more layers of guitar than tracking live allows. It was mixed in house by FitzGerald, then sent off to Mario Quintero (of the band Spotlights) for mastering.