The winding, but connected trails that lead through the forest of progressive rock have led bands to create some of the most indulgent yet resplendent music. The long, twisting jam sessions crystalize into something bigger than the sum of its parts. On their newest single “High Stakes,” SPHERICAL AGENDA revive organ-driven 80s prog into a sleek, modern twist on the genre’s long history. Today, we’re pleased to give you its first listen, along with our brief interview and the band’s top live progressive, jazz and experimental performances!
Spherical Agenda is a jazz-rock fusion band consisting of the midwest region’s top musicians. Hailing from Cincinnati, OH, their sound not only draws from the cutting edge of today’s fusion, but harkens back to the reckless abandon and pure energy of groups like Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever. Featuring Matt Wiles on bass, Brandon Coleman on guitar, Ben Tweedt on keyboards and Devon Leigh on drums, Spherical Agenda is a powerhouse band who’s unique chemistry gives rise to infectious grooves, daring solos, and captivating energy.
Spherical Agenda hails from Cincinnati, OH, and features some of the best prog players the Midwest has to offer. Bassist Matt Wiles and drummer Devon Leigh keep the band on time with their tight grooves, while keyboardist Ben Tweedt and guitarist Brandon Coleman create swirling textures reminiscent of bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Electric Light Orchestra. Combining progressive rock, jazz, and fusion, this quartet
On “High Stakes,” the band revives the musical tradition of the shuffle. The band recalls that the song “[became] a vehicle for us to really tie a lot of our favorite influences together . . . open-vamp guitar and organ riffing, neoclassical-rock style counterpoint and arpeggios, powerhouse drumming, and shifting harmonies and meter right out of the prog-rock playbook.” It’s a celebration of genre-bending at an epic scale. This mammoth five-minute jam is full of stellar performances from these four musicians. Their playing is tight, but human. Raw, but technically challenging. One thing is for sure; with songs like “High Stakes,” rock and roll will be sticking around for a long time.
““High Stakes” is our tip of the hat to the classic organ-driven sounds of bands like Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer.” – says the band.
“We have found a lot of stylistic continuity between our favorite progressive rock and jazz fusion artists, so one of our primary goals as a band has been to utilize and combine these elements in to a unique, singular musical voice. The primary musical unifier for “High Stakes” is the shuffle feel. Practically every influential artist – whether they be considered blues, jazz, rock, fusion, etc. – has a hard-hitting shuffle in their repertoire.”
“So, “High Stakes” has naturally become a vehicle for us to really tie a lot of our favorite influences together while presenting a little something for everyone to enjoy: open-vamp guitar and organ riffing, neoclassical-rock style counterpoint and arpeggios, powerhouse drumming, and shifting harmonies and meter right out of the prog-rock playbook. “High Stakes” has quickly become a fan favorite as well as a band favorite.”
ARCANE WISDOM, the band’s full-length debut album, is an eclectic assortment of compositions featuring diverse musical influences and a sharply-honed skill set. Whether it be their progressive rhythmic explorations or soul-infused grooves, Spherical Agenda consistently pushes the musical envelope while paying homage to their home state’s rich heritage of funk and soul. Despite the all-encompassing nature of their style and sound, the band maintains a singular, identifiable voice, proving themselves to be an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with.
Despite the band itself being fairly young, the collective is cultivating an ever-growing list of accomplishments. The band’s members have credits including: performances with the Snarky Horns, The Drifters, Fareed Haque, Grammy-Nominated Dan Pugach Nonet, and Sam Blakelsee Quintet and Large Ensembles, clinics and masterclasses both nationally and abroad, and recording credits such as the television series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow soundtrack and the upcoming “For the Love of King”, a compilation series by the Bootsy Collins Foundation benefiting the restoration of historic King Records.
Asked about their new offering, they admit that with ARCANE WISDOM, they set their sights on paying homage to all of their musical influences – both past and present – while maintaining a very distinct musical personality from start to finish.
“As a whole, we have come to find a bit of a disconnect between today’s instrumental music scene and the instrumental music of past generations, and this album is our attempt at filling that void by combining our unique approach to composition, performance, and production with the styles of the monumental artists who paved the way for bands that like to do what we do. The primary challenge at hand was to achieve a unified voice while giving a nod to artists ranging from Weather Report to Frank Zappa and everything in between. Despite being a tall order, we couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished for our debut effort, and we are absolutely thrilled to share it with the world.”
An interview with SPHERICAL AGENDA:
“High Stakes” is the second single off your new record, Arcane Wisdom. Does “High Stakes” indicate the mood for the rest of the album?
Not particularly. The title is definitely geared toward the energy of song itself. It is kind of hard-riding with a perpetual feeling of persistence – bursting with energy without every rupturing. The material throughout the rest of the album features a diverse set of personality traits, so to speak. And while we very intentionally want to have a distinct musical voice as a band, I feel it is safe to say the remaining compositions can’t be fully summed up into a singular mood or vibe.
Is the title of the song a reflection of the times we are living through now?
I suppose it could be taken that way, but we like leaving those types of conclusions at the discretion of the listener. After all, this an album of instrumental music, and while a feeling can certainly be implied with the combination of a title and a specific musical energy/mood, it is much more effective to use lyrical content if we really wanted to convey a very specific reflection or commentary. It’s also really fun to discover the conclusions a listener arrives at. It’s a really genuine look in to how our type of music is perceived and experienced by a very wide variety of people.
Do you mostly play instrumental material?
Yes, it is exclusively instrumental. At least until I get these angelic pipes up and running!
What about the song led to the organ being the lead instrument? It’s full of good licks and runs from everyone, but that keyboard performance is really something!
While the organ definitely has a major feature in the song, but we consider it more of a shared effort due to all of the little featured bits from all of the other instruments. Each mini-feature has it’s own personality too, which helps contrast against organ solo. Also, given the song’s old-school organ-driven rock roots, it only makes sense to let Ben indulge a little!
What’s next for you? Where can fans find you in the next few months?
We have one more single coming out on October 19, and the entire album drops on November 19. For our fans who are not local to Cincinnati, the release show will live-stream on radioartifact.com.
Favorite live performances by SPHERICAL AGENDA:
GO HERE to browse full playlist or watch below: