Maybe it was the citrus-flavored liqueur or the enchanted trees of the Catskills. Maybe it was the bald eagle, or the snow. Maybe it was falling in and out of love and coming out of it alive, or maybe it was just that old mansion.
Regardless, Spells has a pulse.
The Comas are a New York-based rock band originally formed by Andy Herod and Nicole Gehweiler in 1998 in Chapel Hill, NC. Currently comprised of Herod, Gehweiler (guitars, vox), Matt Sumrow (piano, organ, vox), Jason Caperton (bass) and Nic Gonzales (drums), the band has developed its most dynamic and compelling sound to date, and in the last few years have shared the stage with such acts as The Breeders, Sparklehorse, Mando Diao, Dashboard Confessional and Vietnam. The Comas’ unique brand of psychedelic garage pop has been highly regarded by critics and fans most notably for their sci-fi love songs intermixed with floating synths and guitar fuzz as found on 2004’s extremely well received Conductor.
Conductor’s accolades included an 8 out of 10 from Pitchfork Media, the band being featured in Rolling Stone and Spin Magazines, and the record being named number 3 in Magnet Magazine’s Top 20 Essential Albums of 2004 just below Tom waits and Modest Mouse.
Nearly 2 years after the release of Conductor and after two U.S. tours, the band signed with Vagrant Records and began writing for their fourth record. The Comas’ fans were ready for more.
That winter, The Comas sought out producer Bill Racine after being impressed with his work with The Flaming Lips, Rogue Wave and The Mates of State, among others. Racine lead them to Allaire Studios located in a rather immense, somewhat spooky mansion nestled atop the Catskill Mountains. The studio included a 360-degree panoramic view of the snow just beginning to blanket the terrain of the hilly and heavily forested Upstate New York.
As recording began, stories of magic, enchantment, and spirits started to surface about the house where The Comas were creating their fourth work. In contrast to ordinary haunted tales, the songs on The Comas’ latest album were mere skeletons upon entering the mansion, awaiting life, as opposed to their ultimate deaths. During their stay these songs grew stronger with the very atmosphere that surrounded them, only to exit as the living, breathing album that is, Spells.
While the snow fell outdoors, the band stayed inside conjuring songs of healing and overcoming sadness, occasionally escaping outside to build snowmen or to search for cellphone service to no avail. “At one point during recording, Nicole saw a bald eagle fly by the window,” notes Herod. It must have been a good omen because it marked the birth of a truly beautiful record.
The intense rhythm driven melodies and soaring distorted guitars that make up Spells are intertwined with Herod’s lyrics characterized by imagery of the forest. He and Gehweiler alternate singing of “glowing owl eyes,” “spiders,” “new wolves,” and “redwoods swaying in starry space,” painting a picture of the magical experience The Comas were having lost in the woods upstate. Herod also noted the discovery of a case of Cointreau in the basement of the old mansion, which may have also had something to do with the “magic” throughout the album.
The Comas must be seen live to be believed. Individual members no longer exist. Instead, characters walk you through a dream world of love and rock that will sweep you off of your feet forever.