By Keller Bradberry
Inner Wave is a Latinx indie shoegaze band, made up of childhood friends, hailing from Inglewood, California. For the past ten years, they have been jamming out in lead singer Pablo Sotelo’s parent’s garage and have since brought forth four albums. Along with Sotelo on vocals and guitar, the band consists of Jean Pierre Narvaez (bass/vocals), Chris Runners (keys/vocals), Elijah Trujillo (guitar/keys) and Luis Portillo (drums).
One of their more popular songs is their 2014 release, “American Spirits,” which sets simple yet dynamic chord progressions in the backdrop of emotionally-charged verses and hooks. They are within the growing musical movement of guitar soul music from Latinx teens such as Omar Apollo and Cuco.
Their latest EP release, wya, is an exciting growth for the band, but due to a stolen drum set from their touring U-Haul last year, they found new musical direction. While mourning this loss on their way home, they took to programmed beats, expanding their instrumental and song-building opportunities and thus, wya has arrived and has a strong statement about the musical abilities among these childhood friends.
A standout track from the 5-track EP is “Oof.” As a Strokes-inspired band, it’s not difficult to notice the Julian Casablancas-like vocals and cinematic usage of the synths reminiscent of his work with the Voidz in “Human Sadness.” As Sotelo jadedly sings: “Who are these people standing in my room?” it’s the standout of the album because, overall, it best suits the new equipment.
This accolade could also apply to the last of the EP, “Mate,” which fully embraces the synthetic aesthetic. The weeping, horn-like synths compliment Sotelo’s pitched-up vocals as he says: “Maybe it’s a sign. Lightning in the sky, now the storms coming and I think I know why.” The second verse brings even more vocal distortion, even to the point of being Daft-Punk-esque.
Their new synth wave makes wya their poppier album, which is a reasonable and wholesome departure from their previous albums that were more lyrically heavy and instrumentally moody. The best example of this change in sound would be the first track on the album, “Why’d You Have to Act Like That Though.” Through the remaining half of the song, they harmonize, “I’ve been missing you, I’ve been missing you, I swear…” The dynamic bassline and indie chord progression fills nicely over these lyrics and the isolated synth keys.
Unlike their contemporaries, such as Omar Apollo and Cuco, this is a fully-staffed garage band, which I think has certain benefits to their identity and overall sound. For one, being a 5-person band can exponentially increase the creativity factor if harnessed properly, which these boys have a knack for. All the songwriting flows through Sotelo for the sake of cohesiveness, but, as Sotelo said in a Complex interview, “Whatever molds [them] as a group ultimately decides it.”
Another benefit of the size of the band is seen in their positive reviews of their live shows, five people on stage adds to the uniqueness of the performance and enhances the overall “raw” factor. They’re set to complete their multi-contentinental tour for wya in Houston at the end of December.
Overall, it’s been a pleasure to listen to this album in this chilly weather; the five songs are catchy, emotive and unique. I thoroughly enjoy their new style, and, furthermore, would have liked to see a few more tracks within the EP. I think that Inner Wave has the personnel and longevity to continue to find success, and all they need is to work hard to cultivate and polish their sound.