Yellow Springs outfit takes a more direct approach after sprawling double LP

With 2017 album Range, Yellow Springs indie-rock act Speaking Suns went big. The double LP was lush and sprawling, and the pastoral, conceptual songs tended to take on spiritual qualities.

“It was a statement of us being out in the woods here in Yellow Springs,” said singer/guitarist Jake Diebold recently by phone.

For new album Terrestrial Year — out on Friday, Jan. 31, the day before Speaking Suns’ local release show at Rumba Cafe — the band took the opposite approach. Rather than slowly chipping away at a record — writing, recording and meticulously tweaking for months — Speaking Suns wrote the songs together in a room, perfected them onstage, then recorded them live in a Chicago studio in three days. 

“Actually, we knocked it out in one day, and then we did overdubs the next two days,” Diebold said. “We were definitely trying to grab more of the early takes. We would just roll with it, and I think it created more of a rawness and more of a garage kind of sound.”

Speaking Suns usually writes the music first, and Diebold’s eventual lyrics tended to match the lean, direct nature of Terrestrial Year's songs. “I went in the direction of making more statements about what we see in the world, a commentary on what's going on in the world today. I had an image of writing a newspaper — less of a creative writing sense and more thinking in headlines, like you’re reading the news,” he said. “At the time I was really into Tristan Tzara and the Dada movement, and just going for a weird, prose-y, head-turning style of writing.”

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To capture the new sound, Speaking Suns traveled to Treehouse Records in Chicago, where multi-instrumentalist and new bandmate Rourke Papania was living at the time. “We linked up with this guy named Andrew Humphrey, who works with a bunch of our favorite bands, like Twin Peaks, Whitney and Post-Animal,” Diebold said. “It was probably the most enjoyable [recording] process we've had.”

Speaking Suns also brought on Than Reed on keys and synth, further helping to fill out the band's sound after the departure of previous guitarist Jay Teilhet. “We've always gone for a wall of sound thing [in the studio],” said Diebold, adding that with the addition of Papania and Reed, Speaking Suns can better replicate that bigger sound onstage now. “We’re being true to the recordings, which we weren't exactly able to do before."

The band is releasing Terrestrial Year digitally and on CD, with a limited run of 10-inch records available at the release show; the vinyl features the album’s first three singles and three more of the band’s favorite tracks from the record. Speaking Suns also has another record already completed and hopes to release it before too long.

“We're not overthinking things,” Diebold said. “We aren't trying to sculpt a gold record or something.”

Check out the video for single “What is Progress?” below: