When talking to people about Solstice Coil, I am often asked three questions: 1) what does Solstice Coil mean? 2) How do you pronounce it? (Mostly Israeli people ask that) and 3) what kind of music do you play / wtf is alternative progressive rock?
So here are some answers for you:
1) It means nothing. Just kidding, it means something, we just don't know what… I elaborated about this in this interview.
2) You pronounce it phonetically, obviously!
I remember writing a forum ad for our first show, which stated that we played alternative rock / grunge / Britpop. Naturally, those were different times, with a completely different material. Our influences at the time were mostly Muse, Radiohead and Nickelback.
Okay, just kidding about Nickelback, but I was a keen fan of Britpop bands, mainly Ocean Color Scene, Dodgy, Blur, Oasis and Mansun.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then. We started diving into the world of progressive rock, which eventually led us to chuck all the songs we had and replace them with what would eventually become A Prescription for Paper Cuts. The thing was, we didn't quite feel like we were making progressive rock per se.
The Search for Definition
My singing style has always been influenced by Thom Yorke and Matthew Bellamy, as well as the mood of our compositions. We also didn't feel like we were measuring up to "real" progressive rock bands like Genesis, King Crimson and Yes – we really didn't feel like our music was that complicated.
On the other hand, we sure as hell weren't going to define ourselves as a Neo-Prog band. We also didn't want to claim to be a prog-metal band because some songs weren't that heavy and the falsetto style of singing found in APPC was very none-metal.
I'll just Create My Own Genre, Then! (With blackjack, and hookers)
We decided a new sub-sub-genre was in order. Since we combined alternative rock and progressive rock, it was only natural to call it Alternative Progressive Rock, or alt-prog-rock for short. Or APR for really short. Though nobody calls it that.
We didn't know of many bands that fused these two styles the same way we did at the time, except maybe for fellow Israeli rock band Eatliz, but they took it to a far more extreme direction, which was often clearly progressive metal (even if they won't admit it).
Surprise, Surprise, Alternative Progressive Rock Exists
When we finally got to record some tracks and upload them to the web, we started receiving all sorts of feedback. One comment on Garageband mentioned The Mars Volta, which we didn't know at the time.
After listening carefully to their music, we felt like we had just found our twin brother – this was a band that made crazy music with odd time signatures, unorthodox song structures, long guitar solos and busy arrangements, while still maintaining a modern sound and not actually sounding like a prog band at all!
So naturally, after we were told we sound like them, we started doing everything we could to sound like them, but on purpose.
Then another comment spoke of Dredg. Though not quite a progressive alternative band, they do present some unconventional songwriting and a unique drumming style, especially on El Cielo.
The most notable band we found was Oceansize. Now this was a band that had the guitars and vocals of Radiohead and Muse, only all of their songs are played on a 7/8 time signature. Efflorescence paved the way, but Everyone into Position really established their reign as alternative progressive rock kings (though their MySpace paged defined them as a Progressive Death Indie band).
I would also like to note two albums from the late 1990s that I feel are model examples of alt-prog-rock:
Mansun - Six
This brilliant concept album is the apex of what I think alternative progressive rock should be: ambiguous yet meaningful lyrics and unexpected compositions that never cease to surprise you. I recently read on Paul Draper's blog about the making of Six, and it really inspired me. I wrote a review about the album a few years ago, you can read it here (for Israelis and Hebrew majors only)
Pulp – This is Hardcore
Yes, Pulp. If you don't know this album and you think Pulp was nothing but an upbeat Britpop band with some silly hit songs, think again. This concept album is very well crafted, musically, lyrically and visually. It's not as off-the-hook as Six, but it has some very interesting compositions, particularly the title theme, which is both moving and intellectually stimulating – and that's what alternative progressive rock is all about!
If you can think of any more examples for alternative progressive rock, let me know!