Race To Neptune Are Either the Black Sheep of Fort Collins or It's Next Big Thing

By: Brody Coronelli

With a new lineup, the band’s heavy, technical, and invigorating new EP Abandon Fashion showcases their evolution as a band, and what sets them aside from their counterparts.

 Race To Neptune.

Race To Neptune.

With a spellbing conceptual precision that blends scuzzy ‘90s grunge-rock, darkwave, and the teeth-kicking emotional thunder of punk in a manner that makes heads bang, dice tumble, and PA systems growl, Race to Neptune are one of Fort Collins’ loudest, eclectic, and ferocious rock bands.

The band made their debut in 2016 with Oh Contraire, an album that had a few moments of brazen, fiery chargings into up-tempo punk-rock, but for the most part stayed on the melodic side, using dark, midtempo, and gritty instrumentation to surround frontman Brian Maier’s personal and biting lyrics in a shadowy glow. On the Thurston Moore-reminiscent “Wanderlilly,” the guitars are loud and fiery, but immensely tasteful and bright as the band uses a catchy refrain and echoing harmonies to guide the song into a warm resonance. The song is forceful and delicate all at once; a balance the band had no issue finding on that album.

On their new EP Abandon Fashion, the band has kept the technical sensibilities of their debut intact, making use of raw, punkish energy to play their eclectic and progressive brand of rock’n’roll. Many of the songs have a raw and thundering approach that takes more after punk-rock than it does from brazen, technical, and melodic broods through the dimly lit streets of Oh Contraire. These songs aim to ignite, but not in a typical four-chord punk rock fashion. The band uses this driving energy and delivers it with an array of sonic intricacies in a way that’s more indicative of artists like Jack White, Black Sabbath, and Queens of The Stone Age rather than Subhumans or The Germs.

“I think [Abandon Fashion] is a two word statement that almost signifies that we are going to write, record, and do what we want and how we want, no matter what is cool, trendy, or ‘in fashion’,” says frontman Brian Maier.

The whole EP was cut live at Stout Studios in Fort Collins, capturing a raw and forthright energy that often can’t be found when meticulously multi-tracking or chasing the perfect take. This raw approach, balanced with the driving and aggressive nature of the songs makes Abandon Fashion a fierce, unrelenting pleasure.

“I honestly have always wanted to [record the way we did on this record] because it captures the aggressiveness and raw energy of how we actually sound that can’t be faked. I think if we recorded the first album the same way those songs would have come across just as heavy. Track by track recording is so dialed in and precise in every way from the smallest turn of an amp or pedal knob to how hard we strum or hit a drum or cymbal. This was total freedom and we recorded this just how we practice and this is how we sound live, because it is!” says frontman Brian Maier.

The opening track “Mortal Melody” features a nearly two-minute chugging intro with guitars that gradually grow more jagged, and pummelling drums that grow fiercer with each strike. The song is a garage-driven excursion that has all the thrill of driving down an empty desert highway going fifty over the speed limit. “I’ll be your creature/Can you teach me to teach/Sing to me slowly/In a motor melody,” Maier sings with a quiet growl on top of a scuzzy and aggressive bassline.

The Sonic Youth and Modest Mouse inspired “Departure” follows, a scuzzy rocker with a chanting, harmonic, and arena rock-reminiscent chorus. “Sunsets” is an older song of Maier’s that resurfaced while the band was tracking the album. With a beachy, sunburnt instrumental that feels like a long drive by the coast and lyrics about running off to California, it’s a bright and infectious song by a band that often defaults to the shadows.

The closing track “Abandon Fashion” is a return to form for the band. The entirely instrumental song opens with a fit of siren-esque picking, only to devolve into a showdown of fiery, circling guitars that get more aggressive with every note. What starts out capturing a warm sunset quickly starts to resemble a sky littered with flames, dancing down to the ground.

 The album artwork for  Abandon Fashion .

The album artwork for Abandon Fashion.

In more ways than one, Abandon Fashion marks a new beginning for the band. Not only is it a step into new musical territory, but the band underwent two significant lineup changes before making it. With Matt Petersen now on drums and Matt McNear on bass, the band’s sound is shifting in a different direction. Their influences are made loud and clear, and their presences melding with Maier’s technical and anthemic songwriting have led to Race of Neptune’s most invigorating record so far.

“I think it has been a pretty seamless transition,” says Petersen. “We got comfortable together really quickly. Matt just came on as bassist late February and we were in the studio the first week of April. I think that's definitely a testament to our cohesiveness. [Matt and I] both have a strong jazz background with our instruments which allows us to keep time really well while getting out of the rhythmic box bass and drums can sometimes be confined to in rock music. We are also all involved in the writing process… it’s a very cumulative sound you’re hearing.”

Race to Neptune underwent a quick evolution on Abandon Fashion, and for the better. It’s an invigorating, technical, and fun record that sets the band at the forefront of Fort Collins’ music scene. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t outliers, though. In a scene dominated by folk, EDM, and bluegrass, Race to Neptune are a shining beacon of musical progression and experimentation run through a filter of loud, raw, and eclectic rock.

“There has been a little increase in rock bands and venues in the [Fort Collins] area which is nice, but we are still the black sheep of the music scene up here. It is still very much dominated by jam bands, DJs and bluegrass, but we are trying very hard to support other local rock bands as well,” Maier says.

When the musical cohesiveness, energy, and vision of a band like Race To Neptune are all working together, maybe being the black sheep isn’t a bad thing; maybe it’s a sign that they’re at a the forefront of new sound and identity for Northern Colorado. It’s too early to say, but considering how far they’ve come as a band on only two records, anything is possible.

Abandon Fashion is out now. You can keep up with Race to Neptune here.

-Brody

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.