Making Moves Over Summer: Flashback Forward

Lucky breaks aren’t unfamiliar to State College based alt-rock quartet, Flashback Forward (@Flashback_Fwd). A chance run-in with an audio-engineering student on a Manhattan subway lead the band into the New York City recording studio, Engine Room Audio, where their debut EP, The Passenger, was recorded on the same equipment used by The Killers, Dispatch, and (get ready for straight thuggin’ status) all of G-Unit.

Back when Flashback Forward was just an idea in guitarist/back-up vocalist Aida Mekonnen’s mind, a chance post on the Penn State Facebook group by drummer, Elliot Frost, lead to disorganized jam sessions that evolved into solid musical composition. And just by chance acquaintance, vocalist and self-proclaimed “chorus boy,” Tyler Ringland, become the pipes of the collaboration and bassist, Zach Johnso, was shuffled into the mix–just three practices before laying down the bass tracks in three of the songs found on The Passenger.

But luck isn’t what’s fueling the fire burning around the August 1st release of Flashback Forward’s breakout EP. Coincidence can only account for so much of the spark. Talent, emotion, and a personality that bleeds from off-stage into the band’s blend of eclectic indie-rock is acting like well-refined gunpowder — and the musically-conscious quartet is left fanning the flames.

The Passenger is a 5 song melting pot of minimalist punk with driving power-chord riffs reminiscent of the 90’s Seattle alt-rock scene and sprinkled with piano ballad accompaniment, infectious down-tempo bridges, an ambient Brit-pop atmosphere, and free-sailing vocal harmonies that resonate like church bells. With only a year under their belts, Flashback Forward proves they are musically mature for their age.

Pulling styles from the many spectrums of rock, jazz, and classical; Flashback Forward weaves together a diverse troupe of musical pasts into a multi-faceted musical product that plays off inspiration from bands such as U2, Muse, Coldplay, The Who, Michael Buble, State Radio, and John Mayer. But The Passenger isn’t simply a re-issuing of the band’s scattered styles and influences — a clear lineage of cut-out-the-fat straight rock-your-face-off attitude runs like a freight train through their album.

Standing out front the rest of Flashback Forward’s EP is the pop-laden track, Nineteen. Opening with Elliot’s militaristic-style snare pattern under Tyler’s soaring vocals, the song climaxes through a well-seamed transition into a catchy chorus — leaving listeners with “I try my best to give, I try my best to live” ringing in their heads for hours after the headphones come off.

With thrashy reverb vocals and an infectious neck-loosening rhythm, the track Dissident rings like a Weezer song (before the Beverly Hills bullshit) and is by far the most in-your-face experience of the whole EP. Chunky power-chords add power to Tyler’s howling lyricism which preaches like an identity crisis. A no-nonsense drum beat leaves your head bobbing up and down, tapping forcefully along with the as-thick-as-maple-syrup groove. With a sound comparable to The Strokes plus a rage against the machine (the idealism not the band) attitude, Dissident is the band’s most pronounced venture into creating a brand for their sound.

However, it isn’t all ass-kicking for Flashback Forward. The Passenger is tied together with a haunting, stripped-down piano ballad titled, Parasite, and given a more serious tone by the down-trodden song, Surrender. With a slow intro that is further retarded into a melodramatic chorus of dragging vocal harmonies and spacey guitar, synth and the exotic addition of a marimba; Surrender is soaked in an empathetic air.

While most of The Passenger will either have you singing into your hairbrush or head-banging uncontrollably in your dorm room, Flashback Forward uses slower tracks to leave listeners in a state of introspection. And just as the band has grown together the last year to put out a professional-sounding EP, The Passenger takes its audience for a tangible ride through a musical coming of age tale.

After playing around campus at Arts Crawl, Arts Fest, and in the Break Zone at the HUB — as well as venues in Altoona, Pittsburgh and New York — Flashback Forward is ready to bring their act to a bar near you. But don’t worry, their musical talent shines through at live performances and cover songs are kept to a minimum (though I heard they do a rendition of “Steady As She Goes” by The Raconteurs that is off the charts).

This Wednesday you can get a taste of the band’s unique rock cocktail at The Darkhorse Tavern. If you miss this week’s performance, Flashback Forward will be lighting up the stage at The State Theatre on November 8th. You can also keep up with the band on Facebook, ReverbNation, Twitter, and their official website.

If you are a local artist who made some moves over summer, let us tell your story. Send your music to [email protected] or @evanponter on Twitter and let the Penn State community hear your home-grown musical prowess.

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