Sam Wade of Saturn V Rockets | Reentry

“Studio discoveries and excavated gems only come from digging deep to make it happen.”

When I was younger, I thought the lifeblood of a local music community was the manic energy of hyper-prolific creative minds. I had no concept of pacing. The cycles of booms and busts played out like the jading of college freshmen as they matriculate. Time has proven that the vitality of a music community is measured by the number, and nature of perennial talents. These permanent fixtures give the community continuity. You can mark the growth and expansions of influences by noting the evolution of these artists. Their works encapsulate the timbre of a given time, in that particular place. But you have no way of knowing if you’re witnessing an artist of this sort carving out their niche without committing to following their work over an extended period. If there’s one thing about these perennial figures that rings true, it’s that they make it easy to do just that.

That said, it’s time I properly introduce you to Sam Wade. In the nine years since we first met, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him front his own bands, and collaborate with other artists to elevate their craft. His ambition and passion are always evident in his work. He and Saturn V Rockets intend to broadcast that to the world in 2017.

When I first heard you perform, it was solo with a loop station at Cicero’s and you were still in Northside’s Sweet Revenge. Since then, you’ve released a handful of albums with Controlled Fires, Brother Mouzone, an album under your own name, and now Saturn V Rockets. I can definitely see some connections, but how do you relate these projects to one another, if at all?

First of all, I’m one of those people that connect things and paths all the time. I guess I’m realizing I’m very nostalgic. If not kept in check, it can potentially inhibit communication in everyday interactions. But with music, it’s different. I think there’s an unusual range of influences in Saturn V Rockets. I mean there’s the obvious ones, to me at least: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and Foo Fighters. Except we are dudes who obsess over those influences. I’ve been somewhat pathologically obsessed with The Beatles’ recording process from the studio album era since my teens. Then recently I went down the Brian Wilson rabbit hole. I saw Brian live this summer; I couldn’t really wrap by brain around the fact that he was right there in front of me performing these magical pop opuses that came from some place in his mind. I think that guy lives in a different universe all together, and it’s beautiful—terrifying maybe at times, but beautiful. I can relate a lot to his creative madness.

Anyway, there’s strings connected from previous projects for all five of us. Jared [Oliver] and I started Brother Mouzone a few years back because we wanted to play shows. Jared has this really deep well of song nuggets. I think the original idea was to do a shoegaze influenced thing. We both knew Brain [Bryan Pollard] from working together at Apple. He’s a madman on the drums—really powerful! Brain was in another band called Echo Bravo with Perky [Matt Pekny]. I don’t think Perky was even playing bass at the time. I think guitar was his thing, but his bass lines are so solid and interesting, I think that’s his thing now, too.

With the lineup of four, we made an EP called We Sound like Drugs and played a few shows. When we opted to perform as the Flaming Lips for “An Undercover Weekend” a couple years ago, we needed another multi-instrumentalist to round out all the parts. In walks in Jimmy [Britton]. I’d been creating with Jimmy since Northside’s Sweet Revenge, and we produced the Controlled Fires record together. Jimmy played the show with us, and it was very obvious we needed to forge ahead as a five piece.

You guys live up the name, as the songs are equally propulsive and spacey. Which came first, the name or the material?

The material came first. Early on, I had the idea to write the lyrics with a space theme. The first Brother Mouzone EP has the same thing going on, but I think the idea really grew up with the latest batch of songs. We wrote actually wrote “Saturn V Rockets” over two years before it became our name.

What were the inspirations for Superluminal? Have the events in our region of the last few years played into the writing process?

Superluminal took us two years to make, so yeah, I would say that the events in our region inspired it, but probably not directly. I think it’s more about five musicians with wide gamut of influences melding together. It was the hardest record I’ve ever been a part of pulling off. Jared and I produced, engineered, and mixed the album on a shoestring budget. There were so many starts and stops, problems and patience needed along the way. At the same time, there were more of those studio discoveries and excavated gems that only come from digging deep to make it happen. I think he would agree that the finished product is such a triumph! I think it’s a true band album.

Have world events—particularly ones in the world of music, given all the deaths of seminal figures in the last couple of years—had an impact on the sounds and styles you all have been motivated to adopt?

David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy— I mean, fuck; if that’s who leaves us while we make a record…

We wrote a tribute to Bowie on this record called “So Long Starman.” I tried to sing it like myself and there just wasn’t enough drama, so I did my best Bowie-inspired vocal. I like to think he would have dug it. I think I wrote the lyrics maybe two days after he passed. We had the track arranged and recorded for several months. I’d written maybe three drafts of lyrics before and they all seemed lacking. In the wake of his passing, the lyrics just poured out. The album title comes from that song.

What’s changed, as far as you can tell, over the last 10 years, from then to now, in the music community in St. Louis, and how is that impacting how you all approach Saturn V Rockets?

I wouldn’t know what’s changed in the community. I think we are just trying to be in the moment of Saturn V Rockets. | Willie Edward Smith

Catch Saturn V’s show January 28 at Foam in St. Louis. Also on the bill are Bantam Foxes and the Fade.

Sam Wade photo by Willie Edward Smith

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