After roughly five years of radio silence, mastermind Dan Briggs, along with his bandmates and fellow road warriors Adam Fisher and Ashley Ellyllon, have returned with a new sonic offering from Orbs. The album, titled “Past Life Regression”, is full of the same prog rock eccentricity the project is known for, but with a slightly darker tone than that of their last record, 2010’s “Asleep Next To Science”. While gearing up for a brief run of shows in support of the new record, Briggs took a moment to talk with us about the new music, and how Orbs has pressed on despite the distance between members and their own busy schedules.
You and your bandmates’ other projects have put out a handful of records collectively since the last Orbs release. Is ‘Past Life Regression’ something that Was composed intermittently over the last six years, or were you all waiting to have the same down time to write?
Yeah, the writing began before the first album even came out because there was a two year gap between us writing and recording it and when it came out. We had recorded it and had all this extra creative energy and we had been touring a little bit here and there so Ashley and I just kept gradually working on music. ‘Dreamland II’ and ‘El Burro’ were in that group of songs, though both went under pretty heavy revisions before the final versions were done. We kicked it into high gear around the fall of 2012 through early 2013 before recording that summer.
You’re a bassist, but you head writing both bass and guitar for Orbs. What do you get out of playing guitar that you might not get out of your primary instrument? Is it more of a personal challenge to do something different or an escape from the norm?
Guitar was actually my first instrument (well, after a year of saxophone when I was 9), but I’ve always written on guitar. I’ve always written on guitar for BTBAM and then write my bass parts after the fact. The only band I really compose on bass first and foremost is Trioscapes. I’ve always just loved a lot of different music and it’s always evolving, but the connection for Orbs was to a mix of the music I grew up with, 90’s alt rock and space rock bands like Failure and Cave In mixed with my love of progressive rock from the 70’s, and then Ashley’s classical influences. As long as there’s an outlet for something new that’s not covered by one of my other groups I’m on board. I love staying creatively busy.
The tone of ‘Past Life Regression’, musically and lyrically, seems a bit darker than ‘Asleep Next to Science’. Is there a running theme throughout the record that may have brought this about?
The central idea is based around reincarnation in all kinds of different forms, and the ideas of grief, loss, and regret. The song ‘El Burro’ really sums up the ideas on the album and so it was only fitting that it’s the finale for the whole thing.
The term “supergroup” is often attached to Orbs. What are your thoughts on this title?
It’s not self imposed so, much like people labeling the group “progressive metal” in some outlets. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything metal about the group. It doesn’t bother me, but it does leave some people who may not know the groups scratching their heads and having a laugh about it. To me it just says that we’re all musicians who have been touring for over a decade and it’s a tip of the cap to the hard work we’ve put in with our other projects.
We always try to relate these interviews back to North Carolina in some way. As someone who has travelled most of the world playing music, why do you make your home in NC? Basically, what is your take on the state of your state?
Yeah, actually as we’re embarking on this tour I’m in the process of buying a home in Greensboro, and it’s been a long time coming. I’ve loved traveling the world and coming back to Greensboro and North Carolina. It feels like home, and even though there are areas of the country and world I love, it’s nice to know I get to visit them and come back here. I’ve lived down here for 11 years now, and I just think it’s gorgeous and prospering.
What’s next for Orbs and you personally after this run of shows?
That’s a great question! The whole idea was after five years off the road to just ease back into it, put some feelers out there with the new album out and see what happens. It’s been electric practicing the last few days, there’s a great energy with the five of us and I’m really excited to see it come to life in a live setting.