One of the best Dallas-area records of the year so far, if not the best, was recorded and released before the band was even fully formed. After listening to the fantastic first record from Wall of Orange, you'd never guess that anything less than a long-running tightknit crew was responsible for the colorfully lush collection.
Oh, and though the group has already received radio spins, Wall of Orange hasn't even played its first live show yet. That happens this Saturday at the Kessler in Dallas. Dallas-based musician, composer and Wall of Orange leader Gary Parks figured a one-man band approach, which he began in 2015, fit his admittedly "backwards" plan.
"I had some friends come in and do some session work," says Parks, who also stays busy composing scores for indie films and commercial television. "But I worked on the album pretty much all by myself for almost an entire year.
"My intention was to get the material out there and worry about pulling it off live later. The album kind of took off, so the need to put a band together popped up pretty fast."
Though 2017 seems to have been a hotbed of beloved, veteran local bands reuniting in some form or another, not all artists from around here are looking to celebrate the past. The resurrections of Tripping Daisy, MC 900 Foot Jesus and The Nixons, among many other notable examples, are exciting developments indeed. But Parks is only looking forward.
For many astute Dallas rock fans, some soaring, sonic parallels between Wall of Orange and Tomorrowpeople, the oft-described "space rock" group Parks joined for a brief time in 2008 for its own reunion before calling it quits permanently, can favorably be detected. And perhaps any such similarities are more than coincidental, as Parks admits that "big, dreamy layered music has always turned me on."
In "Sweetest Blue," the album's hypnotic lead track, Parks' appreciation of shoegaze greats such as My Bloody Valentine are apparent thanks to the reverb-heavy wall of sound.
But unlike many shoegaze greats, Wall of Orange songs give true prominence to "well-crafted lyrics" rather than using words as ethereal background.
"I always start with a message, then a vocal melody, then I build the music and texture around that," Parks explains. "I don't get into effects or fancy production until I feel like the message, lyrics, melody and arrangement are as strong as they can be. I want to be able to sit down and sing my songs using only an acoustic guitar and still have them hold up.
"The main rule to remember is: If it sounds good, it is good. It doesn't matter how you get there."
But because this album has swelling, swirling guitar, it seems like the group name is a straight-forward reference to a large stack of Orange amplifiers, a common presence on the stages of many major guitar gods.
But, perhaps predictably, it's incorrect to assume you know where the band name comes from.
"It's really just a reference to how I hear colors," he says. "Certain sounds, namely overdriven guitar tones drenched in effects like chorus and flanging, have always sounded 'orange' to me, and I use those effects a lot. With my tendencies towards a big, dense production, well, a wall of sound, Wall of Orange just seemed to fit."
Wall of Orange with The Angelus and Sudie perform Saturday, April 29 at 7 p.m. at The Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis St., Dallas. $15. Details here.