If there's one thing Dan Peluso has learned over the years with his band Falling Andes, it's patience.
In 2011, the band was off to a quick start; Peluso had moved back to Pittsburgh after some time working in the music industry in New York City, and he and Jordan Wood started recording together, releasing the single "San Francisco." It got some buzz on indie blogs (Indie Rock Café, Tympanogram), and they built a band around their recording project, deciding to strike while the iron was hot. (If you think having a band without a hit is hard, trying having a hit without a band.)
"We decided we were going to try to be successful, try to get signed, like bands do," says Peluso. The result was 2011's Frantic, a five-song EP of sweet-sounding synth-based indie rock.
"I like the songs, but I feel like we kind of rushed it, because we felt like we had some kind of success and we wanted to capitalize on that."
Such is the risk involved in trying to ride the wave. But if the first album was rushed, Falling Andes would have little of the same problem with their second: Castlevania, another five-song effort, officially drops on Tue., Feb. 25 — about two-and-a-half years after the first record. It's not just calculated patience that slowed this one up, though ... there was also the revolving-door cast of bandmates.
At one point, Falling Andes was a five-piece; right now, it's a three-piece, with drumming duties being filled by synth player Wood and his technology, and guitar held down by Mike Boyer. (Former drummer Peter Natishan will return to town and play with the band for its release show at Club Café, though.) Some of Castlevania was recorded at Audible Images in the North Hills in 2012, and by the time overdubs were done in late 2013, half of the band had turned over. Add to that the fact that Peluso is back in school at Pitt, and it's a wonder the band was able to get the album done in the time they have.
Castlevania, produced by Alex Smolinski (Lola Ray, Butch Vig) is a collection of tight, smart synth-pop tunes with a rock 'n' roll edge. ("That rock 'n' roll kind of grittiness is kind of missing" in the pop landscape, asserts Peluso. "That's one thing we try to do in our shows.") The lead tune, "Follow Me," starts off sounding like it could be in a cola commercial — think a slightly simpler Passion Pit — but by the chorus it's undoubtedly a rock anthem. There are as many crunchy guitar riffs in these songs as there are bloopy synths, and as many analog drums as programmed beats — the collection is a genuine hybrid.
The title track, of course, has a bit of a video-game-music feel to it. "Jordan sent the instrumental track to me," recalls Peluso, "and I put the lyrics and melody to it — the lyrics were about a character running away from monsters and zombies. The track he'd sent had a sort of Transylvania, dark organ sound to it, which inspired that lyrical route. We had referred to the synth tone as ‘the Castlevania sound,' so then we thought, ‘Why don't we call the song that?' Maybe someone will like it because they're nostalgic about the video game; maybe someone will find it because of the video game!"
With the band's second EP out and — hopefully — a long-term lineup solidified, Falling Andes is, as a band, finally past the dodging of monsters and zombies. The job now is to grow into its potential. What that is, though, is still undetermined: Signing with a label would be great, says Peluso, the onetime label employee. But so would some brand of independent success, whether that's a solid hometown fan base or more breakout success on the Internet like the band experienced early on.
"If there was a label that wanted to invest money in us, give us any of their resources, send us on tour, I think we'd all be on board," says Peluso. "That's almost every musician's dream. But at the same time, if we just send the stuff to music blogs and someone posts it, it gets on Brooklyn Vegan or one of those other big music blogs, then maybe it gets put on satellite radio — you could just build a team and do it yourself. I think it could go either way.
"Maybe something will happen, maybe not. But if not, at the end of the day, we made a professional product that we're happy with, and we'll always have that. That's something great, too. Even if you don't get signed, that's an awesome thing to have."