With a long discography that includes the heavy sounds of Red Teeth, Dr. Device, BerT and No Skull, Ryan Andrews is always working on a new batch of recordings. Back in August, the Lansing-scene vet unveiled Giant Lungs, his latest duo that flawlessly shifts between dramatically wistful sounds into ominously bleak sonic ethers.
Along for the cosmic ride is his bandmate, producer Corey DeRushia, the sound wizard behind Troubadour Recording Studios in Lansing. Both play multiple instruments on this remarkable self-titled release and the results are epic.
Over the course of five songs, this debut EP hypnotically blends psychedelic resonances with winding, yet hooky jams. While most of the vocals are only there to add texture and ambiance, the eerie instrumentation delivers a hauntingly bittersweet listening experience. This EP has a cinematic quality and could easily be the score to a trippy arthouse film.
“I prefer the vocals to be so far back they are hard to make out,” Andrews admits. “It reminds me of how live vocals usually end up sounding to me. You can hear the melody and make out some words, but a lot of it’s just a blur of noise.”
Andrews, who often releases his music via his own imprint, Madlantis Records, co-formed Giant Lungs two years ago with DeRushia. While it started as just a simple guitar/drums duo, the outfit soon developed into an abstract auditory voyage.
“We discussed a few different directional ideas before playing, mostly our mutual love for sprawling prog music like King Crimson,” DeRushia explained. “For me, I also really enjoy long, evolving post-rock instrumental stuff like Mogwai and Godspeed! You Black Emperor.”
“And not to speak for Ryan, but I think he brings the stoner-rock elements,” DeRushia added. “He’s into Sleep, Earth and The Melvins, those types of bands. He brings all that to the table.”
Giant Lungs was able to expand into a colossal sounding prog-rock record due, in part, to the duo’s ample access to the top-notch gear at Troubadour. Afterhours at the studio, the pair composed a myriad of experimental melodies on the fly.
“We kept elaborating and adding over the next year or so any time we could get together,” Andrews said. “Almost everything is an improv regardless of when it was recorded. On most of the bass tracks, we just hooked up two basses and jammed along with the track together and then picked the parts we liked.”
DeRushia agrees, it was a pairing down process that led to the final product — along with ample use of synthesizers and effects.
“Mostly we just played it, edited down for length, and that became the ‘song’ structures,” DeRushia said. “From there, we improvised a variety of soundscapes. I also built up some Mellotron string arrangements and vocal layers. Things just organically assembled themselves. This was a two-year, slow chip away of a project, so it felt good to get it out in the world after sitting on it for so long.”
At a glance, the album credits show both band members playing multiple instruments, but Andrews said they both had their comfort zones.
“We both played just about every instrument, essentially, but Corey is on drums and I’m on guitar,” he said. “Most of the syncs are Corey and a good portion of the bass is me. It took us about a year of fiddling, adding layers and editing before we got to the final result.
“For the song ‘Welcome Giant Lungs: Here’s Your Acid’ we decided we wanted it to crescendo with some vocals for the ending,” Andrews added. “I had a poem called ‘Giant Lungs’ that I’d written probably 15 years ago. I had been saving it for the right piece of music. We obviously also decided to use the poem title as our band name, too.”
Like many other musicians across the world, the Giant Lungs record was nearly finished when the entire world came to a halt.
“Just as we were getting ready to lay the vocal tracks, what would be the finishing touch to the album, the COVID-19 lockdown came into effect,” Andrews said. “I ended up doing the vocals on a cassette four-track at home and dropping the tracks off in the mail box to Corey. After that, there was a little more mixing and that was that.”
Being a full-time sound engineer and producer, DeRushia said personal recordings like this don’t happen often, but he’s glad when they do.
“I don’t do a ton of personal projects like this, but I do play on a lot of records for people and engineer a lot of projects,” he said. “So it was fun to be able to stretch out and get creative with the weirdness on this one.”