Slick, streamlined and sexy, AyOH‘s Dangerous Questions is best described as the sound of traveling the length of Chicago – by cab, by train or by foot – on a drizzly, desperate evening. Shiny guitars, hovering keys, propulsive rhythms and impassioned vocals that recall the best parts of 80’s new-wave and modern-day electronic-fueled pop hug tightly against references to the Blue Line, and pleas for connection and communication. Citing groups like the 1975, Coldplay and the Killers as immediate influences, the band’s finest hour thus far takes us through a whirlwind of emotions, delivered with such significant precision, that AyOH will soon surely be shoulder-to-shoulder with those same musical greats.
It’s quite remarkable too, how the core members of the band came together from all corners of the world, and what they each bring to the table, to create a sound that can be described as above. A native of Pittsburgh, vocalist/guitarist Avi Dell credits his stint in the Israeli army as a touchstone for songwriting inspiration. Thailand native and bassist Lin Takrudtong headed up the production of the group’s stark, moving music video for “Help Me,” one of several radio-ready gems from the EP. Drummer John Paul Arrotti’s Nashville session work allowed him to connect with rising talent Lilly Hiatt (daughter of American Music Award winner and world-famous songwriter John), who guests here on the sweet, folk-tinged title track. And with the recent addition of guitarist Austin Russell, the group is more powerful than ever. “The first EP was mostly just solo work that we adapted to the band,” says Dell. “The new collection of work is much more of a reflection of us as a unit, both musically and lyrically. Everyone had played a much larger roll in bringing these songs to life. We actually made every step of the way pretty democratic.”
Working again at Transient Sound Studio in Lakeview with Steven Gillis of Filter fame, the group started the framework for Dangerous Questions almost two years ago. Though pulsing with human experiences – be they joyous as on the celebratory “Shout Shout” or regretful like with the break-up epic “Lion to the Lamb” – much of the strength of Questions lies in spotless programming choices and how they interact with live instrumentation and goosebump-creating vocals. Dell cites this method as being “a very deliberate move for us,” putting all of Transient Sound’s abilities to the test. Using “dozens of microphones and hundreds of takes, we then matched all of those takes with MIDI programming and tracks to create a natural and technological hybrid. We wanted to bridge the organic and synthetic seamlessly, and it was a huge undertaking.”
The EP is all the better for the immense effort Dell mentions, with driving rockers like “Say It Anyway” coming across as both sprawling and tense, and closing cut “Save You” aiming for the rafters while still creating a type of gorgeous intimacy that’s nearly unheard from a group that has yet to become a household name. With such a dynamic palette, it’ll be thrilling to watch AyOH grow into the studio and touring giant that they’re destined to become. Releases such as Dangerous Questions don’t come along often, locally or otherwise, so those unfamiliar currently are best suited to get in on the ground floor.
The band will celebrate the new EP with a performance at Chicago’s renowned Metro. Details here.