Before forming Risk Relay in 2001, the three core members of the band and friends since elementary school – drummer Brian Buccellato, vocalist/guitarist Ed Dailey, and guitarist Mark Weinberg – had already been playing music together in various projects since their high school days, inspired by acts such as Unwound and Drive Like Jehu. Risk Relay quickly gained popularity in the New Brunswick, NJ, basement/punk rock scene, becoming known for short bursts of frantic energy highlighted by angular, intertwining guitars and technically precise rhythmic changes. Their first record, Low Frequency Listener, released in 2003 by the Ernest Jenning Record Company and recorded at drummer Buccellato’s home basement studio, was met with positive reviews and led to appearances at larger venues such as Maxwell’s, The Knitting Factory, and an East Coast tour in 2004.
After a hiatus due to personnel changes, they released their next record Curses Sing in 2007, again recorded by Buccellato for the Ernest Jenning label. Curses Sing expanded the band’s sonic palette, with instrumental dirges leading into math-rock riffs. Shortly after this release current bassist Steve Bumgarner joined the band and began working with the other members on the songs that would eventually become 2013’s After Fake End Times, also released by Ernest Jenning. By this point the band was experimenting with slower-burning, sludgier anthems. After surviving another long hiatus, it was important for the band to come back with an array of songs that displayed a renewal and progression from the tone and pace of the previous albums.
In 2016 Risk Relay will release their fourth record, and first for the Nefarious Industries label, entitled As We Descend, a concept record based on John Uri Lloyd’s 1895 sci-fi classic Etidorhpa. With six expansive new movements, As We Descend was engineered by Buccellato at his new studio Volume IV in New Brunswick. The album showcases a very apparent evolution in the band’s songwriting and arrangements, while still nodding to the frenetic buzz of their earlier work. The trademark dissonant guitar interplay from Dailey and Weinberg remains, as do the intricate, syncopated rhythms, brought by Buccellato’s drumming and Bumgarner’s basslines. Dailey’s intelligent lyrics guide the listener on a journey through the abyss, reflecting the emotional distress of the book’s main character, longing for both what he’s already seen and what remains to be seen. In the end, re-emerging from the subterranean, we encounter the band’s most engaging collection of songs to date. The album will be released both on vinyl and in digital formats this November.
Risk Relay has been lucky enough to share bills with many greats acts over the years, including Screaming Females, Ex-Models, Arab on Radar, Rye Coalition, Night Birds, A Fucking Elephant, East of the Wall, Bangladeafy, Roadside Graves, Dianogah, NY in 64, and many more. The band will continue to play shows in the NY/NJ area to support the upcoming release.
[photo credit Gabrielle Dolceamore]