Last spring, Skywerth watched a bewildered nation quickly unravel before his stunned eyes.
The Detroit multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter felt overwhelmed by the social, economic and political upheaval arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had just watched Ahmaud Arbery getting shot down in his own neighborhood and the music industry crumbling overnight all while looking at the incredible divide and conspiracy theories being pushed on social media,” he said.
“It was so apocalyptic, so I just wrote exactly what I was observing. Social media is tailored for you, so if anything pops up on your feed that is outside of your belief system, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb, and your friends are going to say it’s wrong, too. No matter what it is, you are constantly being told that you’re right.” he said.
Now available on all streaming platforms, “Waves” elegantly rises with the genre-bending tides of metal, psych rock, industrial, prog and hip-hop into a symphonic tsunami. Thumping drums, tingling cymbals, swirling electric guitars, crawling bass and expansive synths quickly engulf listeners in a welcoming sense of relief and escape.
Skywerth reflects, “Alone in the waves with your eyes open wide, living in a paradise/Stare into the light/Hands upon the shore, eyes are getting sore/Here we are, caught in the eye of the storm/As the rain starts to fall, as the rain starts.”
“Lyrically, it’s a bit of a pessimistic song. If the song can make two people put their phones down and reconnect with one another in real life for two days, then it would make the year for me,” he said.
“I fell in love with Jackamo the moment I heard them. We have mutual friends, and they also work with Steve (Lehane) at Rustbelt Studios. After writing the lyrics, I knew Ali, Tessa and I could do something pretty cool,” he said.
Along with Jackamo, Skywerth collaborated with Eric Hoegemeyer (soundscapes, synths), Matt Voss (drums) and co-producer Steve Lehane (bass, drum machines, production) on “Waves,” which initially started as an instrumental track.
“After the pandemic hit and I wrote the lyrics, I had this sort of organized chaos. Instead of being consumed by this confusion surrounding me, I had all my thoughts and observations laid out on something that was familiar and felt like home to me,” said Skywerth, who recorded the track at Royal Oak’s Rustbelt Studios and credited Lehane with transforming “Waves” into a vocal track.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to weave all of these (multi-genre) elements together. I’ve got a bit of ADD, so when something sounds the same for several minutes I get bored. I need to change things a bit to keep me interested. I think the dynamics of the tune help outline the emotions felt from the pandemic.”
Skywerth brings those heavy emotions to life in his wistful new video for “Waves” as he ponders the pandemic’s ongoing impact with Alison Wiercioch in Hamtramck. Filmed and edited by Sara Showers and Cheyenne Comerford, the video also features footage of Skywerth performing live inside a vacant Magic Bag in Ferndale.
“We started tossing around ideas for a video in late 2020, and we shot at The Magic Bag in February. It was quite unsettling being in the venue during the pandemic. We also shot in Hamtramck back in the spring, and it was a group of friends running around with a camera,” he said.
Hank Moody and Green Day
“Waves” serves as Skywerth’s second contemplative single since releasing the proggy alt-rock “Californication” anthem, “Moody,” in early 2020. Solemn, whirring electric guitars, clobbering drums, spirited piano, shimmering cymbals and deep bass entrench the soul in an emotive, reflective state.
Skywerth reveals, “Because it seems every day/Something and nothing change, and it feels like every time she looks at my face/There’s so much left to say.”
“I got really hooked on the show ‘Californication’ toward the end of my college career. Hank Moody is a struggling writer who gets involved in situations that get in the way of his happiness,” said Skywerth, who’s inspired by David Duchovny’s vulnerable character.
“The emotions that got stirred up in me from that show were so strong. At the time, I was dealing with some relationship issues while also battling some writer’s block and inner demons.”
Initially written on his smartphone’s voice recorder, Skywerth finalized the Alice in Chains-meets-Steven Wilson-flavored “Moody” with Jake Matthews (drums), Ray Cortez (bass) and Lehane (production). It’s a deep, introspective revelation to remind listeners they’re not alone in their dark, destructive state.
“It’s a shitty situation that most people have found themselves to be in. You’re in a relationship that you know is inevitably going to end or has ended, but you’re not ready to give it up. I hope people can listen to the song and just realize that it’s not a unique situation,” he said.
Despite those relationship challenges, Skywerth discovered his first love of music while growing up in Oxford and Lake Orion. His childhood days were filled with his parents playing Our Lady Peace, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock.
By third grade, Skywerth discovered Green Day’s American Idiot and wanted to play guitar. He learned on his father’s old acoustic Yamaha before getting a Gibson SG a couple of years later.
“The Yamaha was nearly impossible for me to play – the action was super high, the neck was really thick and the body was huge. After I received the SG, I couldn’t stop playing it. There were times when I would fall asleep with the guitar on my chest; I couldn’t let it go,” said Skywerth, who started writing songs at age 11.
With his SG in hand, Skywerth studied AC/DC (“For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”) and Green Day (“Jesus of Suburbia”) songs and quickly added drums to his repertoire. He refurbished a discarded drum kit with new heads and cymbals and envisioned drums as the critical foundation for his songs.
While picking up bass and piano in high school, Skywerth listened intently to Led Zeppelin, Blink-182, Kendrick Lamar, Deftones and Wes Montgomery. At age 17, he joined a promising band, but opted to pursue his own path instead.
“We had a major tour scheduled and labels were interested, but the dynamic of the band was extremely negative. It was like being in a cult. I knew that I couldn’t stick with the group any longer, and I knew there was so much more to learn before jumping right into it,” he said.
With high school behind him, Skywerth studied jazz and music at Wayne State University and landed an internship at Echopark Guitars. That valuable experience included working with Queens of the Stone Age’s Troy Van Leeuwen.
Skywerth continued to hone his guitar and live performance skills while playing with cover acts The Mega ‘80s, The Square Pegz and Class of ’98, which are managed by Tangerine Moon Productions.
“Class and Mega both have setlists consisting of about 120-200 songs. The first time I played with Pegz and Mega I didn’t get to rehearse with the band. You’re really just thrown into a sink-or-swim situation,” he said.
“It taught me a lot about the industry and what’s expected from industry professionals. I’ve grown so much since playing in those groups. Not to mention playing all the hits from multiple decades and styles can really teach you how to craft a song.”
Skywerth keeps crafting new songs, including ones that will be released later this year as well as an EP next year.
“I’m aiming for my next single to be released just before Halloween. I’d like to have an EP out by spring 2022. I have two new songs I’m planning to release before the end of the year,” he said.
“They’re both pretty damn heavy songs to fuel a mosh pit. Like ‘Waves,’ they both have various elements blended, but they sound completely different from each other.”