Quick Changeover – Three Spoke Wheel Adapts to New Situations on ‘Metamorphosis’ EP

Band Shot One
Three Spoke Wheel’s Jeff Whitmore, Justin Gumina and Ryan Thomas confront daily stagnation and acquiescence on “Metamorphosis.” Courtesy photo

Three Spoke Wheel quickly transforms with each anticipated change.

The Detroit psych-progressive alt rock trio of Justin Gumina (guitar, bass, keys, backing vocals), Ryan Thomas (bass, guitar, lead vocals) and Jeff Whitmore (drums, percussion) seamlessly shifts and evolves amidst life’s ongoing challenges on their latest mind-altering EP, Metamorphosis.

“You can point to the pandemic as an obvious, big change for our society in general and how we’re gonna take control of that change and kind of own it and move forward from it. A lot of the lyrics are from people in my life who don’t really know how to change or need to find a way to take control of their own lives,” Thomas said.

“I hope people who listen to the lyrics get something out of it. It’s just a way to reflect on how change happens and how we don’t just have to let change happen. We can take control of it and guide it in the right direction.”

With Metamorphosis, Three Spoke Wheel boldly confronts daily stagnation and acquiescence across six fluid, purposeful tracks. Immersed in psychedelic, proggy and grungy sensibilities, the band fuels their thematic transformation with shapeshifting instrumentation and adaptive production.

“I think it captures a little bit more of a mature recording compared to our first album because we’ve all been growing together. We’re getting tighter as a group, and I came from a point of not singing at all to singing on a lot of stuff and trying to learn harmonies,” said Gumina, who recorded, mixed and mastered the band’s sophomore studio release.

“As far as the writing process, it’s been interesting because the ideas are coming from other places. Jeff wrote a lot of the original, acoustic versions of some of these songs, and we took and twisted them and made them into full songs.”

Change Agents

Metamorphosis Vs2
Three Spoke Wheel fuels their thematic transformation with shapeshifting instrumentation and adaptive production on “Metamorphosis.” Artwork – Taylor Gumina

As part of their Metamorphosis, Three Spoke Wheel thoughtfully demonstrates that meticulous sonic changeover on “Last Drop,” a trippy, experimental guitar-driven ode to Detroit’s factory floor roots.

Buzzy and sheeny electric guitar, frantic bass, stomping drums and ricocheting cymbals echo the city’s growing frustration about the erosion of manual labor jobs.

Thomas sings, “As you sit in unemployment/Curse the world in disappointment/Congregate outside the mansion/Somebody’s gotta take some action/Get inside and find the big man/Tie him up and make your demands/Burn him alive if he refuses/Can’t win if everybody loses.”

“It’s more about how we transition as a society from one that has a lot of labor-based jobs into one that has fewer labor-based jobs,” Thomas said.

“And I feel like a lot of the political unrest is due to the fact that our society isn’t ready to accommodate the people who aren’t able to get white-collar jobs. So that might explain a little bit of the Jan. 6 protests, for example.”

Last Drop” also features a fiery instrumental bridge that roars alongside propulsive drums, breakneck electric guitar and gallant bass. It’s a quintessential example of the band’s improvisational approach and evolutionary sound.

“This is one of those songs that’s very organic. I picked up the bass, and Ryan jumped on the guitar, and we just started making a bunch of noise. It started off with the main riff throughout the entire song where we jammed that out for a while,” Gumina said.

“It’s very interesting how tempo changes and things like that happen in an unpredictable way. We were jamming, and we all just kind of stopped. I was sort of noodling on that one little bit in the middle, and Jeff was like, ‘Oh yeah, game on.’”

Three Spoke Wheel continues to surge ahead on “The Honest Truth,” a glistening wake-up call for facing life’s harsh realities and eliminating destructive behaviors.

Dewey and distorted electric guitar, subterranean bass, soft drums and shimmery cymbals inject an immediate sense of action and change.

Thomas sings, “Too much idle time spent talking/Sitting tight instead of walking/On and on the boots are knocking/Playing doll instead of rocking/Crowds of painted geese are flocking/Leeches fat and ticks are popping/Talking shit and always mocking.”

“I’ve got a couple of people in my life that really can’t face the truth. They don’t know how to transition out of their lives or the situations that they’re in. They keep escaping it through video games and TV … and they can’t move forward with their lives,” Thomas said.

“It’s really hard to resist in this day and age where everything is so addicting, and it’s hard to not binge watch stuff for 10 hours in a row. So you need to make that constant, conscious effort to not do that and get in a different pattern of behavior.”

Once Three Spoke Wheel delivers The Honest Truth,” they plead for a profound, attitudinal shift on the hypnotic closer, “Sleeping in the Light.”

Hazy electric guitar, contemplative percussion, energetic drums, jingly cymbals and rolling bass release listeners from a self-induced mental purgatory and summon long-overdue relief.

Thomas sings, “Lay down say the voices in the dark/Shame now, you gotta get back to the start/Pour out another cup of afterlife/Wake now, another chance to toss the dice.”

“It’s just about being in a daze during the pandemic and feeling like every day is the same. You’re constantly half-awake and half-asleep, and you don’t know if you’re in limbo or in some kind of purgatory,” Thomas said.

“For me, the lyrics are probably some of the most down and depressing on the album, but they’re also paired with some of the most upbeat music. It’s supposed to be this dichotomy of black and white, but somehow they work together.”

Positive Rotation

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Three Spoke Wheel is making their live west Michigan debut in March. Courtesy photo

Together, the band methodically wrote and recorded Metamorphosis in Gumina’s Redford basement studio as part of a yearlong effort. They embraced a holistic creative vision that allowed for building and finalizing the EP’s six tracks over time.

“I think we were really intent on the first album and wanting to put something out there because we wanted to get shows. There was a bit of an urgency, and we’re really proud of it,” Whitmore said.

“With the EP, it was a little different because I don’t think we felt like we had a due date. It was like, ‘Let’s really put an effort into just making this a point in time that represents those six songs as best as we can.’”

Metamorphosis also allowed for increased in-person collaboration and improvisation as band members limited face-to-face contact with people outside their immediate circle.

“We were all so passionate about this project that we all agreed to be within each other’s bubbles during the pandemic. We needed to get back into Justin’s basement as soon as we possibly could,” Thomas said.

“Honestly, we had a lot of fun during that first year, even though we weren’t really able to play out. It’s awesome to write with these guys because the way that ideas are exchanged back and forth is really a fun process.”

Three Spoke Wheel quickly discovered their musical chemistry after jamming together in Gumina’s basement in late 2019. Gumina and Thomas met through Craigslist and later brought Whitmore into the fold, resulting in the powerhouse trio of today.

“The thing that Justin and I connected with … was like a Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead influence that’s a little more melodic and spacey. That kind of has instructed our sound, and then Jeff comes from more of a background like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and some of the grungy stuff,” Thomas said.

“He brings the hard-hitting beats with our spaciness and brings it back down to earth and makes it listenable. Classic rock is also a huge influence for me, and I like a lot of college and indie rock like Pavement, Pixies and Radiohead.”

That viable musical partnership quickly produced Three Spoke Wheel’s timeless self-titled album in 2020 and their spirited live album, Above Ground, a year later.

“But looking back on it, I think that was really good for us. We were really able to work our craft, hone in and really woodshed everything and get to know each other better musically. I hope it shows in our live performances now. We feel good about it, and I think we get a decent response,” Whitmore said.

Three Spoke Wheel will make their live west Michigan debut Friday at Mulligan’s Pub in Grand Rapids with Crooked Spires and American Cheese. They’ll also return to the area March 19 for another show at Turnstiles Bar alongside Ernie Clark & the Magnificent Bastards and Exit Machine.

“With me having lived there for a while, it’s just kind of fun to go back and reminisce a bit and whatnot. But it will be fun to get outside of Detroit. We’ve played a lot of shows in Detroit, and so we’re hoping to just kind of spread our wings a little bit,” Whitmore said.

Show details:

Crooked Spires, Three Spoke Wheel and American Cheese

10 p.m. Friday, March 4 | Ages 21+

Mulligan’s Pub, 1518 Wealthy St. SE in Grand Rapids

Free

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