Project Vela is an independent hard rock band from Denver, Colorado, made up of singer, songwriter, and guitarist Scott Spriggs and guitarist and keyboardist Travis Owen. The duo specializes in a loud, hard style of rock music with electronic elements, a style clearly inspired by Starset, my personal favorite band. The band debuted in June 2017 when they released “Disconnected,” a five-track EP distinctly reminiscent of Starset, especially in their “signature” track, Blame Me, which sounds like a heavier My Demons (Starset’s “signature” track). The album had extended outros in a similar style to that particular band, too. The “Special Edition” that released a few months later separated the outros into their own tracks, included acoustics and remixes, and added “Dirt on Your Grave”.
Kenopsia came out in October of 2019, named after a word in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows referring to a feeling you get in an unusually empty place. The album includes an intro track with the obscured voice of a distraught protagonist– which is made up of lines from the rest of the album! The album is an incredible smattering of 12 emotional, impactful pieces with that familiar feel of Starset music, but developed into their own unique sound. I noticed at least one of these songs contains a Breaking Benjamin motif, which having written some music myself, I understand how that can happen either accidentally or as a tribute.
I’ve only recently received a CD for Elsewhere, their latest album which released on September 29, 2022. I preordered a bundle with a signed CD and a hand-dyed hoodie, which took a long time to arrive (as you can see by me writing this over a month after the release of the album).1 Its name was explained by the band as this:
I think everyone has experienced the ebb and flow, the peaks and valleys of mental health. For some, it’s a constant battle trying to see the peaks beyond the horizon. The valleys seem to be so much more expansive, and so much deeper than you expect; full of tumultuous terrain that makes traversing every new valley more difficult than the last. What happens when the gravity is too strong for you to pull away—when you become so disoriented by a downward spiral that you forget which way is up? It’s easy to dissociate, and believe that you’re not made for this world. You’re trapped in a whirlwind of intrusive thoughts, existential panic, and and unrelenting hopelessness, and you can’t help but wish you were anywhere but here. You’d do anything just to be, elsewhere.
The 6-track EP has Kenopsia’s close-to-home lyrical themes and Disconnected’s hard hitting sound, the Breaking Benjamin and Starset influences, as well as some new stuff we hadn’t heard from them, making for an incredible listening experience.
Track 1: You Can’t Fix Me
Immediately the track has a distinct Project Vela feel, reminiscent of both Disconnected and Kenopsia. The verse’s melody feels somewhat random, but the chorus is on point. The bridge feels overdone, like they felt obligated to add a screaming section to the song where it doesn’t belong.
Lyrically, this song appears to be about the narrator’s insecurity, about how they feel broken and unfixable. The “you” could be anybody, such as a friend, family member, or even a partner. The meaning could very well change if “you” is taken as a partner, who has convinced the narrator that they are broken and in need of their fixing, which falls under the same gaslighting that the narrator experienced from their partner in Blame Me.
Track 2: Pretend
Pretend immediately feels like it could fit perfectly on Disconnected. The pacing and melody for most of the song is well-formed, but this time the bridge feels like it’s either a common pattern or it’s stolen outright from something. The outro of the track is a somewhat chilling acoustic version of the chorus (minus “So I just pretend”), which I think is really cool.
Track 3: What I Deserve
At first I feel like I relate to the lyrics, but as soon as it gets to the part about missing signs I know the feeling, but not from experience. I do get that relating feeling back later in the chorus. I could break down the ways in which I relate to this song but that isn’t the point of this post so I’ll leave this out.
This song could fit on either of their previous albums, although it has a pretty strong EDM influence which I can’t say I personally like. The melodies throughout are well-formed, even if they rely heavily on synths.
Track 4: I’m Sorry
This is another song I find some strong lyrical relation. I like the backing lines in the verse, as they contribute a hefty weight to the song overall, although they feel too starkly different from the surrounding lines.
Track 5: Left With Pieces
Immediately the EDM influence in this song becomes clear. There’s less lyrical relation in this song, but it’s still there for me. Something I noticed in this song is in the post-verse transition after the second verse, you can hear a melody from Breaking Benjamin’s “Diary of Jane.”
Track 6: Waiting for Death to Begin
This track feels like it’d be straight out of Downplay or Starset’s books, just like a similarly-named track both bands have done, Waiting on the Sky to Change. The lyrics feel like an evolved Kenopsia track. The one thing I don’t like is how quickly the chorus starts after the second verse. The song is too strong and heavy to fit comfortably on Disconnected or Kenopsia. The breakdown, final chorus, and outro feel especially like the work of Starset and their famous cinematic outros, as well as the other Waiting I mentioned earlier.
While Scott and Travis were writing this EP, their Bandcamp page said that they were going in a new sonic direction, and that this six-track EP they were making would showcase that new direction. The most obvious difference from previous albums is their new Electronic Dance Music (EDM) influence, which I recognize because I used to be into that (mostly because it was free and easily accessible, and I hadn’t yet gotten into rock music). It’s a real masterpiece through-and-through and better than a lot of indie work I’ve heard (including my own!). Project Vela has outdone themselves yet again and I can’t wait to see where they’ll go from here.
Fun fact: I received a (mass) email from the band before the album released, telling us that the hoodies got chewed up when they were being printed, so there would be a delay. They said they would send the CDs out as planned but it didn’t happen. The tracking code I received the day before– which they said was a mistake– was never used. Maybe I was one of the lucky 6 people who got their hoodie with the CD, as planned, or maybe they just didn’t send out the CDs as originally planned. We may never know! ↩