The circumstances behind Sonic Valium are relatively simple, but require a bit of context. Wayne Patrick (n & eacute;e Patrick McHenry) spent some time among a few other local acts. Patrick laments, however, "You know how bands are -- people leave, people move. I was in Paper Mach & eacute; for a while, then they went on tour and I finished up school. I missed my old rock 'n' roll band, so we restarted Smile Line Spark for a while. That ended last summer, and I thought I'd try the Wayne Patrick thing. I'd been stagnating forever, so I wanted to get into second gear."
And so he grasped around for the clutch. Bouncing around from producer to producer with a full complement of songs, Sonic Valium eventually came to fruition with the aid of Joe Varela, JJ Ham, and Bill Nieman, each of whom had a hand in separate elements of the mix. The finished product is excellently balanced, with an overture of light, airy guitar pop set off by jazzier, darker undertones.
Vocally and lyrically, Patrick takes inspiration not only from the likes of Rufus Wainwright and Sondre Lerche, but the crooners who originally influenced them. Patrick's voice is warm and rich -- a sort of sonic comfort food. The vibrancy of the vocals complements the character of the lyrics, which range from wistful to acidic. "Most of them are about screwed-up relationships," Patrick admits, "I've only had a few good ones. There's always one person who likes the other a little more, and they're usually the one who end[s] up hurt. But I still try to put a theme of hope in the songs. Maybe it's pathetic, but I guess I'm a dreamer."
"Monkeys" imagines Patrick in the midst of an ugly breakup, dreaming about swinging from trees with the object of his desire. It's effortlessly springy, the standout of the album. Patrick himself confesses to listening to it on repeat. Masturbatory, sure, but understandable. If the artist himself can't get sick of the song, who could?
Patrick's excitement for the release (being celebrated at a private event on Saturday) is palpable even on the phone. Explaining his writing process, he says, "It's almost a miracle that these words came together and made sense, [after] hiding in my subconscious." Water into wine would be an inaccurate comparison; Sonic Valium is a miracle more along the lines of childbirth. And even though Patrick's not the only proud parent in the waiting room, this one's his.
It took months of hard work, loss, and sometimes pain. But when it coos and smiles, it's all worth it.
Wayne Patrick with Cavalier and the Let Up at Empyrean on Friday, March 14, at 7 pm. Price TBA. There's also that private party the next night at a certain winery, but you'll need an invite. Call 838-9819.