Irata in the age of ‘Tower’
Celebrating their latest album, Tower, released on Small Stone Records, Irata will a host release show with Freedom Hawk and Velvet Devils at the Blind Tiger on Aug. 23.
The Greensboro hard-rock outfit looks to party with giveaway ticket structure, “We’re throwing down with all of our supporters to extend our gratitude with music, live art, tarot card readings, and door prizes,” drummer Jason Ward described of the whole shebang—which is free with an RSVP.
The group of hard-rockers aren’t as hard in-person as their “morphine-infused math-y metal” history would lead to believe; Irata is “like the sports car version of Don Caballero.” In the age of Tower, they’ve continued to evolve beyond the scope of instrumentals, a trend ushered in their 2015 Sweet Loris release, adding Owen Burd into the fold to hit the road as a foursome.
And hitting the road has been a high-note in the latest stage of the Irata evolution.
Still fresh from runs with the likes of Toke and Weedeater, the Blind Tiger show kicks off an album-release tour, covering ground west to Colorado for Golden Haze Fest and north to the Descendants of Crom fest in Pittsburgh.
“Touring is essential to keeping me interested in my craft,” said guitarist Cheryl Manner. “Even if it means playing to five people every night, touring means playing to new people – to people who have heard of you, but never took the time to listen to your music, but came out to see what the fuss was about- people who have heard of you, and want to see if the fuss is justified, and people who loved seeing you play when you were in town two years ago, and are so excited to see you live again.”
Burd likewise holds touring in high-esteem, “There may be other means of getting music out there to the world, but touring is certainly the most direct and typically the most fulfilling way,” he said.
Ward spoke of the duality of the tour experience: one-minute riding high, performing to a sold-out crowd at the Bowery Ballroom in New York; and the next, a cat pees on your suitcase in Louisiana.
Though Ward’s luggage may never smell the same, covering ground has paid off. That Bowery-show tour with Nashville’s All Them Witches hooked-up Irata with Ben McLeod in 2017. “He was on our radar when we began discussing producers for Tower, and it worked out that he was available for us, and we couldn’t have been more thrilled,” Ward explained.
When it came to a studio, Legitimate Business was the natural option for a Greensboro band taking a legit approach. “It makes a world of difference when you’re able to work in a creative setting with someone who makes you feel comfortable,” Manner said of engineer Kris Hilbert.
“It was a much more open and creative process,” Ward explained of recording, “we had way more input in the product this time, so it’s very personal.”
The road to release was long. But Irata thrives on evolution, and the album marks the first recording with Burd in the band. “He brings a whole new dimension to our sound,” Ward said of the addition. “It also doesn’t hurt that we now have a fourth driver while touring,” he added.
“It’s been a fascinating process,” Ward continued, “we began as an instrumental and are now into a four-piece with layers of sound and vocals. And we couldn’t have gotten here without Owen.”
Burd’s affection is mutual, “The recording process for Tower was one of the more fulfilling sessions of which I have been a part,” he said. “I’ve been the songwriter, the lead guitarist, the trumpet player, the drummer, the right-hand-man, the one-man-band, and everything in between,” he explained of his background, “each is fulfilling in its own way, and with Irata, I try to help build on the already rock-solid foundation of what they have built over the years.”
What they’ve built is a product of understanding industry, respect for their craft—and a solid sense of humor. Irata maintains drive—while working full-time jobs with degree pursuits and gigging around the country. “We’ll take all the help we can get,” Ward said of their alignment with Tone Deaf Touring. “We still have to promote our shows like hell if we want people to come,” Manner said of working through an agency, “they take a lot of work off of us, but that doesn’t mean our work is done.”
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, 5:30-7pm on WUAG 1031.fm
The work Irata looks forward to most is hosting a killer album release with Freedom Hawk and Velvet Devils on Aug. 23 at the Blind Tiger. Advance tickets are free with RSVP through the Blind Tiger website, $10 at the door.