“Tripping Over Shadows,” the new album by the Upstate quintet Serotonal, is a throwback in the best sense of the word. It’s a collection that mixes galloping prime-period Iron Maiden-style hard rock, a hint of Led Zeppelin’s grandeur and some progressive-rock twists and turns.
Influences aside, though, it’s just good hard rock ‘n’ roll. It’s hard not to pump your fist when singer Caitlin Adair’s powerful voice soars over Andrew Woollens and Dave Jordan’s churning riffs on the epic “Castling.” And it’s hard not to nod along with the Latin-tinged rhythms that bassist Rhett Dodge and drummer Keith White sling out on “Perfect,” aided by Adair’s furious auxiliary percussion.
“The five of us are all rock ‘n’ roll fans, obviously, but we have different tastes,” Dodge says. “Keith and I like punk rock, Dave is our resident metalhead and Andrew is all over the place.”
Adair in particular is quite a find as both a vocalist and percussionist, especially since this is the first time she’s ever recorded an album. And she was often singing someone else’s lyrics, though you’d never guess from her committed performance that she didn’t write the words she’s singing. Then again, she has the training to get the job done.
“I have a degree in music therapy,” Adair says. “I’m used to looking at lyrics and analyzing them and trying to find an angle. It’s natural to see the words and try to put myself in that place.”
It’s interesting to note, though, that despite the other members of Serotonal’s experiences in other groups, “Tripping Over Shadows” is actually this band’s debut album, even though they’ve been together for around five years.
The album only came to fruition after the lineup solidified.
“When I joined, about half of the album was already written by Andrew,” says Dodge, “that was riffs, chord progressions and lyrics. But as time went on, it melded into something we felt was more organic. The other half of the album has really been more of a collaborative process.”
As for their mix of styles, Dodge says that came organically, too. “The five of us are all rock and roll fans obviously, but we have different tastes,” he says. “Keith and I like punk rock, Dave is our resident metalhead and Andrew is all over the place.”
Despite the members’ differences, “Tripping Over Shadows” feels like a cohesive collection, which is a pleasant surprise, given how it was recorded.
“It took several months because we also have day jobs,” Dodge says. “We recorded it at Red Arrow Studios in Westminster. The engineer, Cliff Witherspoon, he was kind enough to really work around our schedules.”
“He was very good at giving us the kick in the ass we needed to get it finished,” drummer Keith White says of engineer Cliff Witherspoon. “He made us comfortable, he made us feel good about what we were doing, but he also told us what wasn’t working.”
In fact, Dodge estimates that over 15 recording sessions, the five members of Serotonal were only all together in the studio a handful of times.
“We came in in pairs or individually to work on our own parts,” Dodge says, “and figured out what worked and what didn’t work.”
Everyone in the band is quick to credit Witherspoon for molding the album, and their performances, into shape.
“He was very good at giving us the kick in the ass we needed to get it finished,” White says. “He made us comfortable, he made us feel good about what we were doing, but he also told us what wasn’t working.”
“I’ve recorded in other studios, but Cliff is special,” Dodge adds. “As a person, Cliff is direct, and I appreciate that. He knows how to be supportive when he needs to be and when to tell you, ‘This is terrible.’ I would recommend him to anyone.”