A Digital Lie
Knitting Factory Concert House211 N. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89501
At a recent A Digital Lie practice, I found myself thinking, “You know, these guys’ songs would be really fun to play on Guitar Hero or Rock Band.” I was surprised at the thought. I’m not a huge fan of those video games and have only logged a couple of hours playing them, but there’s something about A Digital Lie’s sound that seems perfect for virtual mimicry.
It’s probably because they write poppy, accessible rock songs that incorporate some tricky progressive elements: dynamic shifts, polyphony, time changes, and stops and starts. It’s already like a challenging video game you can sing along with.
Each member of the band provides a different element.
Alex Hay is a total gearhead guitarist. He’s got a great-sounding Orange amplifier cabinet, a beautiful Fender Jaguar guitar, and a sprawling station of cool effects pedals. His playing style is largely of the staring-at-his-own-feet, effects-based school. In contrast, Wade Tranberg, the band’s other guitarist, provides a more straightforward rock crunch.
The band has a not-so-subtle metal element, much of it attributable to drummer Garett Ball. He puts his double bass pedal to use—the basic signifier for metal drumming—but many of his snare hits and cymbal accents also sound metallic. The metal element works well for the songs and contrasts nicely with the pop and prog aspects.
Bassist TJ Buswell is a fluid player who occasionally punches things up by blasting a heavy fuzz tone. And vocalist Jimmy Nelligan tops everything with crisp, melodic, emotive singing and vivid lyrics.
The overall effect is agreeable alt-rock with plenty of here-comes-the-cool-part musical moments.
“It’s a little bit ambient, a little bit progressive rock,” says Nelligan of the band’s sound.
“I want to be progressive—but in four minutes instead of 10,” says Hay. This is key to the band: experimentation without compromising concise songwriting and a—dare I say it—radio-friendly sound.
“This is the first band I’ve been in that’s really tested my limits,” says Buswell.
A Digital Lie has a self-titled, four-song EP currently available from the usual outlets—iTunes, Amazon—or directly from the band at shows.
To complement the band’s progressive style, they recently purchased a projector and want to incorporate lights and videos into their performances.
“We really want our shows to be shows,” says Nelligan.
As a lyricist, he cites some seemingly disparate influences: Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz and the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg. Nelligan points to both songwriters’ abilities to tell stories and paint pictures with words. He also draws some lyrical inspiration from his day job working on a medical helicopter.
The group’s unusual musical chemistry is reflected in an entertaining interpersonnel dynamic. Hay often plays the cynical, sarcastic guitar player to Nelligan’s idealistic lead singer.
“We take inspiration from all kinds of music,” says Nelligan. Somewhat surprisingly, he mentions Waylon Jennings as another songwriting influence. “You’ve got to love everything. I’ve always said that music is the only thing that matters, because it doesn’t have to.”
“He’s been working on that quote for weeks,” says Hay.