The howling

City Wolves

Brigdon James Markward is the singer and guitarist of City Wolves.

Brigdon James Markward is the singer and guitarist of City Wolves.

Photo/Kent Irwin

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City Wolves’ new EP opens with a clip of a father recounting a recent vision to his son. Whether or not the boy wants to listen to the old man prattle on about last night’s dream, he hears him describe in great detail encountering his childhood home, and noticing a younger version of the son there. The father recalls glimpsing a sense of perfect peace and harmony emanating from his son, inspiring within himself a feeling of contentment and acceptance.

The clip is borrowed from cult TV show Twin Peaks. Its surreal narration, paired with guitar noise that’s at first dissonant, then ultimately cathartic, conveys a powerful emotional transformation.

In this intro track, the EP’s thematic trajectory is born. We hear the father attempt to communicate to his son that no matter how difficult their relationship has been in the past, love and respect are buried underneath. Guitarist Dylan Greist’s work in creating the background ambience also contains, buried underneath layers of reverb and distortion, guitar lines that will appear later in the track list. Washed out and unrecognizable to the casual listener, but heard distinctly by the members of the band, these clandestine riffs speak to the unique bond between four friends who relocated from Nevada City to form City Wolves together in Reno.

This eerie yet bizarrely reassuring prelude gives way to the guitar line of “Restless.” The EP’s first song bursts forth with an energizing shift in tempo, while keeping intact the dreamlike atmosphere of the intro. Its heavy drums, catchy bass lines, and noisy guitars create an exciting mood that allows the song to double as an opener for the band’s live set.

“'Restless’ was the first song we wrote together as a band,” said vocalist Brigdon Markward. “It’s about leaving your hometown.”

Tempo shifts again in the next song, titled “Weight For Me.” A dissonant guitar lead backed by a slower, driving beat departs for a sludgy, heavy bridge, before returning to the opening theme. It’s leaps in tempo and mood like this that make the music of City Wolves so difficult to categorize. Popular genre tags vary everywhere from emo to post-punk to surf.

These stylistic inclinations even managed to elude the EP’s engineer, Jeromy Ainsworth. At a loss for what exactly was wrong with his first batch of final mixes, Ainsworth decided to go check out City Wolves’ live set.

“After the show, he came up to us and said, ’I just realized you guys aren’t a folk band!” said Greist.

This epiphany inspired a complete makeover of the EP, which better reflects the volatile, often chaotic feel of City Wolves’ live performances. Nowhere is this represented better than in the third track, “Storm.” In Markward’s haunting baritone, by now a part of the band’s signature, he sings “If I am the weather, I am the storm.”

“It’s about being put in a situation where you don’t have a choice but to be the aggressor,” said Markward.

Specifically, the lyrics tell the story of a girlfriend who felt compelled to use Markward to fill an impossible void, after the loss of her brother. He decided to break things off once it had become clear the dependence was unhealthy for both of them. It’s an intensely personal story, but it speaks to the band’s tight dynamic that the lyrics were written collaboratively with Greist and bassist Watson Meyer.

Further testament to the communal nature of emotions between band members comes in the form of the EP’s final track, “Two Cigars,” built around personal lyrics of Meyer’s, which are sung by Markward.

Although City Wolves don’t yet have a firm release date, you can expect to hear the full EP before the New Year.