Sianvar’s vortexes of sound and time

Sacramento supergroup pushes boundaries with new record

Sianvar’s members move so fast that this is the clearest shot we could get.

Sianvar’s members move so fast that this is the clearest shot we could get.

Photo illustration by Daniel Dare

Catch Sianvar at 6:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, at the Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane in Orangevale. Tickets cost $14. More at

Ask Donovan Melero how Sianvar makes its songs, and things get kind of creepy.

“It’s like one of those dolls with strings all over their bodies,” Melero said. “You let go of the lever, and all the strings get super-loose.” Then, the five men jam it out, the lever tightens the strings and the doll limbs pull closer together.

Mind you, it’s not so simple to describe how Sianvar’s layered, erratic vortexes of sound conjure up. Hear its newly released track, “Omniphobia,” a prog-rock bad dream littered with melodic contortions and whispering subtleties, and one might think, “How?”

However it happened, it was a slow birth. “Omniphobia” and its nine other sonic bedfellows form Stay Lost, due Friday, August 5. While its first EP was written and recorded in a swift three weeks, the upcoming debut full-length culminated over the course of a year and a half, through sporadic jam sessions booked whenever the stars, or their calendars, aligned.

Each member endures a hectic timetable, and for good reason: they all play in other established bands. Joe Arrington (drums) and Michael Franzino (bass) are wrapping up production of their fourth album with Sacramento outfit A Lot Like Birds. Sergio Medina (guitar) is due to release a new album with his band Stolas, from Las Vegas.

Will Swan (guitar), founder of Sacramento-born national act Dance Gavin Dance, runs Blue Swan Records with Medina here in Sacramento, and will hit the road with a new Dance Gavin Dance record in the fall. Melero (vocals) just finished touring with Hail the Sun and books shows for Blue Swan’s talent, including Sianvar. By miracle, August and September offered the only open window for the five to tour with Stay Lost.

There’s a familiar blood work in the sound if you fancy their other projects, but band’s three prereleased tracks are hardly B-sides. Nay, it’s clear Sianvar found its niche: accessible enough to move to, but unpredictable enough to dare an open mind.

“[There are] weird time signatures, but sometimes you don’t know you’re bobbing your head in 7/8, because it has pop characteristics,” Melero said.

“Psychosis Succumbing” opens with melodic hypnosis, an eerie guitar riff foreshadowing what could be an emotionally grim and ponderous ballad. Silence follows. Then, the band decides to open a wound, and now there’s sound pouring everywhere. Frenetic guitars bleed nonstop, and the rhythm sections ride rapid fire until it’s over.

Melero’s high-pitched howls fill the spaces of these meticulously crafted franken-arrangements, some parts emo, some parts hardcore. If you love Cedric Bixler-Zavala from the Mars Volta or Anthony Green from Circa Survive, you’ll appreciate his style, and if you enjoy music from the post-hardcore era of the early 2000s, then you’ll adore the entire package.

Melero considers Sianvar’s sound a throwback to that time, honoring the traditions of those acts.

“Not only could the casual listener enjoy the hooks and sing along,” Melero said of one of his main influences, the Mars Volta. “A musician could listen to it, and go, ’Holy shit, these guys know how to play their fucking instruments.’”

While the music can feel weightless, it’s also dense, prime to play on repeat.

All the while, Sianvar’s mission remains simple. No defined trajectory. No detailed schemes of fame and fortune.

“Just keep creating music and pushing boundaries,” Melero said.