A Utopian Skyline
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A Utopian Skyline

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A Utopian Skyline
Published: October 2005
Story: Jeff Royer

As a rock journalist, I would begin an article on A Utopian Skyline with some smart-sounding statement like, “No Harrisburg band mixes artistry with white-hot technicality to such affecting results as A Utopian Skyline.”

But I’m not writing this article as a rock journalist. I’m writing it as a fan.

Because A Utopian Skyline is freaking awesome. They’re a metal band for people who don’t like metal; a hardcore band for people who are scared of hardcore; and a prog-rock band for people who would rather drink toilet water than listen to Rush. They are proof that art, angst and amplification are not mutually exclusive concepts.

“That’s what we’re trying to go for, is something really big,” says singer, guitarist and all-around smartypants Aaron Miller. “You could probably put our music into four or five different genres and it would work out. We try to summarize it as progressive rock and roll with a metal influence.”

Labeling A Utopian Skyline is kind of futile. The band skips around from math-rock rhythms to hardcore grooves to unapologetic metal riffage with such blinding speed that any label you slap on them – “prog-rock,” “emo,” “metal” – will only apply for about 30 seconds.

Here’s Miller and guitarist Teague Quinn doing harmonizing finger-tap solos.

Here’s Miller crooning away over pretty indie-rock arpeggios.

Here’s bassist Thomas Hand noodling around like a puppeteer at the top of his neck, and then busting out an open-string D or D-flat or C or whatever ungodly low note it is that makes your knees rattle.

And here’s Bradley Stackpole, one of the sickest drummers in the region, ticking away like a metronome, nonchalantly blasting through stop-and-go rhythms, breakneck fills and wicked time signature changes. He pulls off some straight-up mad-scientist shit on that set of his.

But for all of the chaos, A Utopian Skyline still manages to build a cohesive sound. You can pick out the band’s influences in its music, everyone from U2 (in the epic feel) to Meshuggah (in the gonzo toughness), but the end result is something original, something that actually adds to the progression of rock and roll as it continues to reach out in all directions.

“I definitely have been tapping into a lot of the older roots. I love Pink Floyd. I love a lot of stoner rock. But I will listen to jazz like Miles Davis,” Miller explains. “I try to take more influence from classical music and stuff like that, because it helps me clear my mind when I’m trying to write music. It also gives you ideas of melodies and different ways of writing music.”

A Utopian Skyline is still relatively new to the scene, having formed in Mechanicsburg last February. Prior to that, Miller and Stackpole performed together in The Midnight Drive, a hard rock band that toured semi-nationally and shared the stage with a handful of major label bands. (Before that, Miller played guitar in local emo band Sceva, which once rocked the Tweeter Center in Philly alongside Disturbed and Taproot.)

When two members of The Midnight Drive split in 2004, the band added Hand and Quinn to the lineup – an easy choice, since all four had played together in a previous band – and changed the name.

This month, A Utopian Skyline will head into the studio to record its debut album, which is sure to be a head-spinner.

“The album is going to be a total explanation of what we’ve been trying to do for the past eight months,” Miller says. “It’s gonna be intense when it comes out.”

The album comes complete with a storyline, a tale of war and death (and war with death) that follows the mind-trip of a character named Elmamoore.

“It’s the name of the woman that lets us practice in her house,” Miller explains. “It’s about her, kind of like a fictional story about her, because she is a real person.

“She’s like 80 years old, and she’s a very sweet woman. She’ll come in and literally listen to us practice. It’s cool. It’s different, dude,” he says with a laugh. “It’s kind of funny at first, but then kind of heartwarming in a way because she supports us so much. She gets upset when she can’t hear us play. She talks about us like we’re going to be this amazing band. It’s weird.”

Well, when you’re in an indie band, you take encouragement from wherever you can get it. For more info on the band, visit www.myspace.com/autopianskyline.com. - Fly Magazine


Discography

Elmamoore -2006 Available via Amazon.com

www.myspace.com/autopianskyline

Photos

Bio

Imagine yourself, for a moment, walking into a huge cathedral full of bright lights and glorious paintings of immaculate ideas telling the stories between heaven and hell. You look down at your feet and notice the floors patterns shifting underneath the shiny gloss. You look up at the ceiling and realize that its roof has risen off and the moon and stars and supernovas are all there with you on this psychedelic supernatural journey. Feelings of emotion sweep you away on this journey that you have no idea occurred until you realize that your music player had been playing 57 minutes of "Adventure-Rock"

From the year 2005, A Utopian Skyline has been setting new standards for the original music scene in Central Pennsylvania in the studio and in the live experience. Mixing different genres and influences from jazz to indie-rock to experimental to tech-rock to psychedelic jam. Anything and Everything you can hear just about every band that you ever loved in this band. From melodic-driven choruses to syncopated rhythms, the music by itself puts you into another state of mind.
Brad Stackpole and Thomas Hand execute the unique cornerstone grooves that classify the band as one of tightest and tasteful rhythm sections to walk the face of the planet. Teague Quinn slays into the melodic driven leads and harmonies fashioning a 7-string. Meanwhile, guitarist/lead singer Aaron Miller sets the mood of the band with the machine-like pedal board and his somewhat Barrett-style of soloing and experimentalism all while singing his bleeding heart out. All these things combined together with some improvisation and well-rehearsed clockworks, you find yourself A Utopian Skyline.

"They are a metal band for people who don't like metal; a hardcore band for people who are scared of hardcore; and a prog-rock band for people who would rather drink toilet water than listen to Rush. They are proof that art, angst and amplification are not mutually exclusive concepts." Jeff Royer ; Fly Magazine

"Fans of intelligent and imaginative rock should find A Utopian Skyline's Elmamoore a cerebral work of wonder. Like abstract art, this album leaves open ends, and will have listeners pondering and interpreting the meanings and purposes of its creators." Jim Price ; PA Musician

In August of 2006, the band released a 14-track concept album, entitled "Elmamoore"?, which later won “Album of the Year? at the 2007 Doctor's Office Awards. Many critics and producers, also quote "Elmamoore"?, as the new standard for Central PA's famed studio, Progressive Studios. A Utopian Skyline is proving to be much more than a local band these days with their reputation of great live shows and always bringing something new at each show. Finding new adventures at every turn. They are always a good time and a show you'll never forget.