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Collingswood, NJ | Established. Jan 01, 2017 | SELF

Collingswood, NJ | SELF
Established on Jan, 2017
Band Pop New Wave





The newest single from the Retroglyphs is ‘Wild Road,” a crooning retro synthpop cruising tune steeped in an early 80’s New wave feel. New Jersey’s newest contribution to synth, this group is a literal live-action 80’s quartet that sounds as if it was plucked striaght out of the past.
Only now six months old, the Retroglyphs sound like they’ve been playing together for the past 30 years. Their lively mix of early synthpop themes is uncommon and executed well – throw in their live performance side and it’s safe to say they are quickly becoming a name to watch. - DRIVE RADIO

"Retroglyphs: Self Titled EP"

The debut full-length album from Retroglyphs is a self-titled affair, one in which I am extremely honored to have received a pre-release copy of for this review, and it officially drops on May 5th with a special release party in Philadelphia, PA. There is also still time to contribute to their IndieGoGo campaign, which will allow you to not only help them with production and release, but also get you things like a t-shirt, CD, and other goodies including a vinyl that I really want to own! Seriously, go help them out now!

Up until now they have been putting out material rather regularly over on SoundCloud, so it’s nice to see that they’re moving forward with putting out an entire album, because there are nice transitional moments between tracks that make for a full and richly rewarding listening experience cover to cover.

Which I did, a number of times, in order to write this review and I have to say this about Retroglyphs: they remind me of the kind of band that would have played during a high school dance in the 1980s. What I mean by this is that not only is the retro sound there in each song, but there is range among the songs, from the sort that would get a gymnasium full of teenagers dancing (such as the tracks “Wild Road” and “One More Kiss”) to that which would get them slow dancing (like “War Torn” and “Two Years”). But that’s just one side to them.

Where they have a bit of a synthpop side, they also have a bit of a new wave vibe to them as well, specifically in the songs “The Noose,” “No Glory in the Fall,” and “Imposter” which has officially won me over as my favorite track on the entire album. It’s a simple song by design, but there’s also a lot going on in the background, with various instruments coming into play including a surprising saxophone solo which I always appreciate! Very Daft Punk-esque.

That all said, I see a very bright future ahead for Retroglyphs, and can’t wait to get my hands on this physical release! I don’t live too far from Philadelphia myself, actually went there for college many years ago, but not sure if I can make it out to the release party unfortunately. If you can, I implore you to go, and just know that I am insanely jealous! Also, don’t forget their IndieGoGo campaign! - Watermelon Banzai


New Retro Wave featured the song the Noose on their We Rule Nation channel. - New Retro Wave/We Rule Nation

"Retroglyphs - War Torn"

We’re glad to introduce a synthpop band on the blog today.

Retroglyphs, from Collingswood, NJ, is the 80s inspired retro-wave project started by Frank Cervantes and Josh Dowiak. Inspired by some of their favorite 80s groups such as Tears for Fears and New Order, the duo is committed to making new original material that honors their own creativity while paying homage to their influences.

Inspired by some of their favorite 80s groups such as Tears for Fears and New Order, the duo is committed to making new original material that honors their own creativity while paying homage to their influences. In

In concert, the group plays as a full band with the help of multi-instrumentalists Joshua Holland and Matthew Wood.featuring

On War Torn, Damokles was invited to play the drums. ARE TOO and Valentina contributes to the vocals.

This wonderful track is featured on the self-titled debut album, due out May 9, 2017. - Headphones for Robots

"BETA WAVE album review and interview"

Retroglyphs’ eponymous new album, released this month, is a powerful dichotomy on the themes of love and war, continuing the band’s traditions of strong narrative and synth-tastic sounds with a foundation of solid, beautiful lyrics and vocals.

From the get-go, you know you’re in the land of the glorious sounds of the ‘80s with the intro Hyperdrive, introducing the album’s story, a hopeful tale reminiscent of the future-looking philosophy of that glittering decade.

The cadence announces itself with dancy, upbeat tracks such as the incredibly catchy Wild Road, where hints of Retroglyphs’ love of bands such as Depeche Mode and The Cult shine through. There’s a great mix of pinging, energetic synth sounds and a haunting but graceful lyricism here which makes it easy to see why artists including Damokles (who collaborated on the track War Torn), Shane Keizer and others have been keen to collaborate with the band.

From the aptly-titled Transformation interlude, the tracks take on a notably darker personality, and this is where my personal favourite tracks, especially the brilliant No Glory In The Fall, give the album its exciting, multi-faceted personality. There’s a lot to like here, and although Retroglyphs probably wouldn’t consider themselves part of the darkwave or industrial rock genres, fans of those movements will find a lot to like here among the hedonistic, percussion-led dancy beats of the earlier songs in the track list.

Indeed, Retroglyphs have professed their love of ‘80s horror movies and the darker sounds of synthesised music from that decade. All the best dance songs have a distinct melancholy running through them, and Retroglyphs is no different. This is far from goth or pure darkwave though, and the alluring lyrics and pretty sounds of the ending track, Two Years, cements it as a narrative of hope despite loss in love.

Retroglyphs is available on iTunes, Spotify and other major music download services. You can also have a listen to the tracks on SoundCloud.

interviewer: I found the vocals particularly impressive on the LP, they work wonderfully with the dreamy melodies you create. Do you guys tend to come up with the lyrics and then work the music around that, or what’s the process when you’re creating a record?

We always start with the music, but in the end the vocals are always what makes the song for us. For example, we came up with the music for The Noose and it sat on the shelf for about four months because we could not come up with a vocal part. Randomly one night we came up with the verse and the song was tracked and finished about two days later.

We really throw caution to the wind when it comes to the creative process. The idea is that there are no limitations, no judgements being made when creating, no expectations. Obviously when we get to the mixing phase of the record our method changes and we are more critical, but in its infancy we have a saying that we use, “The answer is always yes,” as in, “Yes, let’s try everything.”

Typically it starts with the music, but when we find a catchy vocal melody or lyric that we like, we might re-think the whole arrangement and build the song around that hook. There’s this reoccurring detail of our process that seems to happen time and time again: We’ll write a really interesting bridge, and then we’ll say, “Forget the rest of the song, it’s garbage. Let’s make a new song and make this part the main subject of the tune.”

interviewer: Do you have any other particular influences, musical or otherwise? You mention wanting to bring the beautiful and cinematic feeling from the ‘80s alive in your music for example.

The movies of the ‘80s did so well at capturing the feeling, aura, and culture of the time. It was the height of pop cinema and it gave us so many classic cuts. Frank’s absolute favourite is Mad Max and there are post-apocalyptic lyrical references all over the record. Karate Kid, Back To The Future, Rocky, Weird Science, Valley Girl, anything from Ridley Scott, John Hughes, John Carpenter, we just can’t get enough of it.

The ‘80s love affair between music and images which was documented so well on MTV and glorified in montages from all your favourite movies, it’s an epic and hypnotic feeling that we crave, and it defined our childhoods.

I love your collaborations with artists like Damokles and Shane Keizer, have you enjoyed communicating with and working on tracks with different musicians? How do you find the process in comparison with making your own records?

Damokles, Shane, Jowie Schulner, Marcenby, and others; they have all blown our minds with their remixes, collaborations, and various contributions to our tunes. Not only that, but they are inspiring us with their take on our songs. It has really opened up our minds to the prospect of having someone else produce our material. We love the idea of the ‘remix’ or the ‘reimagining’. We don’t consider our songs to be sacred ground. You can take it, chop it up, get crazy with it.

Jowie and Damokles were the first to remix our tracks. We really consider them to be legends in the scene. We were fortunate enough to have Damokles collaborate on War Torn and we are hoping to do more work with Jowie in the future.

War Torn was the very first song we recorded and we always loved the song but we hated the drum production so we shelved it. After hearing the Damokles remix of The Noose we got brave enough to ask him to re-work the drums and we are so happy with how it turned out. He brought the energy to the music that it was missing.

interviewer: What do you guys enjoy doing when you’re not in the studio?

Holland plays tons of hockey and loves to travel, Matt runs a podcast that he really enjoys, Dowiak works as an audio engineer and music teacher, and Frank has two kids and pretty much spends all his extra free time with his family.

Would it be fair to say your music is a blend of new wave, synthwave, synthpop and rock? The use of vocals and instrumentals with a synthy undertone lends itself to that mix in my mind.

We didn’t realise there was a retrowave scene until after we started making the music. We didn’t have a name for our group but we were always purposefully trying to make ‘80s music. We wanted a name that was self-descriptive, as in you could tell exactly what kind of music we play when you hear our name. We actually considered the name ‘retrowave’, and we googled it to see if there were any other bands with that name.

That’s when we discovered the ‘new retro wave’ record label and we were like, “Whoa, there are tons of bands doing this and they are all awesome!” Since that discovery we’ve gotten super into synthwave but we agree that our music is more a mix of synthwave, synthpop, and rock. After all, our roots are all in indie rock music, Retroglyphs is a conceptual extension from that.

interviewer: How is Philadelphia for musicians making this type of music? Are you near any good venues or other hotspots for synthwave or music in general?

Philly is a hotspot for all kinds of music, and incredibly receptive to any and all genres. There is an outlet for everything. The synth wave scene tends to get lumped in with all its connected genres, especially EDM. We have had the good fortune of being able to book our own shows so far, our first one we had TEEEL and Lapses on the bill, that was probably the most synthwave night of music in Philly we’ve ever seen.

interviewer: What’s next in the pipeline for Retroglyphs?

We are touring the US behind this new record and giving it some proper promo, but it’s going to be hard not to follow it up with something before the end of the year. We left about 10 songs off the record. Right now we’re thinking about a fall EP release with some female singing contributions from a couple friends of ours who have amazing voices. It’s our chance to delve more into our ‘80s fantasy and our obsession with ‘80s Madonna.

We’ve also been working on a couple of alternative rock covers that we’ve treated in the retro style. They came out surprisingly well, we’re excited to share them with the world! Honestly, we are so excited about the response we’ve been getting from the synthwave community and it has motivated us and provided us with some really positive energy.

Truth be told we have been talking to a couple labels but we can’t say much more than that - BETA WAVE

"Synthwave artists pick their top releases of 2017"

I did a bit of thinking before I could make a statement like “Best Synthwave Album of 2017”, but in truth, the decision is pretty easy.

I ran into Retroglyphs on Twitter in February 2017, when they were just 3 months old. On first listen, I was impressed that they were a real band, and that they had really captured that 80’s pop sound VERY well. It wasn’t until later, in August when they put out their first album, the eponymous “Retroglyphs” that I heard “One More Kiss” and I was hooked. Preceded by “Wild Road”, I was very excited to hear what the rest of the album was going to bring me. What follows is well thought out rollercoaster of emotions and sounds. Starting out pepped up and happy, the album takes a turn for the dark, sadder side of things, and even dips in some angry, frustrated tirades. And each song starts with a hook you’ll be singing to yourself for the rest of the day. This is a truly solid album that I’ve listened to on repeat many times since August.

I really look forward to seeing where these guys go with their sound, and I sure as heck hope I can share a stage with them some day.

Check out Vampire Step-Dad’s latest, Nightshift! - The G

"Days of Future Past, an Interview with Retroglyphs"

There are very few bands that are able to tap the past while still remaining relevant to what’s popular in today’s music. To be fair, it’s a tough balancing act. You have to juggle those nostalgic sounds without becoming too kitschy, stay on top of what people enjoy, and maintain a sincerity behind the music. Retroglyphs have it figured out. The trappings of new wave, synthpop, and pop music of decades past are all here. But this is no window into yesteryear…this is music that could (and should) be heard when you turn on the radio to your favorite station. Good music is good music, no matter what the styling or sub-genres it may dip into…and this, I assure you, is good music. Retroglyphs released their self-titled debut in May and I’m already comfortable saying they’re one of my favorite bands. A big shout out to Watermelon Banzai for bringing them to my attention!

Hyperdrive is a perfect intro…warm synths, a slow bass beat, and a voice-over saying “trust me.” Without skipping a beat, Wild Road kicks in with an amazing bass guitar hook. Bass guitar hooks are a wildly underused vehicle to get people moving. It was far more prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s but it has become a lost art over the ensuing years. Blend in your synths, perfectly timed acoustic guitar work, and organic drum work and you’ve got a stone cold hit. One More Kiss keeps the momentum going. I’m going on record saying that this is one of the best tracks of 2017. If I were documenting the year in song, One More Kiss would be on the playlist…and I may do just that. The track is so infectious, perfectly blended hooks, and the vocals are spot on. This is pure pop perfection. Imposter slows down the temp a bit with funky bass beat, a staggered drum beat, and exploratory synth tones echoing off into the distance. The whole track has a noir-ish feel that seems to encircle everything. The acoustic guitar, synth, and saxophone breakdown in the middle of the song is inspired stuff. Top it all off with smoky vocals and you’ve got another great track. The outro for the song has to be an amazing experience live. Not a bad way to start off an album!

Transformation is a transitionary track that flows right into War Torn with a voice over saying “I’m ready for the future.” Another well placed line. War Torn has a great intro, echoing drums, more of the stellar bass work, and synths that add to the overall feel without taking over. It’s an emotionally charged track that works excellently as a linchpin in the middle of the album. The Noose kicks off with a guitar hook that would have sold a million singles in 1985. Imagine your favorite track by Echo & The Bunnymen blended with your favorite New Order song and you’ve got an idea of the feel here. What makes the track so great is that while there’s an homage here to those sounds it doesn’t actually sound like either. It’s a purely Retroglyphys track, a standard of consistently solid songwriting that has continued throughout the album. The bass work at the end of the song is a pure body moving experience. No Glory in the Fall is a balance of deep bass and higher register synth work. It’s a brooding piece that really highlights the talents of each member. This is the work of a well oiled machine and you can tell by the way each sound marries so well with the others. Forever Time is our last interlude before coming to the end of the album…warm synths and a heartbeat drums take us into the closer. Two Years is a showcase of layered guitar work, vocal work that sets the tone, drum work that’s not content with playing a simple back beat, and the bass work that has set the beat for the whole album. By the time the track finishes you’re ready to hit play again and start the whole trip over!

If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed this album. In fact, I love it. It’s the perfect blend of the sounds I loved growing up and modern pop that you just can’t deny. Retroglyphs are a band you need to be keeping up with and that needs to start now (Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud). Their self-titled debut is available now on iTunes and Spotify. Go buy it! I’ll wait, but make sure you come back, because we’re not done here. Nope. We’ve got an interview with Retroglyphs! Let’s meet the band behind the music:

For those hearing about you for the first time, what is the Retroglyphs story?

Frank Cervantes (Vocals/Guitar/Keys): Retroglyphs is a conceptual 80s-style project inspired by the relationship between music and images. The idea continues to evolve and develop as we have started to create our own cinematic story built around our music.

You’ve got a new album out! What can you tell us about it?

Frank: It’s a conceptual album meant to be listened to from start to finish. There is a story within the music and lyrics that anyone can relate to. Our hope is that you make it your own. The music is there to guide you. Your imagination is supposed to take over.

Your sound is steeped in the old while still feeling fresh and new. What have been your influences?

Frank: Thank you for the compliment! Regardless of what inspires and influences us, we feel like we have our own voice that shines through everything. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards romantic serious new wave that you can dance to, as well as some of the more serious songwriter-heavy Tears for Fears kind of stuff. I love the deep cuts. I also have an affinity for 80s Madonna and 80s MJ. The 80s were definitely an era of one-hit-wonders, and you can’t deny some of the pop classics… especially the songs from John Hughes’ movies. Also, dark 80s horror soundtracks. In my opinion, pure synthwave owes more to 80s horror movie soundtracks than it does to the pop scene. We love the synth, so obviously we love 80s horror music.

What is your writing process? Take us through the creation of a Retroglyphs track.

Frank: Our tracks typically start with the beat, but sometimes we start with an idea on guitar or piano. Josh Dowiak (Bass, Moog, Backing Vocals) and I will start layering instruments in the studio and experimenting with sounds. We might tear apart the entire thing and start with a new idea that was generated out of that process. We’re not afraid to chop something up and change it, even after we put a lot of time into it. Then, we send the tracks to Josh Holland (Drums/Guitar) and Matt Wood (Synth/Keytar) to prep for rehearsal. Then, in rehearsal, we might create more ideas and bounce some ideas off of Holland and Matt, and go back into the studio and record more. Needless to say, it can be a long process, but we are constantly working on it, which is why we have a lot of finished recordings as well as a ton of unreleased material we’re still working on.

When we first started the project, we had a bunch of material we had been working on. Some of it was retro style and some of it was more indie rock. Last summer, we decided we wanted to take all of the 80s-style songs and release them under one project. At the time, we didn’t even realize there was a “retrowave” scene. A couple of Google searches later, we realized this was already a thing and we were late to the party! After dubbing our project Retroglyphs, we committed to creating songs in that style. It was during this process that we realized you can turn any tune retro. We intend to show this with some covers we are working on for our next release.

What do you find to be the most useful ways to get yourself heard in the modern age?

Frank: The internet is by far the best tool for attracting fans on an international level. You have to want to connect with people who would be into your sound and get to know them on a personal level. There are a lot of great outlets right now for retrowave and synthwave, and the fans are really excited about the music. On a local level, however, nothing works better than getting out and playing shows. We also love collaborating with other artists. We don’t consider it to be a marketing tool. It’s more something we really desire on an artistic level, but it is also a great way to connect to more people.

Best part about performing live?

Frank: Hearing the songs develop and take on a life of their own. The best performances are the ones you are feeling. You can’t just play the songs, you’ve got to feel them.

Josh H: Feeling mentally connected to my bandmates and producing something that connects on an even larger scale to the people watching us.

Matt: Making people dance!

What are your musical backgrounds?

Frank: I took guitar lessons for a year when I was 12 and immediately formed my first band and started songwriting for our group. I was always intrigued by creating my own music, though I have no issues with covering my favorite artists. Songwriting has always been the most interesting aspect of being a musician for me. I’ve written for several bands including The Once Was and The City Music Project, and I have released several records as a solo artist.

Josh H: I took up drums in 5th grade, got my first drum set in middle school, and played all the way through college in jazz bands, orchestras, and marching bands. In high school, I branched out a bit and taught myself guitar, piano, how to sing (sort of), and a few other things. I also play solo acoustic shows to mix it up a little, in addition to writing songs for my solo project called Zoo Keys. I’ve been in dozens of local rock bands, but Retroglyphs is the best music I’ve played.

Matt: I started playing piano when I was 6 and then attended BYU for Jazz Piano Performance. I’ve been playing music in Philadelphia since 2008.

How do you record? What’s your studio setup?

Frank: Almost all of the tracking is done in my home studio on Pro Tools and then mixed and mastered at Mageworks, a local studio owned and operated by our buddy, Jay Mage. Most of our stuff is performed using Midi and analog keyboards, guitars, and bass. There is almost no cookie-cutter programming.

What does the future hold for Retroglyphs?

Frank: We are taking our love for 80s pop to the next level, including collaborations with singers Sarah Kane and ARE TOO, which will be included on our next release. I think we’re tapping into some Tom Tom Club/Sade vibes that almost no one is doing in the retrowave scene. We’re also working on some lighting elements for our live show and some cinematic music videos to support our recent release. We’ve also got some t-shirt designs that will be available when we launch our BandCamp store next month.

Guilty pleasure song you can’t get enough of?

Frank: “Love Plus One” – Haircut 100

Josh H: “Backseat Freestyle” – Kendrick Lamar

Matt: “Hide and Seek” – Imogen Heap

Best video game ever made?

Frank: Mario (the original, obviously!)

Josh H: NHL 94 for my classic choice, Red Dead Redemption for my modern one.

Matt: Life Is Strange

Anyone you’d like to thank or shout out?

Frank: YES! The artists who have remixed our tracks and who are involved in collaborations with us. They are all awesome and you should check them all out! Shout out to Damokles, Jowie Schulner, Marcenby, Duh!Dork!, UNITRA, Shane Keizer, McVice, and Hot Heels! Mike from 30th Floor Records also gave us great advice leading up to the release of our record.

We are grateful for every blog and publication that has promoted the release of our record. A few guys helped us get started before anyone knew us: Zistler from Drive Radio, who was one of the first writers to feature us… New Retro Wave, who had our “coming out party” when they released “The Noose” on their We Rule Nation channel before we had any buzz… and WXPN (specifically Mike Vasilikos and Helen Leicht), which has been spinning our single on FM radio in our hometown. Finally, more than anything, our Indiegogo supporters who came out big for us. They are responsible for so many great things in the works.

Josh H: I’d also like to give a shout out to Watermelon Banzai, Cobra Commander (@CobraYouFools), Ed Christof, ArtStar, Dungeons Magazine, Philthy Mag, Andy Last from Beyond Synth, Lazlo at BlowUpRadio NJ, William from Beta Wave Blog, and Art from Galaxy Hut for their support/assistance! We don’t take it for granted! - Echosynthetic

"Frank Cervantes of Retroglyphs on the Wild Retrowave Road Ahead"

After a string of successful online singles, New Jersey synthwave band Retroglyphs released their self-titled debut album in May of last year. In making the record, the founding producer duo of Frank Cervantes and Josh Dowiak teamed up with drummer Joshua Holland and keyboard player Matthew Wood.

The record blends 80s synth pop sounds with the benefit of hindsight and contemporary alternative influence. That mix is on full display on “Wild Road,” where punchy electronic drums and twinkling synth flourishes are accented by rhythmic acoustic guitar strumming. On the verses, Cervantes is a dead ringer for Chris Martin and the rougher, reverb-soaked voices of 2000s alt-pop.

On the tracks that come after, the band explores a wider range of synth possibilities. Take, for example, the panpipe melodies and darker ambience of “No Glory in The Fall,” or the bouncy string-plucked textures of “Impostor” (side question: is that live saxophone behind it?). The full band arrangements, including live guitar and bass, evoke the sonic depth of Eurythmics and other new wave forbearers.

As Retroglyphs prepares to keep making big moves in 2018, singer-guitarist Frank Cervantes spoke with The All Scene Eye about the online retrowave network and the real-world road ahead.

How’s your 2018 so far?

Great. It started with Retroglyphs playing at Mercury Lounge, which was months in the making. Being relatively close to New York and Philadelphia–New York’s not really a hub for synthwave like you think it would be, but there’s an industry there. Philadelphia does have a great music scene, but there’s a lack of resources. Hopefully if we can make New York more of a consistent destination, it’ll give us opportunities to showcase for people in the industry who might be able to further our career.

I’m just starting to dip my toes into synthwave, but it seems like more of a social-media-based scene than a physical network.

Right, but one of the major benefits of that is that people within the scene are very friendly. I’ve been surprised at the kind of artists who have responded to our outreach, which you just don’t get with indie rock. Artists like Robert Parker, Diamond Field, even The Midnight, replying to emails of their fans. It’s unheard of. I look at those guys as major players in synthwave, and there’s quite a few guys we reached out to who got back to us.

Not only that, but they verified they listened to our music, cited references and songs, and had us on playlists. It’s pretty amazing how fast that grew. We’ve gotten some good press and social media shout outs, but we’re coming into this from a place where we were relatively unfamiliar with the scene when we launched the band. And we’ve sourced fans who have come to see us in other cities from soundcloud.

Can you tell me how Retroglyphs got started?

Josh Dowiak and I were in The Once Was, an indie rock band that’s been around for a while in the Philly scene. We moved on from that, and we’re fully focused on Retroglyphs at this point. We were actually working on demos for The Once Was using drum machines, and we had a collection of songs we thought were very 80s inspired. We thought, “how cool would it be if we went all 80s rather than try to get away from it? What if we created a side project that was totally dedicated to this kind of music?”

What we didn’t know at the time was that thousands of people were already doing that, and that there was a huge scene for it online. This was a couple years ago, and we’re relatively established here in Philly, so we knew there were going to be opportunities for us to play in Philadelphia, and for us to get some good exposure. We were thinking about a band name, and we thought, “well, it’s a combination of new wave and a retro sound,” and we thought, “let’s call it Retrowave.” And we googled it to see if there were any other bands called Retrowave, and we landed smack on the NewRetroWave website and discovered dozens of acts.

I immediately became obsessed, because I’m an 80s kid, and I’m a huge fan of not only new wave, but 80s pop, darkwave, and especially 80s soundtracks. So, we’re discovering all these bands, like FM-84, Foret de Vin, Sebastian Gampl, and The Midnight, but our album was pretty much done already. All the demos had been done, and most of the songwriting was finished.

When we were ready to drop our first release, we saw you can submit your music on NewRetroWave, and we submitted “The Noose.” They accepted it and put it on their “We Rule Nation” page, and we were like, “I guess we’re being accepted as one of these acts.” That was exciting, and it was a huge launch point.

Creatively, you always want to be true to yourself. You don’t want to change things based on pressure. But we have gotten some comments like, “you guys have an 80s inspired sound but you’re not real retrowave, you’re still dabbling in indie rock.” I would say I think a lot of retrowave acts are dabbling in electronic music. So I would say that’s unfair.

A lot of those acts are maybe leaning more towards the contemporary EDM scene.

Right, because there’s a lot of that, and I respect that too. But you can recognize when it’s coming from an 80s inspired place, and I think we do that naturally. But also, we do a lot less four-on-the-floor than you hear in EDM-centric acts.

Before the interview you mentioned you’ve been compared to early Arcade Fire, and I’m interested in the way contemporary stuff influences your sound.

I think it’s relative to the fact that a lot of acts like Arcade Fire are also influenced by the Talking Heads, David Bowie, and these acts that influenced the sound of the 80s too. Part of it might be my vocal delivery. I’m an unconventional singer; I’m more stylistic. I don’t have the natural talent. I’m a songwriter, and I write to my voice, but if I tried out for the choir, I’m not going to be first chair, you know? I’m not a soloist from that perspective. I would say Win Butler from Arcade Fire, he’s got a pretty rough voice, and I think that’s where the comparison comes from.

I’m not saying I’m not a fan of Arcade Fire; I am. I wouldn’t cite them as an influence for this project, though. I love The Suburbs and Neon Bible. I love the first album too. Me and Josh, we’re music lovers. Music nuts, in a way. I’m always craving new music, which is also why it was so exciting to discover all these synthwave acts I hadn’t heard of. Obviously, there’s some that are more mainstream I had heard of, but for the most part, they’re underground.

I was really curious about the making of the album more technically. What kind of equipment did you use? What kind of synths and drum machines were at play?

Josh has an authentic Moog from the 80s, but I don’t know what model it is exactly. We have a Korg synthesizer, and we have a good amount of patches. Joshua Holland has a drum pad that he actually plays with sticks. When we play live, so far we’ve mostly been playing with a drum kit. All the guitar and bass sounds are natural. I play a Lone Star Strat with two humbuckers and a Mesa Boogie Lone Star amp, and I’m very proud of my guitar tone.

One moment that stands out to me on this record is the transition out of “Transformation” into “War Torn.” The guitar picking is really something.

I think that’s definitely something I noticed right away we could bring to the scene that there wasn’t a lot of. I do play a lot of the keyboard parts too, but I’m a big fan of Tears for Fears, the Cure, New Order, Talking Heads, and Joy Division. I love how they use the guitar, especially in synth-based music, when the guitar has more space to be used for color, not so much like in alternative music where it’s the backbone of the song. I’m having a lot of fun with that.

The acoustic guitar tones are natural too. I have a Martin acoustic. Josh uses a few different basses on the record. He does use some synth bass on the middle of “Impostor.”

There were definitely moments–maybe that’s the one I’m thinking of–where I thought I heard synth bass, or maybe I filled that in mentally because it sounds like it should be there based on the rest of the textures.

There’s a lot more synth bass on the record we’re working on right now. He uses it live on a song we’ve been playing called “Trust” that was finished, but didn’t make it onto the debut record. We’re working on about 10 tracks for the record we’re working on right now. We think 5 are definitely going to be on the record, and three of them have synth bass.

Where are you trying to take the sound for the follow-up album?

It’s definitely a mix of what we were doing with the last album, and I can think of at least two songs that still have the synthesizers, but the vibe is a little more indie rock. Other songs are very 80s-centric. We have one pop track with R2, she’s a singer from Austin, Texas. It’s somewhere between Madonna and the Talking Heads. It’s poppy, but it’s got a little call and response going on, and there’s even a snippet of an 80s-style rap verse.

We’re going to be all over the place with the next record, but that’s where it is right now. In a way, we’re diversifying our 80s influence. We’re going to be touching on everything with the new record. There’s a darkwave track that is very dissonant, but with vocals, and it’s got that darkwave feel that can also transcend into pop. And then there’s a pretty traditional retrowave pop song, so it’s a little of everything.

Speaking of vocalists, can you tell me about the spoken word vocal tracks on this album?

When we were working on the tracks, I kept hearing this dialogue. This music was like the soundtrack to a movie, and I wanted to show that’s where it was coming from. The idea that this was like a soundtrack to our lives was influencing the direction we were taking the songs. We didn’t want that to be lost on the listener, but it was also a creative idea that was totally genuine.

Once we did the first dialogue, we wanted it to be a theme throughout the album. Both me and Josh, we’re very into concept albums, and the idea of listening to a CD front to back. These days, with digital music and Spotify, people are so used to singles. A lot of the retrowave scene are bands that release singles. In our nature, we’re really into albums. We wanted to do something that tied together.

That’s where the band comes into play. After we created the album, we added Joshua Holland, who’s become a big part of the band. He’s our drummer, and he also runs our twitter account. We added Matthew Wood on keyboards, and we’ve also added Josh’s brother Jacob on keyboards. At this point, we’re playing with about nine synthesizers on stage, we’re doing it live. No backing tracks, unless we do a DJ show. Right now we’re doing it live, and that’s helped us build a fanbase. We’re getting a really good response in our hometown.

Who did those dialogue bits?

Well, I kind of want to–[laughs] friends of ours. They’re not paid actors. I don’t know if they want to be on the record.

They’re involved in various things, so it’s kind of–this is a little bit of mysticism we want to maintain, but they’re not done. They have more dialogue coming. I almost want to keep them anonymous because once you put a face on something, that’s who you see when you think of it.

At least, that’s my perception. It’s like, when you think of Batman now, you might think of Christian Bale. Once you cast Thor, that’s who you think Thor is in your head. I’m a big comic book fan, but I’m not a big comic book movie fan. I’ve been critical of the movies because I think a lot is lost in Hollywood.

In that case, I won’t ask you to divulge anyone’s secret identity.

[laughs] It’s not top-secret, but I don’t know how big we’re going to get, you know? I hope we make a mark. We’re talking to a lot of people, there are a lot of opportunities in our future. The hardest thing about being in a band is keeping it together.

Do you have a favorite concept album?

It’s gotta be Dark Side of the Moon. It’s not an 80s album, but that album’s just perfect front to back, and that’s why it’s lasted so long and been on the lips of listeners for so many years. The synthesizer work they were doing, how they were integrating into rock music, I think that’s a huge catalyst for the 80s. And because we’re music lovers, we get a lot of that, but something about that 80s pop sound–a lot of it is rooted in the drums–it’s something I just can’t get away from. I just want to hear it every time I make a song.

It seemed like in the 90s it was popular to discount the 80s. I think now people are realizing how much of a positive influence 80s music has, on the best stuff coming out right now, you know? You talked about Arcade Fire, but even with pop music, it’s funny to me that a lot of these retrowave acts are not more popular, considering it seems like pop music–these popular acts like Bruno Mars, Rhianna, etc.–are trying to make 80s-style music now. They seem to be striking a chord, and it’s like, you know there’s all these acts doing it better, right?

They’re not getting played on the radio, and it makes me wonder if, in a way, for some of these more popular acts, not ourselves included, if the association with an underground scene might actually be hurting their ability to branch into major markets. That being said, if I were them, I’d be pretty satisfied with the fact that I’m selling out all my shows in 10 minutes and playing the international scene, so I don’t know.

What’s interesting to me is the way all the hallmarks of that sound are more accessible now. You don’t need to have an 80s Moog synthesizer, you can download a pretty accurate recreation in a VST or a sample pack.

Right, and that’s interesting because I think that identifies the two kinds of synthwave fans. Gear-centric fans, they really want to hear certain gear. Then there are the fans who are more into the music and the style. With our band, I’m more of a music-head, and my partner Josh is more of a gear-head. We have a little of both worlds that I think serves us well. It makes for a really good partnership. I really look to him to bring sounds into my songwriting.

In a lot of ways, that becomes the sound of the song. That’s the partnership that’s working for us. We’re both getting something out of it that for both of us seems to be filling all of our musical needs right now.

Since you have more people involved in the live performance, has it changed your writing process? Or is it still mostly the two of you?

Joshua Holland wrote a song for our new record, and he actually sings it. He’s doing even more percussion on this record than the last one.

I’m all about collaboration. We’re not exclusive. We also work with Jay Mage, who’s a producer who does our mixing. Obviously that’s a big part of our sound. For our last record, we used Damokles, who’s an act out of Norway. He did the drums on “War Torn.”

There’s going to be a lot more collaboration. We have another track we did with Marcenby that we’re going to release, and all of our tracks on Soundcloud were remixed by various producers, including Jowie Schulner, UNITRA, and Hot Heels. We did a collaborative track with Shane Keizer, and that one already came out. We’re definitely expanding, but to me, that’s what the online community is all about. There’s a lot of that in the retrowave synthwave scene to begin with.

Mainly, it’s not that we don’t want the other guys involved in the record. My thing with music is, I’m only going to ask you to do as much as you want to do. We’re open to the other guys involved in the band, and that’s where the collaboration came in on the last record. When we incorporated the band into the music, that’s where the intros and the instrumentals came from. Those were segues we created for our live show.

Our record came out in May 2017, and we had dropped singles a year ago, October 2016. We were already getting a lot of attention online, and we had decided we wanted to try to play these songs live. In doing that, we formed the band. In working with the band, we were creating transitions for our live show, and that’s where the instrumentals came from. At that point, we had dialogues over parts of songs, and we transitioned that dialogue to be over the instrumental segues. That was kind of a collaboration that Joshua–the drummer–and Matt were involved in.

A lot of synthwave acts, they’re coming more from that EDM perspective, where there’s not a lot of bands or musical groups. For me, when you’re making a record, sometimes when you bring it into a rehearsal space and play with a band, you’ll hear parts of songs that you don’t hear in the studio. It’s a great way to generate new ideas.

Speaking from my own experience, If I play something a million times, I feel like I’ve exhausted everything I can do with it, and it’s not until I play it with other people that I start to see things I didn’t see before.

It’s true, and there’s so much of that in the 80s. The producers of the 80s are so valuable to the music that came out. When you hear things like how David A. Stewart from Eurythmics wrote and produced songs with Tom Petty, you would never think that. But that’s why we have “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” and those drum sounds. There was a lot of collaboration in the 80s, or a lot of the stuff Rick James did, or a lot of the stuff that Nile Rodgers did with Michael Jackson and Madonna. Quincy Jones, you know? Bringing this musicality to pop music that, to me, is why I love the 80s so much.

Songs like “Borderline” from Madonna, yeah, it’s a pop song, but the instrumentation and the musicality is really intense. Or a lot of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The fact that Stevie Ray Vaughn and Randy Rhoads played with Michael Jackson. The instrumentation, I mean, these are legends. The 80s are full of these collaborations, kind of like the 60s. A lot of these players with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, guys like Billy Preston or Jeff Beck. These guys are the innovators, too. That’s not what you think of when you think of the 80s. You think of the artist, but there’s a lot of people behind those sounds. I think now it’s starting to get the respect it deserves.

There’s other artists that we’re very influenced by, like the Talking Heads, who you don’t typically think of as a new wave band, but they’re part of that CBGB’s thing too. One of our songs on the new record, I would say, is very Blondie/Talking Heads. Their 80s stuff.

I’m excited to release new music, but we do value this record, and we’re still promoting and pushing it. We’re not done promoting this record. We’re not at the point yet where we’re just talking about what’s next. We’re still excited about our debut.

Do you have any musical New Year’s resolutions for 2018?

I want to try to play a city we’ve never played. That’s a pretty soft resolution, but Josh and I have talked about wanting to explore new cities and new markets, maybe get out of our comfort zone a little. Retroglyphs has already played New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Philly, and DC, so we’re hoping to expand. I don’t want to say any one city in particular. We’ve thought of a few at the top of our list, like Austin, Denver, LA, San Francisco, Boston, you know. We’re trying to look for good opportunities. We’re talking to people in pretty much all of those cities about doing shows.

We’re just hoping everything lines up and we’re able to get out and do something. God be willing, it is a resolution, so it has to happen, right? - All Scene Eye



Retroglyphs self-titled debut featuring 10 original compositions
Release Date: May 9, 2017



Retroglyphs is the 80s-inspired project of Frank Cervantes and Josh Dowiak, who had previously teamed up in the Philly-area rock band, The Once Was. The band recently added multi-instrumentalists Matthew Wood and Joshua Holland (primarily playing keys and drums, respectively) to round out the live band.

In its first few months, the band released their self titled full length and quickly received attention from NewRetroWave, various popular synthwave blogs, and Philadelphia radio station WXPN.  Following the albums release, all of the band’s songs have been remixed by popular European producers.

Seeking to capture the allure of the 80s, the band has been compared to Tears For Fears, The Cure, Peter Gabriel, and more.  

"Retroglyphs built a time machine in '85 and traveled forward to show us how its done" - Vampire Step-Dad

"Catchy AF and exquisite pop" Vehlinggo

Band Members