Idler Wheel spins a tale of modern-day connection in ‘SUPERFLUX’

The Boston artist and producer releases sophomore album October 29

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Lead single ‘Half Life’ hits the streams October 8, followed by two Bandcamp releases October 15 and 22

Listen to ‘SUPERFLUX’: Spotify x Bandcamp x Apple Music

BOSTON, MA [October 29, 2021] -- On the morning of October 4, Idler Wheel shared to social media pre-save link for the Boston’s project’s new single “Half Life,” asking listeners to click it in order to be directly served the song on release day. Moments later, Facebook and Instagram both went down for several hours, leaving the promotional effort in limbo and encapsulating the two distinct moods of our technology era: A sense of ultra-connectivity and the exciting promise of reaching a widespread audience, and an unnerving sense of dread as these platforms fail us, leaving us cold and distant from the communities that are suddenly cut off and out of reach. 

“‘Half Life’ is about the overwhelming experience of the internet -- the lyrics expressing an individual sense of isolation, with a hope of connection or meaning that’s elusive at best,” says Michael Boylan, the Boston musician, songwriter, and producer behind Idler Wheel. 

In many ways, “Half Life,” sets the tone both thematically and musically for Idler Wheel’s full-length album, SUPERFLUX, due out October 29. In between, Idler Wheel will release two additional singles -- arriving October 14 and 21 exclusively on Bandcamp -- filling October’s New Music Friday slate with a gradual, weekly rollout of music from the LP like unfolding chapters. And it all begins with “Half Life” on October 8.

“Musically the song has a pure upward trajectory, escalating until it finally explodes, though along the way it shifts dramatically between minor and major keys, which feels like the most accurate translation for the internet experience these days,” Boylan says. “ It’s a dramatic, maximalist rock song, with some structural twists and turns, that combines a host of different musical influences to hopefully create a visceral, exciting ride. I think that’s as good an opening statement as I can make for what people can expect from this album.”

The follow-up to last year’s debut album Breakers, the forthcoming SUPERFLUX finds Idler Wheel at odds with the world but at peace with itself. A haunting sound of autumnal grayscale, tracing along the lines of post-punk, with dalliances through space-rock, indie, alternative and whatever else swirls around this gritty, weathered breed of atmospheric rock and roll, it’s penned by a songwriter who positions The Cure and Deftones side-by-side on the inspirational shelf. A hat tip to the  late-‘70s, early-’80s explosion of musical creativity -- like Public Image Ltd., The Pop Group, Talking Heads -- bolsters the moody aesthetic, a nocturnal sound lit up by the hope on which we hold. 

“The concept of SUPERFLUX comes originally from a line in King Lear, which is spoken by an AI generated voice in the opening track,” Boylan says. “This notion of excessive, overwhelming inputs that has all of us trying to process and express more than we feel capable of -- is something as old as Shakespeare but also has taken on new meaning in our current moment. Every song on this album is about a particular experience of our current cultural moment that feels dark or hopeless, but ultimately finding a light or a way through. The older I get, the more I come back to the idea of ‘it can be both.’ Refusing black and white binary distinctions, embracing contradiction, that hope and joy exist alongside fear and alienation.”

Through its nine tracks -- the sparkling sprawl of “Bodies”; the bass-driven cascade of “Roundabout”; the kaleidoscopic closer “Children Write” -- Idler Wheel’s sonic vision crystallizes into something crafted on the outskirts of frigid Boston, but renders fit for any landscape.  

“I think of this new album as a mission statement -- Breakers was me opening the door to making music, testing the waters,” adds Boylan. “SUPERFLUX is me saying ‘this is my music’ and being unafraid to take chances, and to continue to collaborate and expand beyond the notion of me as a solo artist making songs in my basement. I’ve done a lot of different things with my life, and the question always in the background is how to satisfy that drive to create something that can connect and communicate with people. I’m in my 40s, and I feel like I’m just getting started.”

Part of that communication began internally, as what started as a solo project has blossomed into a collaborative affair on SUPERFLUX. Boylan enlisted the explosive, metal-driven drumming of Ryan Manning and the ethereal vocals of Nikki McKinnon, both of Massachusetts doom duo Lady of the Dunes, to add an enhanced context and sound to the LP.     

“I started writing songs for this album I think a day or two after I released Breakers, and I immediately knew that something different was happening,” says Boylan. “I leaned into my stranger impulses, letting ideas evolve into unexpected places, whereas on the first album I retreated more often to what a typical song ‘should’ do. Getting more comfortable with the engineering and recording process allowed me to be more confident experimenting with different techniques, sounds, and textures. Taking what I can do with my voice in new directions, feeling less inhibited playing guitar. Beyond feeling liberated in my approach to songwriting, working with Ryan Manning is certainly the other really seismic shift in the process.”

Manning, who also works the kit for The Devil’s Twins, caught Boylan’s eye through his series of Instagram videos, where he drops his own beat to classic tracks and his own material. He became keen on McKinnon after seeing her sing a Mad Season cover for Lady of the Dunes.  

“I knew an accomplished, explosive drummer could take things to a new level,” Boylan says. “I am eternally grateful that Ryan said yes to collaborating on this album with me, because whatever these songs were in demo form, it was Ryan who fired the engines and sent them into orbit. Aside from his technical skills, which are astounding, his instincts musically were always spot on. Some songs that he did clicked instantly, others really challenged me to up my game. At every turn what he did with the rhythm lifted what was there, and in many cases made me hear new things in the music that had me going back into the studio to lock into a new idea. When these songs are really working, in most cases it’s because Ryan’s musical imagination helped me to crack it open and find its best version.”

He adds: “On ‘Children Write’, I always felt that the back half of the song wasn’t taking flight the way I wanted it to. Because she and Ryan already had experience working together, having her do vocals on the track just seemed like a no brainer. She has this incredibly clean, precise voice that cuts through the mix, but it’s also super expressive and authentic. I still get goosebumps every time her voice comes in.”

It’s not ironic that it was a human connection helped bolster SUPERFLUX and shape the album into what it has became: A sonic transcript of the times, fraught with the feelings of danger and peril we carry with us like pocket watches, distilled down into an ethereal sound that’s dragged down through the dirt by forces above and below.   

“Every song on this album feels sonically distinct and surprising in some way, but it all still feels like my voice,” Boylan concludes. “I incorporated loops and samples, I pushed my vocals into weird places. While the album as a whole may not sound prototypically ‘post-punk’, it’s heavily inspired by the ethos and adventurousness of some of my favorite bands of that era. There’s no limits on what music can be, just make it exciting.”

And hope the internet doesn’t break. 

Press Inquiries: Contact michael@publisist.co or Idler Wheel at idlerwheelmusic@gmail.com for more information. 

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Idler Wheel is:

Michael Boylan - Vocals, guitar, bass, keys

with

Ryan Manning - Drums on “Half Life”, “Bodies”, “Roundabout”, “Pastoral”, “Glass” and “Children Write”

Nikki McKinnon - Vocals on “Children Write”   

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All songs written, recorded, produced, and engineered by Idler Wheel, with creative inspirations/re-worked samples  from: 

Uncle Bunt Stephens - “Sail Away Lady”

Mrs. Pearl Brewer - “With His Ole Gray Beard a Shining” 

Claude Debussy - “Ariette Oubliées"

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Idler Wheel has been heard and featured on:

BumbleBee Radio, Boston Emissions with Anngelle Wood, Compilations with Cause Vol. 2, Once Virtual Venue, Oh Hello Boston, Keep Safe Boston, YMX, FV Music Blog, Last Day Deaf, Get Some Mag, and other fine publications, programs, and radio stations.  

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“Inspired by bands like The National and Arcade Fire, Idler Wheel turns the corner and introduces "Astra" with a lively horn line followed by the deeply rooted rumination of a father and son relationship. A contemplating storyline of requited or unrequited love, leaving you to draw your own conclusion with nothing but your own feelings, and your own story in order to feel complete.” _Get Some Mag

“Written during lockdown, ‘Sun Still Finds The West’ is the brilliant latest single by Boston-based band Idler Wheel.” _FV Music Blog 

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‘SUPERFLUX’ album artwork:

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Media contact and all press/radio inquiries: michael@publisist.co or Idler Wheel at idlerwheelmusic@gmail.com 

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