Steve Wignot

Pennsylvania cabaret/art-rockers This Way to The EGRESS release new single “City Lights”

The steampunk collective are preparing to release their new LP, RETROSPECTIVA!, on Halloween

Pennsylvania art-punk outfit This Way to the EGRESS take a modern journey through Tom Waits-esque folk-punk junkyards, esoteric worlds of vaudevillian juke joints and underground big band Great Gatsby parties on their new album, RETROSPECTIVA!, out Halloween 2020.

Recently, the group shared their newest single “City Lights,” a circus-folk track that deals with how life can be overwhelming and sometimes it’s just easier to check out. It engages with how you can prepare your whole life for something that may never come. Vocalist Taylor Galassi’s melancholy voice contrasts with dramatic orchestral sweeps, while Sarah Shown’s vocals on each chorus seem to almost comfort Galassi, giving him shelter and companionship when he needs it most.

Pennsylvania art-punk outfit This Way to the EGRESS gets downright introspective on their new album RETROSPECTIVA! (out Halloween Day 2020), all the while forcing you to move your body to Balkan beats and burlesque bop. It’s a modern journey through Tom Waits-esque folk-punk junkyards, esoteric worlds of vaudevillian juke joints and underground big band Great Gatsby parties. This is an album of hindsight and metamorphosis. This trickster band of misfits digs deep into their subconscious to find meaning in this increasingly complex world of death, pandemic and societal upheaval. We’re all just wondering if we’ll make it out alive. Spoiler alert, none of us do.

RETROSPECTIVA! is EGRESS’ sixth album. They’ve played festivals alongside heavy hitters like M.I.A., Cypress Hill & The Specials and shared stages with Squirrel Nut Zippers, World/Inferno Friendship Society, Aurelio Voltaire, Red Elvises and The Dresden Dolls, including being Amanda Palmer’s backing band at her New Year’s Eve Bash. The new album was recorded and produced by Dan Shatzky at his NYC Vibromonk studio, a mecha for the NYC gypsy/klezmer-punk scene with credits including Gogol Bordello, Balkan Beat Box & Firewater.

“Working with Dan was crucial,” says vocalist Sarah Shown. “This album took on a life of it’s own at Vibromonk. He produced and helped with arranging. He put us in uncomfortable situations, tearing down and rebuilding songs. It was a pilgrimage for us. We came through this as a new band and new people.”

EGRESS is a band that thrives in transformation. They’re genre fluid, where roots, jazz and world music influences meld with punk and the experimental. The band name itself comes from P.T. Barnum grifting his audience to exit his American Museum in New York City, featuring oddball sideshow attractions like the Figi Mermaid, dwarfs and bearded ladies, so they’d have to pay again to re-enter. The music of EGRESS is an indoctrination into secret worlds of underground art and performance. Their live shows are renowned as an immersive experience involving elaborate costumes, props, puppetry and dance, creating a respite and a meeting place for other avant garde bohemian types. RETROSPECTIVA! catalogs their own odyssey into growing older, confronting the death of loved ones and navigating their own physical, metaphysical and spiritual paths forward.

This Way to the EGRESS’ primary songwriters are power duo Taylor Galassi (vocals, accordion, cello) and Sarah Shown (vocals, keys) who live, work, love and psychonautically explore together—creating the framework that holds up the skeleton of the larger EGRESS body. Jaclyn Kidd (guitar) brought the only other track not written by Galassi or Shown on this record with her “Shower Song.” John Wentz (tuba, vocals) and Nick Pecca (drums) round out the remainder of the core band, but Ian Francis LeSage (trumpet), Joe “Bone” Lynch (trombone) and Rachel Galassi (violin, iola) also brought their talents to this record.

Confronting death became a major theme of RETROSPECTIVA! after the passing of both of Galassi’s parents and the death of Shown’s sister within three years of one another. “The End is Nigh” is about confronting your mortality head on, while recognizing the skeletons in your closet. “Gravedigger” deals with the political state of the world, our innocence in childhood and the responsibility of adulthood—watching old systems crumble and seeing what’s going to emerge from the rubble.

The dreamworld of “Lights Out” delves into that outer/inner duality as it encompasses both the passing of Shown’s sister while simultaneously dealing with the subconscious demons of anxiety and depression. The song conjures images of Dumbo dealing with pink elephants and old-timey cartoon skeletons dancing with black cats in cemeteries.

RETROSPECTIVA! delves into different concepts of transient states. Our bodies will one day be dirt again. But, can our minds transcend this mortal coil? “Skin and Bones” confronts how we spend our time and energy. We’re all going to the same place at the end, while humanity will keep going. “Knock Knock” came to Galassi fully formed as he looked at his reflection in a dirty living room window in the middle of the night. It’s about owning up to your regrets and moving forward or the train will just leave without you. RETROSPECTIVA! ,at its core, is an album of reflection and growth, a sentiment that seems to be mirroring the current American zeitgeist of social equality in race, class and gender.

Album closer “Last Call” brings us all together in these uncertain times, with gang vocals in the style of traditional drinking ballads. We can imagine the members of EGRESS and their fans swaying with drinks in hand and singing along as this ship called society sinks into the abyss. Hopefully the mystic work we’ve done with This Way to the EGRESS here on Earth has prepared us for the afterlife.

RETROSPECTIVA! is an upbeat, fun record built to be danced to, but that often contrasts with dark introspective lyrics. That’s exactly what makes this such an exciting album. The members of EGRESS already have side projects and solo projects waiting in the wings as we patiently await the next record. Until then, we’ll continue to listen to RETROSPECTIVA! with our friends and family on the astral plane.

The track listing for RETROSPECTIVA! is ...

  1. End is Nigh
  2. Gravedigger
  3. Shower Song
  4. Lights Out
  5. Skin and Bones
  6. Indigestion
  7. Gravedigger Waltz (reprise)
  8. Spin Me Up
  9. Knock Knock
  10. City Lights
  11. Make It Out Alive
  12. Last Call

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