Three years ago, local musician Andrew Jay started working on his debut solo album. It was to be the culmination of everything he’d accomplished as a musician up to that point.
When he was 9 years old, his dad bought him his first guitar. A little later, when his dad passed away, Jay made practice a never-ending part of his existence. In 2005, at 19, he made use of all those long hours and nearly won the Guitarmageddon National Finals. The contestants were given a backing track on a CD to play over. Most of them used the opportunity to show off their technical chops. Jay took a different approach and wrote a very intricate, gorgeous melody.
Not long after, Jay met producer/engineer/musician Dan Alvarez online. Among other musicians, Alvarez has worked with virtuoso guitarist Jason Becker. Alvarez and Jay connected over their love of good guitar-based music. They both had a feeling that if a wider audience could hear Jay play, he’d be able to turn his musical passion into a career.
“Alvarez was like, ‘You need this as a stepping stone to get into some really big band.’ We focused on getting my album released to get me into a band,” Jay says.
The solo album is still being finished, a long-term project that is sure to dazzle listeners. But in the meantime, Jay formed the band Into The Cosmos, who started gigging regularly about a year and a half ago. You can hear a lot of Jay’s solo material that he’s written over the past decade with Santa Cruz’s Into The Cosmos. It’s all-instrumental tracks, and musically dexterous, but not show-off guitar music.
“It’s not just your average shred stuff. It’s very well-composed. I tried to replace the vocals with excellent melodies and just see where that goes,” Jay says. “We have songs that are bluesy, songs that are jazz-fusion. We have songs that are more rock and roll and metal. It’s all over the place.”
The group had been building some momentum in the local scene before the shelter-in-place order was placed. They had released their first single “Nebula” to Spotify and iTunes and were getting ready to release more. With a sudden halt to live shows, they’ve been plugging away on their EP. Last week, they finally released their second single, “Dancing Mountains.” It’s on all the platforms and their website.
Both “Nebula” and “Dancing Mountains” will be featured on their upcoming EP, which they hope to release this fall. Even though many of the compositions started as Jay solo ventures and were fleshed out by the band for live performances, as they record the songs, they’ve worked hard to give them a solid band feel, and to give the songs a good studio production.
“We take our time,” says drummer Garrett Hand. “It’s written live, but it’s a little bit different of a world because we add more guitar tracks. We add a little bit more layers to the solos. We’re building it in the studio. We take a microscope to it, if you will, because it’s on a record.”
Over the years, these songs have mutated and evolved. Some of the songs literally date back to Jay’s teenage years when he was composing songs for his YouTube channel. As Into The Cosmos has gelled more as a band, they’ve given these tunes more of a band feel, where each member’s character shines through.
Even though they can’t play shows for the time being, they continue to sculpt the band sound that they’ve been fostering all this time, and hope that when live shows return, they’ll have continued to build that momentum.
“Into The Cosmos is an opportunity for me to bring these songs that I’ve had for a long time, and new songs, to light,” Jay says. “I’ve been working on this music for a decade now. It’s great to see how it sounds with an actual band.”