From 1999 to 2003, local rockers Time Spent Driving helped to spearhead an emo scene in Santa Cruz. They toured all over the world, got their song on some Xbox games, and were having conversations with a few record labels. But then they broke up.
“[Before TSD] we were playing in other bands and had gotten motivated. We knew how to book shows. We came out of the gate screaming,” says singer/guitarist Jon Cattivera. “We released a fair amount of music and worked really hard. We couldn’t hold down a bass player. And then one of our guys moved to Seattle, and then L.A., so it wasn’t really feasible.”
After reforming in 2012, the members of Time Spent Driving have now been together longer as a reunited band than in their original run, and their new approach is to take things slow. In 2015, they released the LP Passed and Presence, and in July they released Estrangers, Vol.1, the first half of their next album.
“Not going on tour and not feeling like you always had to get something done, that’s a testament to staying around. You’re not practicing three times a week, [so] it’s easier to stay together,” Cattivera says. “It takes two years to do everything that took five or six months before.”
Estrangers, Vol. 1 was finished and ready to go two years ago. The group was excited about these five songs, but felt like it would be better to add another five songs and make it a full length. Cattivera already had songs written. They hoped they’d have a finished album around spring 2020. They recorded much of the second half of the album last December, but Covid-19 threw a wrench in their plans to finish the tracks, and they shelved the full LP project temporarily.
“I don’t like EPs. I like full-length records. I want to hear from top to bottom what the whole thing is,” Cattivera says. “We just didn’t want to sit on them for any longer. We figured we would get it out there for people who wanted to hear it.”
The songs on Vol. 1 evoke the group’s original cathartic emo-indie style, but in a much more mature and measured way. The songwriting is highly melodic, built on Cativera’s unusual choice of chords, but unlike the unapologetically long and sprawling Passed and Presence, these songs are concise, each taking one specific idea and following through with it. The tension of the record rests on the contrast between the heavy guitar riffs, the twinkling ballads, the arena-style mid-tempo drum beats, and Cattivera’s stirring vocal work.
The album’s title is a mix of the words “estranged” and “strangers,” and the very emotive songs end up speaking to the detached feeling that many people have had this year while sheltering in place.
“Whether you’re being estranged from yourself or a loved one, there was kind of a theme there,” Cattivera says. “I had a couple of situations with friends and family members, situations where it’s like, ‘Wait a second, I knew that person. Who are they really and where did they go?’”
Since the mid-March lockdown, the members haven’t been able to get back in the studio to finish the incomplete tracks, and they’re not exactly sure when they are going to be able to. But the second half of Estrangers will come eventually.
Cattivera feels like both parts of the album are cohesive since they were written at the same time, but he also recognizes that Vol. 2 is a bit different than Vol. 1. It’s entirely possible that they’ll just decide to make the second half its own unique EP.
“I feel like each of the songs are quite different from each other. But I also feel like several of the new songs that we’re doing are different from any of those,” Cattivera says. “I know when I’m breaking new ground in certain directions. Oh, this is much slower than normal or has much different lyrical content. [As far as the second half of the album], we’ll decide when we get there.”
For more info, check out timespentdriving.com.