The last time Brett Sova played in Philadelphia, he was expecting to be blaring his distorted, psychedelic tunes in an active batting cage. He was wrong.
"Unfortunately, the batting cages were shut off," said Sova, frontman, guitarist and principle songwriter of Chicago noise outfit Axis: Sova, of playing Everybody Hits with local band Birds of Maya in September.
"Maybe we can make a petition or make some phone calls requesting that the batting cages can be on," he said. They'll be taking on the same space this Saturday, April 4.
Performing for the first time as a threesome, with Tim Kaiser also on guitars and Tyson Torstensen on bass, Axis: Sova sees its namesake leader feeling more versatile and refreshed now rolling with a crew.
"We're creating the sort of sound that I've envisioned in my head and then have, at various times, tried to put to tape, that I've never really been able to capture live previously because its always been just me," Sova said.
Officially banding together as the Axis: Sova unit just before departing on their fall tour in September (Kaiser had played with Sova live for about a year prior, but Torstensen had just jumped on the project), the trio didn't give themselves a lot of wiggle room for preparation. The opposite, actually.
"It was sort of a test when we went out on tour with that trio in September because we'd never played a show together before we got to Cleveland," he said of their first shows.
But something clicked. The live dates served as a warm-up for things to come and the transition from one to three came rather seamlessly. Harping on Kaiser's and Torstensen's ability to latch on to the "feel" Sova was envisioning, the new additions give him freedom to explore different avenues he hadn't been able to previously.
Like most musicians, Sova cut his teeth in other bands before getting his current foothold. But growing tired of having to work around others' schedules, he forged a path on his own as a solo artist.
"I also got to sort of play with myself because I did all the recording on my own, as well, at home," he said. "So I'd been sort of collaborating with myself or different personalities within myself on record, which has been exciting."
But just as the change of pace from band man to one-man-band was effective, so was the transition back to a group setting. The dynamic drew more on intuition and musicianship rather than a concrete verbalization of how Sova wanted to notes and progressions to sound — a method that works given the distortion and layering on Early Surf, Axis: Sova's sophomore release, released in February.
"One of the greatest things I think about playing music is getting to play with other people and having that communication that is completely different than having a conversation."
It's a pretty laid-back time, Sova says. A lot of improvisation. A lot of jamming. A lot of ideas being thrown around. The lack of structure is perhaps what makes it work so well. The utilization of spontaneity serves as a way to get their authenticity across. Whether it be an all-night jam session that turned into usable recordings or off-the-cuff riffs that ended up being the backbone for "Ask Me About My Smell," off of Early Surf, no material is written off or discarded.
"The only thing I had near me was my phone," he said of hitting a spur-of-the-moment stride. "So I just turned that on and recorded a super long passage of what I was doing and that ended up being the take that is sort of the basis for the recording. I did a bunch of overdubs on top of that but that's where the magic was, in that take."
With that kind of outlook, every performance is kind of like a snowflake — each with their own variances and intricacies. Set to the backdrop of an indoor batting cage, who knows what'll happen in Philly.
Axis: Sova plays Everybody Hits (529 W. Girard Ave.) on Saturday, April 4. Doors are at 9 p.m.