w/ Helen Kelter Skelter and Oklahoma Cloud Factory
9 PM, Saturday, November 5 
113 N Crawford Ave, Norman, OK
How does a band meld sober piano chord progressions, experimental effects-heavy guitar, slow drag three-quarter rhythms, and vocal stylings that range from quick-fire to sentimental?
Oklahoma City based Space4Lease spent 2 years searching for an answer, reworking its sound from a sporadic, genre-hopping one to a true blend of its elements. With its new existentially-tinged EP, Hiraeth, the band showcases this blend, which straddles the lines between psychedelic, indie, and blues rock while infusing other influences in a myriad of subtler ways. While the 5-track album, set to release this Monday, is not technically a debut, it certainly feels like one.
“This is us,” said bassist Brandon Brewer regarding the release.
Keyboardist and lead vocalist Grayson Hamm recounted the varied histories of the band’s four members before Space4Lease. “[Guitarist] Walt being very jazz, Brandon being very influenced by hip-hop, being a producer in that sense before he was even a bass player, Wes being a drummer in two other bands that were more heavy rock, and then me not being in any band at all—it’s really cool to see all these characters implement into the EP,” he said.
Take the hip-hop influence, for example, which is easy to miss but essential to the band’s groove. The verses on “Lost in Translation” are written with syncopated inflection and delivered with a roll-of-the-tongue dexterity reminiscent of rap. “Holdin’ On to Hope”, too, uses a swing-rhythm piano line that has the flavor of a hip-hop sample, a characteristic that is brought out further when the drum beat kicks in. It’s no fluke happening that rapper Grand National once joined Space4Lease on stage and that the band has been covered in a hip-hop focused online publication, albeit at a time when the group wore this influence more prominently.
This is just one of multiple entry points for potential fans. Its jazz and jam elements, for instance, made the four-piece a natural fit on a jazz fusion bill at Blue Note Lounge, while its alternative rock edge got the band a spot opening for Toadies at Wormy Dog Saloon. Space4Lease’s versatility has helped it book most anywhere, as can be substantiated by a near-constant rotation of regional and national touring.
The band was featured in a write-up earlier this year chronicling the trials and tribulations of tour life, but the members seem hardly dismayed by the negatives.
“We love to travel. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and being able to do it while playing music? What? That’s dope, dude,” said Brewer.
“Isn’t that what every band wants?” said Hamm.
The touring arrangement also makes sense for the band’s home presence, as guitarist/booker Walt Blythe explains: “I just remember one day at some hip-hop show here in town, I heard someone say, ‘Nobody loves you and really wants to see you until you’re gone,’ and that stuck with me really hard. When you don’t oversaturate, you don’t overplay, and you go other places, you not only meet people, make new friends, get to see cool places in the world, but also when you come back home, people are ready for it.”
This interpersonal connection is also a driving factor for the band in general. When deciding to release the doubtful yet steadfastly hopeful “Holdin’ On to Hope” as Hiraeth‘s lead single, it was more because of the relatable tone rather than the music or lyrics.
“I see the song as the anthem for what I was feeling at the time or my generation or my social class or my peers,” said Hamm. “We felt the importance behind the whole theme of the song.”
Space4Lease’s unique blend of influences, then, is a wonderful way to connect with fans in Oklahoma and beyond. The band taps into a variety of sounds, but it does so with a universal message that is strung through the arc of Hiraeth—we are all subject to the human condition.
As Blythe said, “We want other people to accept us from our music, but also, we want our music to help other people accept each other.”
Hiraeth drops on Monday, November 7th, but attendees of tonight’s Norman release show can pick up an early physical copy.
This article was derived in part from an experimental interview using a choose-your-own-destiny structure, which you can read here. In this interview, three members of Space4Lease also discuss the communal vibe of Oklahoma’s music scene, introspective musings on the meaning of life and success, and the dream of recording music in a canyon.
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.