In Ohio, people joke that there are only maybe five or six really nice days out of the year. And that on the first nice day in spring in particular, it’ll make you feel like you’re on drugs, eliciting a feeling that you can be whatever person you think you should be. You set goals. You switch up your golf swing. You get a car wash. And, just like a hallucination, art feels like it has a vastness of possibilities that are at your fingertips. According to songwriter Steve Ciolek, this is the ideal time of year to make music–as evidenced by Infinite Spring, a collection of ten effervescent guitar pop songs that make up the debut full-length from his new project, Superviolet.
If Infinite Spring feels like something of a new beginning for Ciolek, it’s not just a trick of the Ohio weather. In 2020, his long-running and much loved group The Sidekicks called it a day, and Ciolek found himself without a band for the first time in much of his adult life. “The Sidekicks started when I was 15, when I was just starting to write music. So having an idea, bringing it to practice, and having the band turn it into something was just how I learned to make songs,” he explains. “But I always would have ideas in my mind of doing things a different way or exploring certain things on my own. So when we stopped, I wanted to just have a clean slate to try and have a new songwriting project. The idea behind Infinite Spring as an album was to try to capture that feeling of openness or possibility or growth.”
Ciolek had never stopped writing, but now with endless possibilities ahead he found himself creating at a different pace. “The songwriting process felt more all over the place than it had in the past. It was pretty unhurried,” he says. “A lot of times with a band there’s just sort of inherently a style that you’re going to fall into, whereas with this I felt like I could try any random idea. The Sidekicks also played a lot of shows and so considering whether or not a song would work live was a big part of it. But playing live really didn’t inform what I was writing at all this time.” Despite this refreshingly different approach, Ciolek still found himself in need of the collaborative element. “I realized that I wasn’t thinking about it as a solo project per se,” he explains. “I felt like I still needed other people to help guide the ship.” As his well of potential songs began to grow, Ciolek brought in some familiar faces to help hone them into an album, recruiting The Sidekicks’ Matty Sanders to play drums and Saintseneca mastermind Zac Little to help with writing, recording, and production.
The group narrowed things down to 10 songs and began recording predominantly in their practice space and then at Little & Ciolek’s apartment. It was a casual, loose process that allowed for the wide-open production experimentation for which Ciolek had been longing. “This was my first time seeing a record from start to finish totally on our own,” he says. “We really tried to just feel free to go down any sonic avenues we wanted. We’d just set up the mics and start moving them around to see what would sound cool. It was really exciting to just do that process entirely ourselves.”
Infinite Spring is bursting with that sense of discovery and promise without sacrificing the warmth that’s always made Ciolek’s songwriting feel so timeless and satisfying. The record feels like an amalgam of his many musical interests, all woven together into something unique; throughout, sparse folk intersects with soulful indie, and the intricate arrangements and sweeping hooks of ‘60s and ‘70s pop rock overlap with the charming looseness of midwest punk. And just as so many of Ciolek’s musical inspirations feel evergreen, so does his lyrical focus: falling in love.
“I was just very in love while writing all of the songs,” he says. “I was falling in love, being in love, getting married… Committed love just became this big theme of the songs, along with the sort of fearless honesty that comes with that.” Tracks like opener “Angels On The Ground,” “Blue Bower,” or “Good Ghost” explore that feeling of becoming deeply connected to someone else, as well as the questions it makes you ask about yourself. “A lot of the record is about trying to take that plunge but also the harder conversations that happen about your feelings, the commitment, the future,” Ciolek explains. At every turn, Infinite Spring is openhearted and searching–like on “Locket” or “Dream Dating,” where he simply tries to wrap his mind around the cosmic pull towards the one you love, and the challenge of properly explaining something so existentially huge.
Infinite Spring comes to a close with “Wave Back,” a perfect showcase of Ciolek’s ability to blend sounds and styles. Beginning with finger-picked guitar and gentle verses, the song then pivots on a dime into a kinetic finale of agile bass lines and groove-laden drums that feels undeniably celebratory. It’s an unbridled love song about trying to hold onto a moment that’s precious but also temporary–and perhaps all the more precious because of that. Like so many of the best love songs, for three and a half minutes “Wave Back” convinces you that stopping time might just be possible. It’s a fitting way to end a record that’s preoccupied with trying to convey the biggest of feelings. “Sometimes your words or your means of communication can feel like it’s not enough or it’s falling flat. How do you tell someone how you feel, but make sure they really know you mean it?” Ciolek wonders. “Maybe they never do but you just have to keep trying.”
superviolet - Infinite Spring
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