Nashville’s Cosmic Shift are well-named, hailing as they do from the psychedelic space-freak end of the jam-band spectrum, the zone whence launched many a galaxy-probing rendition of “Dark Star,” back in the halcyon days when the Dead were alive and steering their infamous improv vehicle into the nether regions of the multiverse.
Shift drummer Taylor Wade says the band members recognize and embrace their otherworldly improvisational ethic. “It comes from the combination of our individual influences, I think,” Wade says. “We all have a common love for a certain vibe at our favorite bands’ concerts, an interest in a certain community vibe. A group-mind type of music.
“There are certain frequencies of sound that can be a catalyst for things like meditation. And you can feel those frequencies, even if you don’t quite know what’s going on, or what you’re doing. It hits each of us when we’re playing, whenever we reach the point where we hit just the right groove.
“I saw an old interview with Jerry (Garcia, late Grateful Dead leader) once where he explained it,” Wade continues. “He said, ‘By not defining that feeling, it becomes everything, anything you want it to be.'”
Wade is a creative soul, given to such colorful diatribes, to waxing philosophic about his band’s music with a contagious mixture of expansiveness and enthusiasm. He describes how he and his fellow band members — singer-guitarist Joel Forlines, lead guitarist Stephen Harris, and bassist Caleb Hendon — met in Nashville about two years ago, and bonded over their love of the Jam.
“We’ve always had an appreciation for improvisational music, in whatever form it takes,” Wade says. “Our backgrounds are a little different — jazz is a huge influence of mine, while some of the others are more into funk, or rock. But our centerpoint is bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish, improvisational rock.
“When we first got together and started jamming, there was some kind of mojo that was there immediately. It was tangible, and we all knew it.”
Wade tells that improvisation is the soul of the band’s songwriting method as well. Most of the band’s new songs derive from group improv, either by way of open-floor jams, or by way of analyzing and revisiting the same. “Whenever we get into a rehearsal space, we like to open the floor to bring in a riff, an idea. Then the rest of us will create a groove around it, and 10, 20, 30 minutes later, we’re still going.”
And Wade says the band records all of their practice sessions — they have literally hundreds of hours of jamming available in the cloud, on Google Drive. In their spare time, members listen back to every rehearsal, mining old musical veins, for new gems of inspiration.
“Over half of our songs come from listening back to the rehearsals,” Wade says. “That way, we can pick out a particular idea, and come back with a more focused vision of where that idea needs to go. It’s important to allow the music to tell you where to go, to navigate for you. Because if you’re listening carefully, the music will always steer you in the right direction.”
Despite their prolific jamming, and despite having built a considerable following around Nashville, the Cosmic Shift have yet to record a proper album. They’re looking to change that soon, having entered Nashville’s Welcome to 1979 recording studio and recorded their debut EP “Archetype,” due out July 8 under the band’s own imprint.
True to their throwback ethos, the Shift recorded the EP live on analog tape, and will release it on vinyl as well as on CD. “Our producer is an old Deadhead, and he definitely wanted to help us capture that live energy,” Wade says. “Each song was recorded in one take, and we were really happy with the way it sounded.
“We were really feeling the vibe of the studio that day. We learned that the vibe we have in live shows is really important to our sound, and we want that vibe to shine through in our studio recordings as well.”
The Cosmic Shift will play Preservation Pub Friday, June 23 at 10 p.m. along with Positive Mental Attitude.