Meet Air Ralley; a pop punk band from Marion, Indiana, comprising of Kevin Campbell (vocals, guitar), Noah Mitchener (drums), Alan Murphy (bass), Josiah Laskowski (lead guitar).
Formed in 2011, Air Ralley started in singer Kevin Campbell’s basement while the band was still in middle school. Five years later, the members, now seniors in High School have released their first EP titled, Oh, How Your Mind Wanders produced by Underoath singer/drummer Aaron Gillespie.
Not even 10 seconds in to listening to Oh, How Your Mind Wanders I was already vibing with Air Ralley. This is good quality pop punk and I was excited to dive in and review the EP.
Air Ralley lists Blink-182 as a musical influence and that shines through with their sound, but to be honest, any comparison to anything else faded fast. These guys are their own band, as you will find out.
The first track on Oh, How Your Mind Wanders is “Always & Forever” and it kicks off with sunny guitar, fast pacing, and vocals with a slight nasal echo of Blink-182’s sound. We love the change of pace from verse to chorus, as well as the harmonies in the pre-choruses. The vocals are strong enough to stand in isolation in the bridge (“If starting over feels the same, then I keep living this every day”), yet feel authentic and honest. The drumming is stellar. We also love the vocal layering of the outro. “Always & Forever” feels like a sweet dedication to someone that knows them deeply.
The second track on the EP is “Everything Is Fine”. It’s another fast paced tune with the volume of the bass throughout the track feeling really comforting and grounding, along with the bright guitar with catchy riffs that lift the song. Or try to. There’s something about this song that is seeking and questioning that makes me want to cry, especially by the time we get to the bridge. It’s a peppy-paced track but is actually a bit of a heartbreaker. The line “Everything will end but I’ve come to terms with it” feels heavy and untrue, but if we lean into the sunshine of the music, we can maybe pretend that everything is indeed fine.
The third track is “Seventy Five Things” where the pace is slowed down a little, showing how Air Ralley are just as at home in ballad-sounding songs as well as peppy tracks. This track describes a conversation with God, or rather an attempt at a conversation and getting nothing back:
“I’ve been thinking too much
I keep praying but I guess it’s not enough
For you to listen
For you to care”
The track could very easily come to a close at around 2:30 with three long chords, but it doesn’t. At this point those chords are repeated, with guitar and drums amping up and vocals going into a scream in the background. This feels like an opportunity to say what was hanging unsaid. It’s venty, and heavy music joins in with the frustration (“I know there’s a God, but he never seems to show / I hate the things I don’t know”).
“S.A.D” starts with a feel of being a sunny anthem for those who hate Winter and all that comes with it. But as the track goes on, and if we feel between the lines and soak up the heaviness of the bass, this isn’t just about the weather. It starts to veer into anxiety about growing up and heaviness of responsibility, wanting for for the sunshine of mind and feeling to come (back). To me by the time to song finishes, we are musically and emotionally in a different place to where we began; the happy pop punk has evolved to a heavier sound. It’s perfect though and works very well on all fronts. I love the melodic guitars of the outro along with the splashiness (for want of a better word) of the cymbals. It’s all so beautifully honest:
“Well the fog’s incredible
The way it covers up this town
You know I hate all these feelings
Like the need to prove myself
I’m not quite sure
What my plans are this year
But if I’m still being honest
I just keep battling with fear”
“Felt Board Gospel” is the next track. I love the blunt honesty and raw emotion, which seems to be increasing with every track on Oh, How Your Mind Wanders. The distorted vocals plus instruments sounding like they’re being played underwater expresses a sense of containment and restriction. It opens up into a rich sound, and the dry and depressed lyrics are supported by this sound.
“I’m know I’m prone to wander
I’ll always come back
Life’s getting harder
So cut me some slack”
The bridge of “Felt Board Gospel” is gritty and messy and dirty, before falling away into a golden sounding guitar. Campbell’s wavering vocals with ‘underwater’ instruments are shaken by a command: “DON’T GIVE UP ON US!”, opening up into the last chorus. In a word: incredible.
“Silence” is the last track of Oh, How Your Mind Wanders. We’re further into depth of emotion, far far away now from sunny pop punk. It’s sombre and painful with tender vocals over gentle guitar (“Please don’t give up on us”). There is so much emotional pain in this track, with more unanswered (and unheard?) questions to God. Musically the pain is set alight and translated into heaviness, with silences left. There’s something so beautiful about the entire story that this song is sharing and it deserves a deep deep listen.
Guys – Oh, How Your Mind Wanders is an incredible EP!
The tracks are diverse and take us on a musical journey from happy pop punk through to raw heaviness. There’s honesty of emotion here that is expressed with vocals and music alike and I was blown away by how REAL this music is. Air Ralley are exceptional at exploring songs with sections as well as blending them together, allowing their stories of life, faith, and change to be expressed through sound.
Highly highly recommended. You should most definitely stream the tracks below, so you can say you were an Air Ralley fan before they were mega famous.