Rival Maps are a three-piece indie rock group based out of Chicago, IL and Muskegon, MI. The group’s core members are all siblings: Laura Ogren (keys), Andy Zagar (drums), and principal songwriter/frontman Dave Zagar (guitars, lead vocals). Their sound is indie rock with a hint of ambience, making use of overdriven electric guitars, groovy bass lines, acoustic piano, and opportune three-part harmonies.
Although Echoes marks the band’s debut release, the three have been playing and performing music together since 2011. In the past, they’ve experimented with different songwriting and recording styles. Rival Maps, however, represents an overhaul of their sound and musical direction. The idea was to create driving indie rock songs layered with piano and other various instrumentation, grazing the edge of pop, yet staying within the indie rock vein. Dave was also very conscious to write an album whose songs didn’t all sound the same, but would fit together musically as a collective whole. To that effect, Echoes involved the use of 23 different instruments. Dave played 14, including acoustic and electric guitars, organ, violin, synthesizer, and bass. Laura had the opportunity to record on two different Steinway grand pianos. At times, psych-rock remnants of the 60s and 70s come to light, yet elements of prog-rock and indie pop are also apparent.
Echoes took nearly a year and a half to make, as recording sessions had to be scheduled around band members’ busy schedules. During this time, Dave (who lives in Chicago) made the drive back to Muskegon (where Laura and Andy live) almost every other weekend to make the album happen.
Out of a pool of sixteen songs chosen for the project, a total of eleven tracks made the final cut. Most of them were even written after recording sessions began. The process started with the band’s messing around during rehearsals in Muskegon. Dave would record small improvised jams and chord progressions on his phone, then work them into complete songs back to his apartment in Chicago. Demos were recorded back in Muskegon, and the bulk of the final recording was completed at Cold Wars Studios in Grand Rapids, MI. Other recording locations included Dave’s apartment in Chicago, Laura and Andy’s places in Muskegon, the Frauenthal and Overbrook theaters in Muskegon (both of which generously lent the use of their Steinway grand pianos to the band), and Echoes engineer and co-producer Mike Counsel’s home studio in Muskegon.
The artwork for Echoes, designed by Dave’s girlfriend Joy Burke, parallels the album’s theme, demonstrating many different parts of a collage that ultimately form a single comprehensive yet colorful image.
Echoes was self-released on November 20, 2015 on 180-gram vinyl, CD, and digitally. The band played their Muskegon record release show at Unruly Brewery that day, and their Chicago record release show at Schubas on December 16, 2015 as part of Communion Music’s national monthly residency program.
As of early 2016, the band has begun preproduction and writing for their second release.