Thank You Scientist is a genre-defying band from New Jersey that fuses seemingly unrelated musical elements such as alternative, progressive rock, funk, jazz, metal, and pop. Their rather strange line-up, consisting of a vocalist, bassist, drummer, guitarist, saxophonist, trumpeter, and violinist reflects the eclectic nature of their music. While the angsty high pitched vocals of the singer Salvatore Morrano and the driving guitar, bass, and drum work often seem typical of a heavy alternative rock band, listeners might wonder where the saxophone, trumpet, and violin fit in. Nevertheless, the band manages to weave melodies from these three instruments through the sound of the more "typical" instruments in a way that makes sense. In an interview, the band's guitarist,Tom Monda, discussed how a violin would better complement the sound of guitar. Occasionally, he brings out a fretless guitar, which complements a violin even better because of all the similar phrasing elements that both can utilize. The band seamlessly transitions to a more jazzy sound, often throwing in jazz solos from various instruments. While the singer's voice may not seem to fit in this jazz context, the way the band sets up the mood of the background harmony manages to complement instead of clash with Moranno's sound.
The band's first released their album Maps of Non-Existent Places in 2012, but the album was remastered and re-released in 2014. The first track of the album, titled "Prelude," presents an eerie solo vocal intro by Salvatore Morrano, backed by a haunting background choir. The mood of this track belies the often more aggressive sound that the band goes for throughout the rest of the album. The next song beings with heavy riffing, which jars the listener (in the best way possible). Many of the songs include distinct sections that often differ in style and genre. The third track, "Feed the Horses," starts off with a very tension inducing prog sounding riff played by all the instruments. Particularly interesting is the use of low, aggressive double stops from the violin to mimic the heavy metal rhythm vibe achieved by the guitar. After an eerie violin solo, the song suddenly transitions into a catchy, upbeat funk groove that put a smile on my face when I heard it for the first time.
The fourth track, "Blood on the Radio," being on the longest track by far -- at 9 minutes and 24 seconds -- is also a particular standout for me from this album. It starts off similarly to "Feed the Horses" with a tension building prog style riff and then goes into more of the band's alternative rock sound. A little over halfway through the song, the band transitions to another upbeat major key funk groove with the horns taking the forefront with their melodies, reminding me very much of the jazzy sound that Snarky Puppy (who played at Princeton last year) achieves. Some of the band members then get to show off their soloing chops while trumpeter Andrew Digrius takes a very happy sounding jazz solo. Later, Tom Monda gives us a taste of his stunning guitar abilities with a progressive metal style guitar solo.
For guitar players, even if the style of music isn't to your taste, Tom Monda's guitar work alone is reason to check out the album. Well versed in various styles of music, he studied under Ron "Bumblefoot" Thai (currently a guitarist for Guns N' Roses), and went on to get a degree from Montclair State University's jazz department. As a guitarist he is able to execute pretty much anything one could think of, whether it be two handed tapped arpeggios, lightning fast shred lines, while still playing with visceral feeling. Of course, he isn't the only talented member of the group, and the overall musicianship of the band is absolutely top notch, so really, if you play any of the instruments played by the band members, then you have reason to look into the album.
The rest of the album stays consistent with the various sounds the band achieves in the aforementioned songs. That's not to say that the album gets repetitive. The band does a very good job of transitioning to different styles and moods at the right times to keep the listener interested. One other track that deserves special mention is the last track, "My Famed Disappearing Act." Probably the band's most famous and beloved song, it has an especially catchy chorus and is full of particularly technically stunning work on Tom Monda's part.
The band has gained steady acclaim and recognition over the past few years. If they continue to gain attention from the music world, they could redefine the boundaries of progressive alternative rock, which is what defines the core of their style. Other bands have been given this same label, but few have integrated other musical elements such as jazz and funk with as much success and without seeming like they were forcing the fusion of genres.