Photo credit: Dustin Leflore
Brothers Garrett (Bass) and Colton Miller (Guitar) spent many of their formative years in various projects, both separate and together, developing as both musicians and bandmates. In the early days of 2008 they began to explore the world of progressive metal after discovering the iconic Dream Theater. Having cut their teeth on bands like Metallica, Ozzy, and Trivium, this discovery led them to enter into a sonic realm that they would all this time later find themselves unable to leave. In 2010, Lucid Awakening was born. Together, they began to develop songs inspired by the technicality and complexity of their role models. But as they explored more groups like Between the Buried and Me, Haken, The Contortionist -- and so many more -- so too did their musical expressions grow into something uniquely their own as they became adept at syncretizing new and old influences. After years of development and revision the songs became full pieces, dramatically structured and emotionally charged, but there was work yet to be done.
In 2011 Nikki Santistevan (Drums), a childhood friend of the brothers Miller, joined the band. This proved convenient, as an insulated room off of his father’s garage had long been used by them as a practice space at various times. His elegant and melodic style added a fullness to the sound, revealing a chemistry between the three friends that would elevate the burgeoning compositions. Though he shares many of the same influences, his exposure to the likes of Rush and The Mars Volta would prove to be welcome inspirations, further pushing the limits of what the fledgling group would explore and achieve.
Jake Jezek (Guitar), another friend from childhood, eventually joined in 2015 after returning to Tulsa from Oklahoma City. Having spent his early years rehearsing with the others in the band the chemistry was immediately apparent. Of course, it helps that he and Nikki both attended the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, where they refined their skills as musicians and bandmates. He added a layer of melodicism and support that further elevated the songs, being inspired by bands like Intervals and Protest the Hero. From that point, only one component was missing before the instrumental side of the band could be fully assembled.
Finally, the band acquired a keyboard player. Michael McGinley joined in 2017 after seeking out progressive metal outfits in the Tulsa area. Having studied Music Composition at the University of Oklahoma he brought a classical sensibility to the band, filtered through the same shared progressive influences - especially the likes of Leprous and Bent Knee. This, in combination with the uncanny compositional intuition of the Miller brothers, was a perfect compliment and fit seamlessly within the songs. With sweeping orchestral and choral textures, and atmospheric and intense synths, the music became fuller and richer -- almost complete. There was just one piece missing.
After enduring years of unsuccessful singers, the band remained instrumental and released their debut album the Sum of Infinity. Despite the long-standing desire for a vocalist - to be a complete outfit - it was decided that they would forgo one altogether until they found one who could make the music their own. During this time the band played shows and went on a handful of small regional runs, even playing as local support for bands like Entheos and The Contortionist. Jake was also instrumental in establishing Proglahoma, a festival showcasing the diverse and talented progressive rock and metal bands of Oklahoma. This was also where the band became close with the one who would make them complete.
The time finally came. In 2019, Heyden Smith joined, humorously enough, after more than one attempt to reach out when the band was already working with a vocalist. Heyden brought a diverse spread of vocal textures influenced by metalcore and pop as much as prog, including bands like Good Tiger and Periphery. The compositions that had for so long been instrumental were finally given voice -- completed. He proved to be a perfect fit and the songs seemed to have been written for him. Having already accumulated experience as a frontman in bands like Citadels and earlier projects, he wasted no time in mastering the songs and infusing them with his voice in a matter of months before recording the band’s second album.
Though it seemed to take so long, it feels like it took just long enough. After 11 years of formation, Lucid Awakening can finally call itself complete. Either fated, or a serendipitous correspondence of cause, each member perfectly complements the other, creating songs that are dense and interlocking, but dynamic and melodic. Their scope is all but cinematic, each one telling a resonant, human story that mirrors the music emotionally and sticks long past the runtime. “Epiphany,” the first single to usher in this new era, is but one example of this. Treading ground well past the point of the whimsy of the band’s first album, this track exemplifies songwriting that is at the same time darker and more optimistic, but never relinquishes the purest of all experiences: fun. It explores what it means to be human and how we can find meaning in a world that can seem darker by the day. It shows that wherever there is darkness, there must be light.