For Richmond, VA psychedelic rock & roll collective Piranha Rama, there’s always room for more. After their formation in 2017, the genre-bending outfit’s numbers quickly grew, developing a spirit of community that drives their brilliant experimental-pop endeavors. On their exceptional third LP, Omniscient Cloud Cover, Piranha Rama dive headfirst into maximalism with a rotating cast of twelve different players performing eight psych-pop tracks that defy categorization while exploring humanity’s need for connection and the importance of community.
Sonically, Omniscient Cloud Cover runs the gamut from festival-ready indie-pop earworms to big band jazz-tinged psychedelic rock and hazy bedroom-pop, constantly shifting in a way that feels simultaneously meticulous and unpredictable. Though the band plays jump rope with genre-lines, their masterful arrangements and pop finesse keep the songs from ever feeling disjointed.
“This record started during quarantine as an instrumental meditation, stuff to kind of space out to,” says multi-instrumentalist and producer John Sizemore. “Once I brought it to the band, everyone wanted to jump on it and was really excited, so we just decided to see where we could take it.”
The core trio of Piranha Rama—Sizemore, vocalist & lyricist Chrissie Lozano, and drummer Tim Falen—started tracking Omniscient Cloud Cover at Sizemore’s studio, The Bat Grave, while under shelter-in-place orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, utilizing Sizemore’s production prowess as a means to experiment with song structures and sonic landscapes, before eventually relocating to Richmond’s Virginia Moonwalker to finish up recording.
“Doing all of the production in-house was a kind of different approach than what we’d done before,” says Sizemore. “We really took things way farther out in the sonic spectrum than we probably would have if I had just brought these songs to a live practice; there was so much room to experiment.”
“When we went to Moonwalker, instead of doing building-block recording from scratch, we got to focus on layering on top of something that was already mostly done,” adds Falen. “We went at it kinda crazily, it really gave us a fresh perspective on the record.”
In addition to Sizemore, Lozano and Falen’s contributions, Omniscient Cloud Cover also features performances from a cadre of Richmond’s finest including trombone player & vocalist Reggie Pace (Bon Iver, No BS! Brass), trumpet player Bob Miller (The Mountain Goats, Matthew E. White, Foxygen), saxophonist Gordon Jones (Black Masala), pedal steel guitarist Stephen Kuester, twelve-string guitarist Kyle Harris, flutist & vocalist Lauren Serpa, harmonica player & vocalist Russell Lacy—who also co-engineered alongside Sizemore and Falen—and vocalists Kenneka Cook & Kelli Strawbridge.
“Having all these different players in town is great, you can just call people up with an opportunity and they’re like ‘Tell me when and where,’” says Falen. “It’s really non-restrictive, we can kind of do anything.”
Omniscient Cloud Cover opens with the jangly guitars and chiming synthesizers of “Daylight,” a grooving psych-pop track that showcases Lozano’s emotive vocals atop atmospheric swells of pedal steel as she sings an ode to the friendships that make it possible to overcome life’s obstacles. Next, the lilting 60s pop melodies of “A Door” create a hypnotic atmosphere for Lozano’s pensive musings about escaping to alternate realities, inspired in part by Alix E. Harrow’s acclaimed novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January.
“At the start of the pandemic, when I realized I was going to be stuck inside for a while, I bought all the recommended fiction from a local bookstore and became fascinated with the idea of other worlds,” says Lozano. “It became a kind of overarching theme in my writing and really informed a lot of the material on the record.”
Elsewhere on the album, “Golden Blues” finds the band at their most danceable, with prog-inspired guitar riffs and steady backbeat drums punctuated by stings of brass and woodwinds as multiple vocalists explore the paradox of isolation in a hyper-connected world.
“I kept thinking about how odd it feels to be so sad in a time when you’re so removed from everything around you, but you’re also more connected than ever,” says Sizemore. “It’s weird not being able to communicate in the ways you need when you can technically communicate so easily.”
Now, with touring a once-again viable option, Piranha Rama are preparing to bring their musical collective to those across the country. There are multiple tours in the works in the wake of Omniscient Cloud Cover’s release, including dates with 90s indie-rock legends Pavement, whose multi-instrumentalist Bob Nastanovich has championed Piranha Rama for years and who will be releasing Omniscient Cloud Cover on his vinyl-only record label Brokers Tip Records. It’s only a matter of time before Piranha Rama’s community becomes much, much bigger.