Psychedelic songweavers Leon III announce new studio album 'Something is Trying to Change my Mind'

Article Contributed by Big Hassle Media | Published on Friday, October 13, 2023

Today, Texas-based psychedelic songweavers Leon III (pronounced Leon the Third) are thrilled to announce their third full-length studio album Something Is Trying To Change My Mind via Monosonic Records / Soundly Music.

The band’s core duo of Andy Stepanian and Mason Brent have been friends since grade school, playing together in the acclaimed country-rock group Wrinkle Neck Mules since 1999. With Leon III’s self-titled 2018 debut, they retained their twangy roots, before 2021’s sophomore effort Antlers In Velvet drifted into a panoramic sound inspired by Pink Floyd and the Dead. Once again co-produced by Mark Nevers (Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Lambchop, Silver Jews), the band’s third LP introduces a newfound sense of brevity, packing compact songs with sly pop hooks, while maintaining their boundless experimentation.

Something Is Trying To Change My Mind opens with “Mannequins” and “Dogwood Blooms.” For the former, Stepanian pushed back against his tendency to compose with complexity, stripping the song down to a simple melody and an elliptic refrain: “It’s nothing anybody needs to know.” The mesmerizing sitar playing of Mahesh Pathmakumara (a musician from Sri Lanka found online by Stepanian) creates a bridge into the dreamlike “Dogwood Blooms.” Inspired by the Hindu ghosts called bhoots, which occupy bodies of the living and float their feet inches above the ground, Stepanian conjures a historic fable set in his birthplace of Richmond, Virginia.

“Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy and a crossroads for the Civil War,” he says. “It seems like it would have a lot of ghosts left over from that era. I was thinking about everything that needed to happen with Confederate monuments being taken down in the wake of the George Floyd protests. This song is a fantastical tale about someone who encounters a ghost along the James River. It’s not supposed to be set in modern times.”

The album continues its cosmic ramble through a soundworld removed from our present moment, grounded by the gravitas of Peter Stopchinski’s arrangements of violin, viola, and cello. “Navigation” aims the spotlight on its string section, with a rousing orchestral rock sound reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Lyrically, the song is concerned with personal wear and tear, as Stepanian sings about “heavy blows from rivals” and “landmarks of denial” that have left indelible marks on his mind, body, and soul.

Elsewhere, the album’s lyrics are imbued with a message of positivity and the reminder that we are never alone. “We all have people in our lives who are struggling to one degree or another, so there are lyrical themes here that are intended to be optimistic,” says Stepanian. The most overt example is the song “Weight Is So Much Heavier When You Carry It,” repeating its titular phrase as pastoral banjo plucks collide with soaring guitar solos.

Leon III concludes the album with the sprawling “In Medias Res (Myths)”, meditating on the simple mantra “please be careful” as strings merge with electronic beats one final time. The bandleader explains how this song was inspired by the Jack Gilbert poem Failing and Flying. “We all knew Icarus fell, but at some point in the tale he was flying,” says Stepanian. “People often seem to jump to the end of the story, myself included, but you have to enjoy the ride. That felt like a great place to end the album, while also implying that there’s more to come.”