Living in New York City, Gates' Kevin Dye began to look at the world differently.
"I was working a job where I had to take the subway," Dye says. "And I'd constantly see the same person on my morning commute sometimes, or I'd hear a passing conversation, only a sentence or two, and wonder what the rest of their story was. I’d walk past apartment complexes full of people, and know I’d never step foot in their homes or know what their lives were like."
It's that inspiration that birthed Parallel Lives, the indie rock quintet's sophomore album out June 3 on Pure Noise Records. Co-produced by Dye and Mike Watts (The Dear Hunter, As Tall As Lions), the album features the band experimenting with different instruments as they reach new sounds.
"Trying to absorb and deal with how you can't know everyone, and you won't ever know how they affect your lives or how you're affecting others with simple things you're saying or doing. I tried to hone in on that and use these songs to get that point across."
The album mirrors life's series of altering paths: songs reference each other in lyrics and style, but sound wildly different from one moment to the next. Without Dye always playing guitar, songs like the ethereal "Empty Canvas" and the Patty-Griffin-inspired piano song "Fade" are the epitome of Gates' blend of core lyrical songwriting and atmospheric heaviness. The songs were tirelessly revised: "Penny" began as a Pedro the Lion-esque ditty before becoming a faster, more upbeat number, and the beginning of "Habit" changed entirely.
"Coming up with 'Habit' was a real surreal moment for me," guitarist Ethan Koozer says. "I was in the practice basement alone at the latest hour possible. It was conceived out of nothing in a tuning I never used before, but it lit a spark in me. I took the energy from that night and carried it through the record. I was trying to make the biggest impact on Parallel Lives instead of playing the coolest riff."
The album concludes with the lyric that was written first: "all we seem to be are parallel lives caught crossing." It serves the point that Gates went a step further than songwriting, this time hammering down on making the album consistently about the intertwining nature of reality. After Foxing's Ricky Samspon challenged Dye to try different instruments, the five bandmates' roles were never set in stone – not just as musicians, changing lineups depending on the song, but also as people.
"I didn't know anybody in the band before the first day we practiced," Koozer adds. "It's miraculous we get along as well as we do. We're incredibly different people, but we get along great."
"We're almost the theme of the record," Dye says. "Who isn't, though? That's kind of the point. Everybody is living their life and we all have to be here together and go through it. Ours just happened to come together at this point in the timeline, and we've all interacted and become friends." Though they started as strangers from different worlds – Dye originally from Michigan, Koozer from Nebreska, and the other three from New Jersey – their chemistry has grown, both in an evolving creative process and their shared experience.
"I've never felt so much joy and satisfaction as when the five of us came together for this.