Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson released his first new music in nearly a decade when he shared the instrumentals “Kabul Blues” and “Spyhouse” to coincide with the arrival of his new Epiphone guitar earlier this month. But fans won’t have to wait nearly that long for the next chapter, as Lifeson has completed 10 songs for an upcoming project with an aim to release them later this year.
“Alex and I are involved in a side project called Envy of None,” bassist Andy Curran tells UCR. “It started with [those two tracks].”
Known for his tenure as a member of ‘80s Canadian hard rockers Coney Hatch, Curran has been associated with Lifeson and Rush in recent years. He worked for the group’s management, handling A&R duties and coordinating their reissue program – a role he stepped away from in 2019.
Lifeson and Curran are joined in Envy of None by guitarist Alfio Annibalini and vocalist Maiah Wynne, with additional musical contributions coming from drummers Tim Oxford (Arkells) and David Quinton Steinberg (Dead Boys, the Mods).
Wynne is the “diamond in the rough” who helped to spawn the new project, according to Curran. He had been collaborating on songs with the Portland-based singer and Lifeson expressed interest in hearing the material. Curran sent it to the guitarist and told him, “If you hear anything, why don’t you play on it?”
From there, the collaboration began to blossom. “He played on one track and one became two, and two became three,” Curran shares. “Now we have 10 songs in the can with this project called Envy of None.
“Those two [instrumentals], ‘Kabul Blues’ and ‘Spyhouse,’ at this moment Maiah is singing over them, so they’re [also] going to be part of the Envy of None project,” he continues. “If everything goes well, we’re hoping those songs might come out late summer or early fall.”
The recent wave of new recordings represent a significant step forward for Lifeson, who admitted that he initially played “very little guitar” in the wake of his longtime Rush bandmate Neil Peart‘s death. Earlier this year, however, Lifeson revealed that he and Geddy Lee were continuing conversations about future potential collaborations.
Curran cautions that Envy of None is very different from the sound that Lifeson was known for in Rush. He described the songs he was sending to Lifeson as “trippy and dark” with “pop elements” mixed in. The guitarist quickly gravitated to what he heard.
“I think there’s a lot of Alex Lifeson in these. There’s some beautiful guitar that he’s played all over it – but full transparency, it’s not Rush and it’s not Coney Hatch,” Curran says. “It’s like, if you can picture maybe Massive Attack with a little bit of some electronic stuff with Nine Inch Nails influences, with this beautiful, fragile, sweet voice and some very, very dark heavy sounds. That’s kind of what this project sounds like.”
Similar to his previous solo work outside of Rush on 1996’s Victor, Lifeson was keen to really explore and push the limits. “He’s gone out of his way to process and put cool things on his guitar that you’re like, ‘Wait a second, that doesn’t sound like a guitar,’” Curran says. “I would say to him, ‘What did you do there? This sounds like a violin’ or ‘This sounds like a keyboard!’ He was like, ‘Well, I put this, this and this on it and I flipped it backwards.’
“He’s having a real fun time manipulating those guitar sounds,” Curran adds. “We spoke about heavy, heavy guitars and he said, ‘There’s only really two songs, Andy, that I feel need that crunch and oomph. I think he went out of his way to really scratch an itch that he hasn’t played that way in Rush.”
Curran and Lifeson were both floored by Wynne’s creativity and depth. He recalls that the guitarist told him, “I certainly have never witnessed someone this young [with that kind of talent]. She feels like she’s been here before on this Earth. She’s got a wisdom about her.
“We do Zoom calls with her and she’s in Portland, Oregon,” Curran says. “Her little studio, she’s covered in instruments. This girl plays 10 or 15 different instruments and we’re like, ‘What the hell is going on over there!’ So, she’s a real gift and I think she’s such a diamond in the rough right now. She’s got a long career ahead of her, I think.”
Fans can get an additional taste of the new music from Envy of None via the Netflix series Tiny Pretty Things, which placed the group’s song “Liar” in one of the episodes from the first season. “It’s quite far-mixed in the background, as you know people do that with music,” Curran says. “But to me, that was like, ‘Wow, without even trying, we sent this out and the music is resonating with people.’ So, I’ve got my fingers crossed, and I know Alex and I are both really proud of these songs and we want to share them with people.”
“We’ll get it out one way or another,” he assures. “People are going to hear this music.”
Meanwhile, Curran remains busy with his own projects. He was at the helm on the lavish 40th anniversary box set for Triumph‘s Allied Forces, issued this month as part of Record Store Day. Coney Hatch also recently released Live at the El Mocambo, a limited-edition live album that pairs an intense 2020 performance with a setlist that pulls from all four of the group’s albums.
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