Let me introduce you to Tooth & Nail Records’ latest great find in Red Hook, New York’s own Off Road Minivan. This five-piece band is led by charismatic bassist/vocalist Ryan Tuck O’Leary and features a triple-guitar attack of Melvin Brinson, Dave Trimboli, and Miles Sweeny. Rounding out the band is an underrated drummer in Evan Garcia Renart. On their debut full-length album, Swan Dive, Off Road Minivan described this record as a love letter of sorts to the bands that influenced their sound. “For us, this album touches on the sounds that made us want to play in the first place – an alternative rock landscape from early 00’s emo to grunge influence,” the band shares. “We aren’t here to teach any defining life lesson, just trying to sing about the ones we’ve experienced.” Their debut features flashes of greatness and is reminiscent of bands such as Anberlin, Hawthorne Heights, and Young Guns.
Led by the satisfying single, “Vampire,” Off Road Minivan wastes little time getting down to the business at hand. O’Leary’s vocals drift from a drowned-out whisper in the verses to an emotive scream in the choruses that master the soft-loud dynamic so frequently used in this scene. Other tracks such as “Spiral Gaze” that was prominently featured on their debut EP of the same name showcases the band experimenting with some darker-toned guitars that build up to an anthemic chorus. What this collection of musicians do best is play off of each other’s strengths and make a cohesive sound that is melodically pleasing.
The title track is sandwiched right in the middle of the album’s sequencing and further displays what the band is capable of creating when they are in tune with each other’s playing. The song reminded me a lot of what Hawthorne Heights were going for in The Silence in Black and White, but Off Road Minivan has a more rock-centric approach to their sound with some hints of emo.
My favorite from the record comes in the blast of grunge-flavored guitars in “Bliss.” The band can throw in a wide variety of influences and sounds into a blender of rock that leaves the listener with a satisfying mix.
Overall, Off Road Minivan has made a worthwhile debut record in Swan Dive. As the band mentioned in their quote, they don’t cover too much new ground stylistically, but they play off of their influences brilliantly and may not be giving themselves enough credit on their strong opening statement.