'Nerds rule," declares Eric Madrid, fists in the air, as a visitor admires the life-size Dr. Who callbox that serves as his studio's vocal isolation booth. It's a surprisingly geekish touch for a guitarist whose burly physique makes him the Inelements member most likely to intimidate Metallica frontman James Hetfield.
While Madrid didn't join the local alt-metal band until after the release of its 2011 Post Stress album, he'd previously played alongside Inelements co-founders Matt Tuttle and Ryan Barber in Channel 27, a local band with a penchant for Led Zeppelin and Foo Fighters covers. Tuttle and Barber also enlisted Madrid to record their first band, Livid.
"Eric's always been in the family," says Tuttle, cradling his guitar on the control room couch. "I think the reason he built this whole studio was to record us."
Madrid recounts the conversation that would give birth to his Enharmonic Studios: "Can you record my band?" "No, I mean, I don't really know what I'm doing, just recording demos and stuff." "I'll give you a hundred bucks." "OK, see you next weekend!"
Inelements got its start in 2007 after Tuttle and Barber paid a visit to Guitar Center, where former After Eden frontman Steve Huckaby was working at the time, and gave him their instrumental demo disc. Once the vocalist was onboard, the musicians recruited bassist Nolan Campbell and original guitarist Dre Wongkumpoo.
In 2009, the band released its seven-song debut, We're Waiting, followed by a national tour with major-label band 10 Years. Next came the sprawling Post Stress, its 11 songs clocking in at just under an hour.
"Post was such a busy album," says Campbell. "And it worked, but all of us were doing all these different things at once."
The Warning, Inelements' forthcoming EP, is a more focused effort, with most of its six tracks hovering around the 3½-minute mark. "I think this album has really been about getting the most mileage out of every note," says Campbell. "We had this idea of writing a short song, just to try to prove that we could. It was way more difficult than we'd thought."
But even the more concise songs took detours along the way. The title track, for instance, started out with Huckaby bringing a delicate chorus in 6/8 time to the rest of the band, who then took turns transforming it into an arena-sized rock anthem. Other songs emerged from the interaction of the two guitarists, whose contrasting styles led to often unpredictable results.
"Eric is very technical," says Tuttle. "He has the hands that I don't have. I can't play that fast, I've never been able to. I have more of an effects-y approach — blending two amp models together, two different delays — and I have funky tunings all the time. Most of what I play with Inelements is in what's called double drop c-sharp tuning. In fact, between Nolan and Eric and I, we're usually in three different tunings."
Another element of Inelements' sound is the musicians' fondness for pushing each other beyond their comfort zones. "We just mess with each other all the time, and write stuff for each other," says Campbell. "I don't have a lot of speed — I tend to be stompy and heavy — so Matt will write a really fast bass part for me. We all like to write parts that piss each other off."
But while The Warning is arguably Inelements' strongest and most polished recording to date, the hyper-kinetic band still shines brightest on stage. "When we're in the studio, we're very critical and there's also a lot of time constraints, and money, and lives going on," says Barber, the lone out-of-towner who's always hauling his drums up from Taos for sessions and shows. "Live, we can really let go and just be us."