Track By Track: Playing To Vapors – “Shred The Master Design”

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

Playing TO Vapors

Columbus, Ohio groove rock band Playing To Vapors recently released their full length, Shred The Master Design on June 16th. The ten track album has plenty of crafty instrumentals, soaring melodies and incredible rhythm accents. The band combine pop and math rock into an indie blend of raw power, evidenced by the music video for “Switchblade.” With such a unique dynamic to their identity, The Alternative was able to have the band stop by for an in depth look into Shred The Master Design and all the layers that went into it.

Purchase Shred The Master Design here


Machine Said Maybe

Lucas – I recall the rhythm section having a difficult time pinning this track down. The chord changes rarely happen on the one, and I think that posed a bit of a challenge for Josiah and Zack.

In the studio we added a pulsing synth and experimented with a tube mic on Siah’s kick. The goal was to make the drum/bass/Daron’s guitar as aggressive as possible. I think thebridge is where you can really hear the experimental production we used shine.

The title Machine Said Maybe stemmed from a band name that my brother pitched to us before we were called Playing To Vapors. I always liked it, and kept it around. Eventually, it spawned the song. The goal with the lyrics was to write a sci-fi story regarding A.I., and some moral dilemmas we may be faced with in the future.

Zack – Luke’s original version of this song was just acoustic guitar and vocals, but I think he wrote it knowing Playing To Vapors would have a lot of fun with it. To me it always seemed like it would be a no brainer transitioning it to the full band, but it definitely took us a while to get it right. I think it’s my favorite track on the album though, so I’m happy we finally did.

Mike – My guitar tone on this one took me a long time to get dialed in, weeks leading up to the studio. I wanted something that sounded like my fuzz pedal had a dying battery or was malfunctioning. I think the end result is really cool and has a clangy, machine like element to it. A visitor to the studio heard the guitar take and thought it was a synth so mission accomplished! The drums, bass and my guitar are all from a single live take on this one.

Twin Flame

Lucas – Prior to going into the studio, this song was meant to be a transitional song. There’s a recording of us playing the old version live at A&R Music Bar about one year ago. Structurally, it’s the same without the outro, but instrumentally we added guitar textures and a tambourine to the second verse.

Zack – This was a song that really came together in the studio for us. Josh brought the ending of the song out of us in the studio, it was something that came together pretty quickly. The ending became one of the most emotional moments on the record for me.

The Perfect Weapon In Human Form

Lucas – Around the time we wrote this tune, I was into the idea of writing lyrics that could stand alone as poetry. Daron brought the initial riff to practice, and I spent a night or two trying to piece together the verse melody and lyrics on my own.

Personally, I spent a great deal of time trying to create the keyboard sound that imagined for the bridge sections. The samples are from my Godin electric guitar, played through some different overdrives/filters, and broken up.

Zack – I know we were struggling to find a drum and bass groove for this song that felt driving, but also left room for the more intricate guitar parts. I ended up letting some industrial music artists influence how I played my part on this song, oddly enough. I remember trying to channel the sounds of Nine Inch Nails and Big Black Delta in certain parts.

Mike- The guitars really dance around each other on this track, almost having a conversation. Daron and I were very much wanting to have parts that worked in tandem and that someone could focus on either one and find something to latch on to.


Lucas – I honestly don’t remember if Daron or Mike sparked the idea for this song. Both riffs are so distinct in my mind that they kind of blend into one idea. I would say this was the song we were the most excited about as a whole as we were writing it. Everyone had a plethora of riffs/melodies/progressions/beats we wanted to experiment with, and it became a challenge to hone it down to what we felt was the best possible song.

Mike- I am using some pretty odd sounds on this one, trying to make my guitar sound more synthetic and percussive. Taking my influence from Fripp/Belew and maybe even Battles and putting that in a pop context was something I wanted to challenge myself to do.


Lucas – This song was initially the bridge for “Switchblade”. As a band we wanted to take this bridge to so many different places, that we ended up just making it a song. You can hear a reprise of the Switchblade riff at the instrumental break.

Mike- This is another track where the drums, bass and I think both guitars were a single live

Shred The Master Design

Lucas – Going into the studio, I think I can safely say we were the least excited to record this one. Before that day, it was a song entitled “On Your Own Now”, with different lyrics, a different overall aesthetic, and a different outro. We pretty much revamped the whole thing in one session, and kept the second take as what you hear on the record. When the song ends, that is literally when the tape ran out.

I recall there being a ton of people in the studio that day. We got a visit from some of the members of Indigo Wild, Nick Kurth of the High Definitions, and a few other close friends of ours. It was probably the most rewarding recording experiences I’ve ever had.

I recall rewriting most of the lyrics on the couch at 3 Elliot. However the chorus line, “let go put the blade in the ground” came later. I originally had “Margot let go of the pen” written down, but the rest of the band wasn’t feeling that line. Since they rarely comment on lyrics in that way, I felt I probably should make the change. So everyone left me alone in the studio, and I proceeded to riff off lines in my journal while sitting at the piano. I called Josh in to do some vocal takes, and what you hear on the record is what we landed on.

Mike- Daron and I came up with our guitar parts pretty much on the spot. The ending “solo” section I had just written and had only played once before we recorded it. That was way out of my comfort zone. I think that spontaneity was a big factor in the part coming off so well though. I think it could be the most emotional thing I’ve ever laid down, I’m very proud of it. My Grandmother who I was very close with had just passed a week or 2 before the session and I think that emotion is captured in my playing at the end.

Flash Camera

Lucas – I don’t remember exactly when Mike played this riff for the band, but I know we all instantly fell in love with it. It took me about 5 minutes to create the synth sound I wanted for it, and the rhythm just came naturally from there.

When writing the lyrics, I wanted to focus on imagery more than anything. The goal was to set a scene of an attic filled with various heirlooms that each hold distinct memories. Then I set fire to the whole thing, and take a picture.

Mike- I used to play this riff/progression all the time to demo clean amps at the music store I work at and everyone would always ask about it or hum it afterwards so I knew we had to do something with it!

Goddess Appears

Lucas – Yet another Mike riff, that we were calling ‘Miles of Davis’ up until the time we laid down
the recording. Despite this being the song in 5/4, with a random 2 bars added in the middle for
seemingly no reason, we tracked it in one take. There was a great moment in the studio where
Josh fed my synth into a memory man and proceeded to beat the guitar pedal senselessly to
achieve a unique noise experience.

Mike- I was listening to a lot of experimental, repetitious music at the time of writing this one. I had this one pretty mapped out when I brought it to the table. I was very into electric era Miles Davis and Swans (2 influences you probably don’t hear much in our music haha). I wanted to make something that was very hypnotic and cyclic. Originally this songs passages went on much longer. As we started to iron out the song we realized it had potential to be something more concise and went that direction, but I still think the hypnotic nature remains.

Desert Lights

Lucas – I think all of the band was pleasantly surprised how this track turned out. It was one of the last tunes written, and prior to mixing none of us were particularly excited about it. However, after adding some synth textures, recording guitars and my vocals there was talk of making this tune one of the singles.


Lucas – I recall Josh Antonuccio, our producer being particularly inspired by this song. He was determined to build the ending into something magnificent. After recording the initial guitars, Mike and Daron were summoned into the live room to do no less than five more takes of the ending. For each take they did, Josh encouraged different voices and more experimental distortions. I bounced a few different string ideas with my software, and he immediately added distortion to those. Our friend Liz Fisher from The Cordial Sins played some beautiful violin on this as well. Lastly, Josh found a opera singer Debra Rentz to belt an incredible melody over the progression at the very end. We all felt there was no way we could top that as an ending. I wanted the lyrics toward the end of the song to read like a break-up note. Starting at “You’re not enough. Goodbye while I have the chance.” Up until “With a loveless enemy, next to me.” Is meant to be Lydia’s note to me.

Mike – This song is a great representation of collaboration, both within the band and outside with our producer Josh. Luke brought the core song to the table, the melodic elements of instrumentation were mainly written by myself and next everyone else in the band brought their own touch to the song. Then Josh came in and kept adding and experimenting until we had basically a rock symphony. As a bit of a selfish aside, it was a huge pleasure to hear some of my melodies and parts played by live strings, it fulfilled a long held dream of mine.