Denver band Envy Alo’s music grooves all over the jam, jazz and R&B realms. It’s city music in spirit, so it’s something of a surprise that the quartet’s latest release, aptly called The Ranch, was recorded in rural Wyoming.
The pandemic made getting together to jam and write tough for most of the past year and a half. Saxophone and keyboard player Kevin Supina says the band rehearsed outdoors over the summer of 2020, but when the cold weather crept in, that became less of an option. And playing a saxophone in freezing weather, as the former Pennsylvania marching-band member can attest, can be an icy, spit-filled and altogether nasty affair for a brass musician.
“Over the winter, the band wasn’t really able to get together,” Supina says. “We were all taking things very seriously, trying to not potentially expose each other, so we were just doing a lot of virtual collaboration.”
They eventually felt safe enough in March to take the show on the road. Supina says his family owns a ranch outside of Dubois, Wyoming — “the next town east of Jackson.” According to the United States Census Bureau, Dubois currently boasts 959 souls. It’s not exactly what one would consider a population center.
The band has used the house on the ranch as a pit stop of sorts when playing shows in Montana and decided to clear out the furniture in the living room and turn it into a makeshift recording studio. The seven jazzy, funky and mostly instrumental tracks that constitute The Ranch emerged from the rustic locale.
“It was something we’ve been talking about doing for a while,” Supina says. “The acoustics in that room turned out to be really great, so I think it’s something we might continue doing in the future. And I eventually want to build a studio out there some day, but that’s years and years in the future.” (He also sees a music festival of some sort happening at the location one day.)
Did recording in the country make any difference in the final product? Absolutely.
“We’ve always been a more jam-oriented band,” Supina says. “We don’t stretch every tune to twenty minutes or anything, but we do like to stretch stuff out. And being in that wide open space lends itself to us really taking some more liberties and stretching out tunes that we hadn’t before.”
Envy Alo has gone through several lineup tweaks over the past few years, and is currently a four-piece. Keyboardist Aaron Pettine left in an amicable split just after The Ranch was completed, and Supina now plays sax and keys. He says the band started as an organ trio influenced by Booker T and the MGs, John Medeski and Soulive. Most of the members also like Phish and the Grateful Dead, so the influences that shape Envy Alo’s sound come from a variety of sources.
At one point, the group had a full-time singer and Supina also provided vocals, but the bandmates have recently decided to return to their primarily instrumental roots.
“As we were figuring out what we wanted to put on the record, we were like, ‘Let’s really showcase this instrumental vibe that we’re trying to get back to,’” he says. “That’s not exclusively all that we are going to do in the future, but we really wanted to showcase this side of the band again.”
Envy Alo has a pretty deep catalogue already, and the members consider The Ranch to be their best work yet. The band experimented with a more psychedelic sound on the record, trippier effects and recording late at night and for long hours. Supina says it was nice to not have any neighbors to piss off, and sleep deprivation can be a good friend of creativity…if it doesn’t make you crazy.
“It’s been a very interesting road to get to where we are now, trying a lot of different things and different people coming in and out of the band,” he says. “All of that kind of distilled down into its purest form in this session.”
The Ranch drops on August 27 on all streaming platforms. The band takes the stage with the Jon Stickley Trio, Giant Walking Robots, and Andrew Cooney (Tenth Mountain Division) with Patty Storen (Liver Down the River) at 9 p.m. on August 28 at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton Street. Tickets are available at Etix. For more information, visit Envy Alo online.