While the members of Trade Wind play in other notable bands, the four-piece isn’t a simple side project — it’s more of an ever-evolving sonic scrapbook, a blank canvas for Jesse Barnett (guitar/vocals), Tom Williams (guitar), Randy LeBoeuf (bass), and Andrew McEnaney (drums) to document time, place, and most importantly, the sheer inspiration found in their musical and personal bonds. Certain Freedoms, the band’s sophomore full-length, is a tribute to both that creative abandon and the crucial connections to those closest to us.
The first seeds of Trade Wind were planted while Barnett and Williams’ bands (hardcore behemoths Stick To Your Guns and Stray From The Path, respectively) were on tour together in 2013. The two friends discovered a shared desire to explore more melodic territory outside of their aggressive main projects and made tentative plans to write together. “Bands always say that kinda stuff to each other but then nothing happens,” Barnett laughs. “But then a month later I started getting songs in my inbox.” The two were soon overflowing with ideas and leaned into the collaboration’s impromptu nature, booking studio time to finish and record the songs. They teamed with their longtime friend LeBoeuf — an accomplished producer, engineer, and musician — to helm the recording process and before long he naturally slotted into the role of bassist as well. This focused spontaneity proved unexpectedly rewarding, yielding the band’s 2014 debut EP, Suffer Just To Believe, and came to define Trade Wind’s approach. Barnett explains, “There’s just something special about going into the studio with a set amount of time and knowing the countdown clock has started — you know you have to leave with a record. We know what we’re capable of when it comes to writing in the studio, but constraints help to keep things concentrated on the songs and not the infinite possibilities of the studio.” The band’s first LP, You Make Everything Disappear, followed in 2016 and saw the addition of McEnaney on drums and a further expansion of their sound.
Trade Wind’s adventurous method of writing and recording cultivates this constant evolution. “The thing I crave the most in a band is that challenge of starting fresh,” says Barnett. “It can be very easy to be affected by outside forces and this project is about trying to be affected as little as possible.” Each consecutive album captures the members’ current musical interests and how these influences coalesce, and Certain Freedoms represents their biggest stylistic jump to date. The album finds Trade Wind achieving new heights of emotional resonance, not through the distorted heaviness that marked much of their early work, but rather a mastery of nuanced dynamics and undeniable melodies. Williams and Barnett’s guitarwork is more varied than ever, favoring colorful textures as much as riffs, and washing over the songs as LeBoeuf and McEnaney’s muscular rhythm section supplies the backbone. Barnett’s vocal prowess shines throughout, ranging from a warm whisper to a powerful shout that breaks at the edges, but never loses clarity. It all makes for a fitting vessel for his lyrics: stories of friendships, relationships, childhood memories, and small moments that have big meanings. At first these snapshots may seem disparate, but they weave together into a bigger picture of acceptance, concern, and appreciation of chosen families, and the fragile connections that bind us with the ones we love.
Gently picked guitars, spacious piano, and Barnett’s hushed voice introduce album opener “Surrender,” , immediately setting the tone of Certain Freedoms and illustrating that Trade Wind don’t need volume to be potent. The song segways into “No King But Me,” an anthemic ode to making peace with different perspectives and holding on to self-worth even in the hardest times. “Sometimes it feels like lot of the popular music can be either self-loathing or loathsome of others,” says Barnett. “I wanted to try and have a different conversation, to focus more on ‘What did we learn?’” He adds with a laugh, “That sounds like parenting but it’s important!” Tracks like “Moonshot,” “How’s Your Head,” and “Cut,” delve into the ups and downs of long friendships, navigating differing priorities, and unending loyalty while offering some of the album’s most layered and dulcet instrumentals. Trade Wind deftly utilize unconventional structures throughout much of Certain Freedoms, as in the swelling “I Can’t Believe You’re Gone,” which slowly builds a framework of drum samples and piano into a cascading vocal hook that finds Barnett lamenting the latent uncertainty behind even the strongest bonds.
The title track pulls many of Certain Freedoms’ musical and lyrical threads together. Barnett sings to a conflicted friend, encouraging them to embrace a future that truly fulfills them even if it means making hard sacrifices in the here and now. It’s a sentiment with which he is all too familiar, and his voice is full of longing on the song’s towering chorus. For a band born out of yearning for unbridled creativity, “Certain Freedoms” feels like an achievement, like the successful culmination of years of growth. But as the waves of guitar fade into the song’s haunting, cathartic final moments, there’s excitement too — because for Trade Wind, Certain Freedoms is also the start of something new.