If you go
What: Maps & Atlases
When: 9 p.m. Sunday
Where: hi-dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver, 720-570-4500
Cost: $12

Maps & Atlases generally sit under the umbrella of indie rock, but the band’s sound can be trickier to define because it never stays quite the same.

Pop rock and math rock are both apt descriptions, and in the Chicago band’s earlier days, avant garde was an accurate label, too. The guys are welcoming and conscious of the changes, but they’re not too worried about them, either.

“We’re pretty much fine with, you know, how people categorize the music, but we try to think about what the music is doing rather than… there’s just a lot of genre worry,” singer and guitarist Dave Davison said.

Balancing complexity and innovation with accessibility has always been a challenge and “seemingly impossible” task, Davison said. The band has enough talent to go full-on math rock, with highly technical guitar parts and difficult rhythms. That style is still present in Maps & Atlases latest LP, Beware and Be Grateful, but it’s been toned down since the debut EP, Tree, Swallows, Houses.

“Especially because our first EP was so avant garde and really super-technical, I think a lot of people identified with the math rock parts of that,” Davison said. “[But] we’ve always loved to make music that’s pop music and that people can connect with… it  isn’t necessarily over people’s heads. We want to make music that’s fun.”

Beware and Be Grateful is Maps & Atlases’ second full-length album, but it’s the first they’ve recorded entirely in a studio.

“I think some people can look at music and be like, ‘OK, I’m going to do this for two hours and that’s what I’m doing today, but i just can’t think that way,” he said. “It’s like something I just wanna keep doing all the time and keeping working on it, but not in a super formal way. I like the homey-ness.”

Still, the early work on the album was done at home in Chicago. Davison and Jason Cupp, the album’s producer, bought a bunch of old Cassio keyboards on the cheap and used them for the record’s demos. There’s not a lot of keyboard on the final product, but Davison said the “crazy electronic sort of demos” shaped the way the band thought about recording.

After all that time and work in the studio, Maps & Atlases music changes again when the band gets on stage. In the past, the guys recorded in basement settings. Davison said they prefer to take their time and feel at home, so this time around, they found a studio attached to a house.

“It’s really interesting and fun to go into a tour where you…can play the songs that haven’t necessarily found their life in the live setting yet. To see them develop in that way is really fun,” Davison said. “The songs definitely take on a different feel. Sometimes a song that’s really swingy or something will get faster and be played more straight, but sometimes a song that might be slower on the album, you can’t help that it might speed up.”

Give Beware and Be Grateful a listen, and check out Maps & Atlases live at the hi-dive on Sunday to hear how it’s adapting.

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