There’s a By Storm Coming
In the wake of Stepa J. Groggs’ death, Nathaniel Ritchie and Parker Corey are moving on from Injury Reserve with one last look in the rearview — and the debut of their new duo, By Storm
Image credit: Parker Corey
Injury Reserve was always more than a mantle.
In a makeshift studio out of an Arizona dentist’s office, Ritchie with a T, Parker Corey, and Stepa P. Groggs laid the creative chemistry that would soon inhabit that name. It was a deft dance inspired by a love of Kanye and Phonte; a three-man weave run with the rhythm and flow of the big league ballers. It endured through strange sonic shifts and thematic evolutions, taking them from confident backroom boasts to new-age stunts and nigh-apocalyptic confrontations. They traded bars with Aminé and shared songs with Jockstrap, as comfortable in pop-rap palettes as experimental ethers. After years of simmering success, Injury Reserve were on the rise, but tragedy struck: in late June 2020, Stepa J. Groggs suddenly passed away. He was 32.
Injury Reserve’s second album, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, was released in September of the next year. A visceral record confronting change, age, and loss, Phoenix saw the group push into new territory, discordant and haunting in equal share. It mourned the loss of Groggs even as his vocals laced tracks, the group’s future lingering as an open question.
“We’re still figuring it out,” mused Ritchie in a 2021 conversation with Thomas Hobbs of Huck Magazine. “We will definitely perform this record, but when you perform the older discography it becomes a lot harder.” Groggs’ presence was sorely missed and irreplaceable, and the very essence of Injury Reserve was in question. “We’ve not had an explicit conversation about continuing the group, but me and Parker will continue to create together.” Now, nearly two years on from that discussion, Ritchie and Parker are stepping out from Injury Reserve and leaving that story undisturbed.
“To respect the specificity of all three of us as Injury Reserve, we have decided not to make new music under this name,” said the duo in a press release. Their final music video, for Phoenix closer Bye Storm, arrives paired with a video from their new two-man iteration. Ritchie and Parker have adapted that ultimate IR track into their new name, By Storm, rolling in with Double Trio, a seven-minute alt-rap manifesto.
“I get it, some people, they like the name, or it’s easier to just continue on, but it wasn’t even an option for us,” said Ritchie, elaborating in a live conversation with artist Harmony Holiday. In front of a small audience at 2200 Arts + Archive in Los Angeles, the duo debuted the clip alongside a long and intimate discussion on loss, closure, and new beginnings. “It’s a very conscious thing of the blur between the acts,” said Ritchie of the interlinked debut and finale, pointing to the simultaneously retrospective and forward-thinking By Storm merchandise. “Even the strategic idea of naming the song Bye Storm, being a handoff from that… we’re kind of leaning into that blur of this being a continuation, but also trying to be very respectful about what Injury Reserve meant to us.”
The interconnected videos for Bye Storm and Double Trio distill this potent meaning into a ten-minute trip. It opens with a flashing flurry of memories, blurred and crossfaded, evoking a wistful recollection. Moments of captivating charisma press up against oases of calm, with Ritchie, Parker and Groggs relaxing on the bleachers and unwinding in transit. A supercut of tender Injury Reserve moments play as the camera pulls back, the huge projection fizzling out as a sleeping Ritchie stirs on an empty stage. An emphatic performance is split between stage and booth, culminating in an everyday triumph: Ritchie lacing his shoes, rising from the bed, and getting back to work.
“I want to say it was before the song itself,” says Parker of the idea for a transitional video. “We definitely had it in mind, we wanted a song, one song, that would be able to be like a handoff, like a double video… two songs, one video.” It was an idea in search of a song, and as Ritchie remembers it, Bye Storm proved perfectly emblematic of their feelings. “The writing wasn’t even intentional,” he explains. “I was just in the headspace where we were just still making the best things that you can possibly make, and it happens so much, with writing all the time, you’ll write something and then you’ll be like ‘holy shit, I didn’t even realise half the things I was writing.’”
Double Trio, too, lands as a call to action that seems to burst from Ritchie’s subconscious. “Shit, it's time to break the silence, only time can wait / shit gon' repeat if all we do is delay,” raps Ritchie on the verse, urging himself into a new day. It’s a creative restlessness that taps into his abiding love for Groggs, which leaps through in the discussion as Ritchie recounts his two minds about continuing — Groggs would either be telling them they can’t go out as Injury Reserve without him, or he’d be emphatically demanding they get right back to it.
The intimate confessions of Bye Storm, and the reflective and open discussion accompanying the release of Double Trio, show a creative couplet eager to reengage in the wake of deep loss. That’s always been a space where Ritchie and Parker have thrived, with Injury Reserve’s greatest moments coming in flashes of hardship, anger, and death.
By Storm is rising from the ashes of Phoenix, a new beginning for a duo who put footwork to the forest fire that threatened to subsume them. “It’s not the beginning of a campaign, it’s not the lead single of a record, it’s like, this is the statement of the future and the past,” summarises Ritchie, the new track a standalone notice.
It rains, it pours, but the show must go on.