DARKER DISCO Music Go Music

No dancing queens
here: the Bodies of Water offshoot is finally ready for its full-length debut.

 

BY JENNIFER KELLY

 

Enough with the Abba comparisons.

 

Music Go Music’s Gala Bell (in real life Meredith Metcalf)
admits that “Light of Love,” the first song she, her husband David and bass
player Adam Torg wrote has something of the Swedish pop juggernaut’s buoyant
melodies. In fact, when the three of them played it back the first time, the
trio had a bit of a “Dancing Queen” moment. “We were thinking ‘Oh, cool, this
is sounding like Abba, and we love Abba,'” says Metcalf.

 

Still if you listen to the lyrics on the Music Go Music
debut, Expressions, it’s hard to escape a very un-Abba-like sense of
darkness. Pay attention to its freewheeling songs, and you’ll note an almost
prog-gish willingness to fly off into a variety of directions.

 

“People are like, ‘Great, Abba,'” says Metcalf, “and I’m
like ‘Hello, did you even hear the words?’ 
They’re really kind of melodramatic, not like Abba at all.”

 

Music Go Music came into being in 2007, about the same time
that Meredith and David Metcalf’s other project, Bodies of Water, was taking
off. The two of them met Adam Torg at a party, and spent the whole time talking
about music. Torg invited the two of them to his home studio to record, and
they began almost immediately to write material. By the time Bodies of Water
had signed to Secretly Canadian in November of 2007, most of the existing Music
Go Music material had been laid down, but no one in the band had any serious
plans for releasing it. Why not put these songs out as limited edition vinyl
12″ singles, someone at the label suggested? And so, a series of songs began
filtering out via three single releases beginning in May 2008 and extending
through this year. This week (Oct. 6), the whole series, nine songs in all, is
released by Secretly Canadian on a full-length CD called Expressions.

 

The disc starts with a ululating cry, wild celebratory wail,
which melts into the synthy dance pop textures of “I Walk Alone.”  “That’s me!” exclaims Metcalf. “That was the
third song we recorded, and we had finished most of it. So I was just kind of
sitting there and I had been listening to it. All the sudden it was like, ‘Let
me try something.'”  Metcalf went into
the recording booth and, with only her husband listening, cranked out the
unearthly scream. “And David was like, “Oh my god, but can you do it again?”  Because we had been doubling most of the
vocals on all the tracks.”  So Metcalf
had to replicate the sound immediately after, without even really knowing what
she had done the first time. “I went in and I doubled it exactly the same,” she
says.

 

That unusual sound is one of the many things that differentiate
the songs on Expressions from conventional dance pop. The other is the lyrics,
which are dark, sometimes chilling, and not exactly variations on the
she’s-the-cutest-girl-in-the-room theme. David Metcalf, who writes most of the
words (and, like Meredith, has his own nom
du rawk,
“Kamer Maza”), explains that the dissonance between bright pop
melodies and more downbeat subject matter was never something he thought about
very much. “I haven’t tried to contradict any of the
musical elements of the songs with what I’m writing about. The lyrics
all deal in one way or another with notions of despair and or
redemption, and the feel of a particular song shapes how I let
those themes play themselves out over the course of it.”

 

Music complexity also sets these
tunes apart from the common run of Euro pop, particularly the complicated
keyboard parts that David Metcalf has added.   Metcalf plays guitar in Bodies of Water, but
in Music Go Music he gets a chance to build on many years of piano training. “I
started playing the piano when I was pretty young – four, I think? – and I
bitterly resented my parents for making me take lessons,” he says. “I stopped
lessons when I was 12 but continued playing on my own, mainly because I
became obsessed with ragtime music. I’ve never got very good at reading music
or transposing or any of that, but I can play by ear pretty well.”

 

“These days, I listen to classical
music much more than rock ‘n roll, composers like Arvo Part, Sibelius,
Sofia Gubaidulina, and Alwin Nikolais recently,” he adds. “There is an
‘art & music’ library in Glendale,
which is where I’ve gotten all the music that I listen to for the
past year or so. They have a grip of music there, but it skews heavily towards
classical, international folk stuff, and jazz, so that’s what I’ve come to
listen to more often than not. I’m sure that whatever I’m listening to
creeps into parts that I come up with for the songs, but it isn’t a
conscious decision to make something sound like another thing.”

 

Over the last several years, Music
Go Music has taken a back seat to Bodies of Water, and the band has not,
historically, played many shows. That’s all starting to change now, though,
with a trip to Europe planned and a slot
opening for Franz Ferdinand. Meredith Metcalf has even had her mother make her
a special Music Go Music dress, a black halter top with gold lame hands
appliquéd strategically on, so that it looks like she’s being grabbed from
behind by one of Goldfinger’s crew. With one LA-area show under her belt,
assisted by the Chapin Sisters on backup vocals, Metcalf says that it’s quite
different performing with Music Go Music. For one thing, she only sings, rather
than playing the organ as she does with Bodies of Water.

 

“I thought that might be weird, just singing, and I was
nervous about it, because I love playing the organ in Bodies of Water,” she
says. “But now that we’ve done it a couple of times, I think just makes sense. These
songs are so vocally athletic that I really wouldn’t be able to do anything
else. I’m pretty engaged in just the singing.”

 

 

Music Go Music will be touring the UK with Franz
Ferdinand in October. Tour dates at their MySpace page: www.myspace.com/musicgomusic.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Autumn DeWilde]

 

 

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