MUSIC AS TACTILE PHENOMENON Black Moth Super Rainbow

Tobacco, Graveface,
Iffernaut,
Seven Fields of Aphelion and Power Pill Fist
are some seriously fucked up friends.

 

BY
MIKE SHANLEY

 

While
some bands go into the studio never having played the songs they’ll commit to
tape, Black Moth Super Rainbow took the complete opposite approach for their
fourth album. Eating Us (Graveface) was
essentially recorded before the band
loaded into Dave Fridmann’s Tarbox Studios. Yet the move from home recordings to
big studios takes their dreamy mix of vintage keyboards and vocoderized vocals and
wakes it up with the addition of live drums and guitars, bridging the gap
between previous releases and the Pittsburgh
band’s critically lauded live performances.

 

Tobacco
(aka Tom Fec), the band’s driving force, recorded the keyboards at home by
himself and sent early mixes to Ryan Graveface, the name behind the band’s
label, who added guitar and banjo parts to some of the tracks. But Tobacco
wanted to final product to sound different. “I had taken the band sound as far as I had wanted to on my own
with [2007’s] Dandelion Gum,” he says
via email, his chosen medium for interviews.  “And BMSR had been more of a
live band since the last album came out, so I figured for the first time since
we started doing this, I’d give people more of what they might be expecting.”

 

Fridmann (who has
worked with Weezer and BMSR tourmates the Flaming Lips) was the only candidate
as far as Tobacco was concerned. “I’ve always thought of him as like my sound
opposite.  Where my stuff is usually tight and gritty, his is spacious and
smooth,” Tobacco says. “He’s down with grit, but it’s a different
kind.  I knew he could give me everything I couldn’t do on my own.”

 

Most of the time at
Tarbox was spent adding BMSR drummer Iffernaut’s parts to the finished songs. They
captured things like the distorted dance beat in “Tooth Decay,” which combines
with the ‘70s educational film soundscapes for a groove that’s much more
sensual. “The Sticky,” like all BMSR songs with vocals, runs Tobacco’s voice
through the vocoder, which gives it a steamy polish. “I don’t like the sound of
my real voice,” he explains, regarding his vocoder habit. “I’m not a
singer, and I couldn’t get the sounds I want out of my voice without a
vocoder.  It lets me make any melody into a vocal part.”

 

While in the studio,
Tobacco likes using analog keyboards, but he doesn’t consider himself a purist.
“I use a lot of home sampled stuff as well.  There weren’t any newer
digital synths on this record, but it just happened that way,” he says. “We
use a lot of Yamaha CS stuff for the live show. 

 

“An interviewer
recently asked me to count the synths I had – and I came up with four. 
Two of them actually work. I think the new keyboards are fine in a live
setting, and are way safer than the old ones.”

 

Sonically, Eating Us sounds like the next chapter
after Fucked Up Friends (Anticon),
Tobacco’s solo album from last fall. Both feature lush melodies that state
their case for two or three minutes and move on. The similarity isn’t
surprising. Other than Tobacco, Iffernaut and Graveface, only one other BMSR
member appears on the new disc. And the band member known as Seven Fields of Aphelion
appears only in opener “Born On a Day The Sun Didn’t Rise,” playing the song’s
central Fender Rhodes riff.

 

The live incarnation
of Black Moth Super Rainbow is “a whole separate animal,” according to Tobacco.
Several live videos on YouTube bear this out. One comes from the band’s set at the
2007 SXSW, where the rhythm section, this time including bassist Power Pill
Fist, turns the sound into something more akin to prime psychedelic rock.

 

When asked which side
defines the band – studio or live – Tobacco won’t pick one over the other. “I
think of the recording and live sides as two totally different things,” he
says. “My heart has always been with the writing and recording, because
it’s what I get the most out of. But the live show is like a way of
reinterpreting what I’ve been working on in a way that an audience might enjoy
a little more.”

 

Eating Us takes
advances on the cover art of last year’s Drippers EP which included scratch-and-sniff scents. The new release features a
16-page booklet and a jewel-case slip cover encrusted with hair. More than an
artistic statement, it acts as a reward to fans who still like their music in
tactile formats.

 

“I think if you’re gonna buy a CD now, we
should probably make it worth your money and the space it takes up,” Tobacco
explains.  “With the hairy summer jacket, I want to make sure the CDs are
warm and itchy. The booklet is made up of a
bunch of potential covers, so you can refold it if you want to change the
cover.”

 

 

 

Leave a Reply