Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mahogany - Luxuriant Sound Scenes

Playing a dream-pop style of music they self describe as Nüdisco, Vltrarock and Echo Deco, the New York and Philadelphia based band Mahogany present a decade of recorded work as evidence. On "One Plus One Equals Three Or More" an angular bass line drives forward momentum as high-hat and snare heavy percussion rattle along side of it. Distant atmospherics soon work their way into the mix, as do handclaps and quickly strummed high-pitched guitars. The sum effect is one of a hyper funkiness. Vocals are delivered in a mostly male only or blended male-female tandem. "The View From The People Wall" continues the hyper-funk bass guitar with cymbal-emphasized percussion pattern, but features female vocals out front. While "Supervitesse" marshalls the formidable power of Cocteau Twins legend Robin Guthrie on the production chair for an as expected shimmering mix.

In addition to catching the band live during CMJ 2011
(all photos here and another video below from that performance)
I was fortunate to conduct an interview with the bands long time frontman
and motivating force, Andrew Prinz


Describe how you feel your sound has changed in the decade since releasing “The Dream Of A Modern Day” up through “Connectivity.” Is your approach to making recorded music significantly different now?

On 'Dream' there was an overall superstructure established. The double album of our singles and EPs, "Memory Column," was concepted as a linear progression. The sound has evolved immeasurably, and sometimes very quickly — I reckon the listener's journey in 'Connectivity!' is quite a bit different than the writer's. There's perhaps a lot more of it that has been pragmatic or practical than any conscious directive, but the songwriting has always been the focus.

You self-describe the Genre of music you play as Nüdisco, Vltrarock and Echo Deco. Could you please explain a bit more what this actually defines?

In the film we've been working for the new songs, Mahogany is sort of an imagined city-state/canton-town. These self-made genres are keyword concepts for our 'city's' collective dance music, rock 'n' roll, and luxuriant sound scenes that are the 'city's' 'local music.' Within our songwriting, these keywords and others synchronize with the things we're aiming to touch on or speak about with the music, whether it's emotional, spiritual, tactile, logical.

Your band is listed as being located in both New York and Philadelphia – or using a word you have coined – Newphilyorkadelphia. Are there any advantages to be in two separate locations like this? Wouldn’t it be simpler to be consolidated in one place?

'Newphilyorkadelphia' is a keyword we created to illustrate a rail-based lifestyle many live today. Since the band moved to New York in 1999, myself and other members are often commuting by rail to and from New York, Philadelphia and beyond. There are many advantages afforded by multiple locations. We enjoy many music scenes and traveling by train holds a different timetable and a different approach — more pastoral and romantic. There is a certain glamor about trains; there is also great opportunity for the rail passenger to absorb the meditative possibilities in train travel.

Guitarist Jaclyn Slimm
One version of your song “My Bed Is My Castle” boasts the vocal debut of Lucy Belle Guthrie (daughter of Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and Liz Frasier). How did all that come about? How was it working with Robin, Liz and Lucy?

Robin was signed to our old label as 'Connectivity!' was being finished. We were ecstatic. We were always fans of Cocteau Twins — of course we said "yes" to the label's offer for him to remix some of our songs. His involvement was minimal but warm; the atmosphere during the final mixing of the record in March and April of 2006 was electric, and a hero coming by to say hello made it feel all the more magical. We loved his remix of 'Supervitesse.' Lucy Belle sang on a track. It was an honor to suddenly be gifted this relationship at the time. All the work was done via email. It was like 'Dad' was giving us a big sonic hug and a high five as we completed something that we'd been crafting for years; 'Connectivity!' was an album we'd begun developing even before the first album was finished.

Talk about the advantages (if there are any) or problems associated with music listeners ease of access to recording artists content via internet downloads. Do you yourself engage in music downloads?

Perhaps along with downloads we've seen the proliferation of 'earbuds,' which aren't all that great for your ears. Please do yourself a favor — invest in real headphones. Anyway, there are many advantages to downloads. But I do find myself in places sometimes where the streaming music that is playing has so much digital artefact and aliasing that it hides the articulation and detail of the recording. I don't use downloads often. It can feel anticlimactic, aside from issues of quality and fidelity. The context provided by the physical record sleeve, the artwork, and the aura of mystique is just too rich and deep for me to pass up entirely. Having said that, I find online film and video an incredibly valuable resource — I suppose what I'd like to see is the dawn of an acknowledgment of music's real place within multimedia or mixed media. Music often feels embattled and isolated lately, as something that most people think they should get for free. Perhaps more listeners can explore performance tradition as well — for example, buying and learning the sheet music of a favorite song for guitar or piano. Far more fun than 'earbuds.'

What artists do you feel had a significant influence on the musicians you’ve become today?

When I was playing upright jazz bass in high school, I had the opportunity to sit in classes and rehearsals with Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Jon Faddis; those were direct experiences that taught everyone in the room about being a real star, and about endurance, poise, and longevity. My family have always been a huge influence on me, they are gifted in their own right.

As previously mentioned, Mahogany played live at The Delancey on the lower east (east) side of New York City on October 18, 2011 as part of The Deli Magazine CMJ "Dream Pop" Showcase.

Here they roll out a brilliant over 7 minute epic titled "Nite Time in Silk City"

Switching to equipment and recording questions, the interview continued:

How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?

We've worked in professional studios and also in completely ad hoc circumstances in remote locations. Both scenarios feel important.

If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?

Studios can be great crucibles of creativity and can really help a project come together. The band's work is done less often alone than as a group; perhaps the work I find myself doing by myself is usually preparatory.

What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home?

I think we all share a healthy amount of enthusiasm for tools!

What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?

Well-built recording tools are always a joy to behold. I read once in Tape Op about Pink Floyd's studio located on a ship. That sounds amazing.

Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band?

We would very much like to work with Jeff Lynne

Do you use rack effects or guitar pedals to forge your own sound?

There are obvious advantages to both. There's been a great deal of diversity and expansion in the boutique pedal market, which is great to see. Again, there's no one set way of doing things — we have an abiding respect for a wide variety of hardware.

Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?

I feel recording people could perhaps agree: our predilections and aims are really just happily engrained in our souls. I reckon I learned to record from listening, watching and participating — there's always something new to try.

What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?

I was invited to work on a recording at Warren Defever's studio in 1996, and it was great to see how music-focused it could be. I do enjoy the work of producers like Martin Hannett, Phil Spector, and Jack Nitsche.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?

There are certainly many challenging aspects, I'll agree with that! However, it is those challenges which are probably what make the recording process so poignant, interesting and full of possibilities.


Additional Info and Links:

Twitter: @MahoganyIntl

For those who like: Broadcast, Metric, Lali Puna

Mahogany's new EP 'Electric Prisms' sees a deluxe vinyl 12" release on
BLVD Records in late 2011.


The Midnite Rambler said...

Dave, thanks again for bringing to my attention another band that may have flown under my radar. I love this music and the article was really interesting.

DaveCromwell said...

Glad to hear it, Charlie.

Yeah, there is quite a calogue of music here and they have a very unique and interesting sound.

William said...

great band, i am on the radio atm doin my show- and i will add them to the playlist next week- great interview as usual carried out with no wuckers and less douchiness than Barbara Walters in a Tea Party Tea party

Anonymous said...

A very intriguing band. I liked the interview a lot- Andrew seems to be someone who completely avoids all this pretentious attitude of many musicians today and talks about music in a very natural, refreshing way. It's great to see someone who is not trying to "be someone" but who simply is a person with real personality and has no need to add anything to their "image" 'cause it's already interesting.

Even though I agree with mentioned Cocteau Twins echoes in Mohogany's music the vocal lines remind of Air and rhythm section/melodies bear a heavy resemblance to the band Madness, especially those tracks that aren't so crazy but rather classy and more vintage in their feel, like "Embarrassment", "It Must Be Love" or "Dust Devil". Which means that Mohogany's music mirrors great artists from the past and takes those sounds into the future.

All in all a beautiful entry with beautiful photographs and music that surely deserves attention.

Misty said...

I love the two songs I heard in the videos here!

Nice interview too.

DaveCromwell said...

Great to hear you will be adding their music to your radio show playlist, William. I don't doubt your audience will find the same merits in their sound that I have.

I love the sonic comparisons you've come up with, eagle. Once again, I wouldn't have thought of those, but I can certainly hear what you mean.

Glad you like the two songs the, Misty. I think they are really good as well. Be sure to pick up their latest release when it becomes available.

Ivanka said...

well written Dave! Great review! also nice photos of the band)

Anonymous said...

Nice one, good to read a DC interview. Have to admit don't hear Madness at all. Heaven forbid they start doing that 'Nutty Boys' dance that got right on my wick.

Interesting band dave

Anonymous said...

Great review Dave. It was quite interesting to read. The music is nice too :)

DaveCromwell said...

I think if I saw *anyone* (other than Madness) doing the "nutty boy dance" - I'd most likely spit my coffee across the room, VP!

Nice to see the music here so well received, however.

Mr Smork said...

good interview. i see some relation of their lifestyle in their songs and even video. really good.
and in the vids i noticed that they are quality performers.

Patricia said...

I like this band, cool songs, interesting style. Great review Dave!

DaveCromwell said...

Good catch, Mr. Smork.

The whole "train travel" lifestyle (as you so insightfully ascertain) is an important theme of their music.

And without a doubt, there is much "style" here, Paty.

ViewFromSpookysDoghouse said...

I like the bass in Super Vitesse. It is apparent from the performance at The Delancey that Andrew is blessed with a natural, easy flow into his falsetto.

DaveCromwell said...

Nice to see someone mentioning (as you so aptly describe) Andrew's "easy flow into his falsetto" - I was quite impressed with that as well, VFSD.