You know that feeling you get when you see a keyboard? Yeah, that weird, indescribable urge upon seeing the keys you get to just press one? Well if you managed to hit middle C, you did what it took to start Brooklyn band MOTHXR. At least, that’s how simple guitarist Simon Oscroft made it sound when I chatted with him on the phone about conceptualizing the band, the sound, and the debut album, Centerfold.
Just like the first note that started it all, the formation of MOTHXR was founded by chance as well. In fact, it wasn’t even supposed to be a band at all. Simon says, “MOTHXR was never conceived to be a band. It was a recording project, an art project to get in the room together, before there was any idea that it actually would have to be played live… It was that simple.” The four- Jimmy Giannopoulos, Darren Will, Penn Badgley, and Simon Oscroft- met through frequenting the bar that New Zealand transplant Oscroft worked at in Williamsburg. Slowly they began to get to know each other through playing in various bands on the Brooklyn music scene, and decided to get together and make some sounds.
Set with two synthesizers, a guitar, a microphone, and a laptop, it was lead singer Penn Badgley who walked over to the keyboard and pressed a random key (you guessed it, middle C). That note is what began the entire recording process, but is the focus point of the first track titled “Impossible”. Simon explained, “It’s so stupid because it’s just a white note on the keyboard- middle C is the most average note you can play. It’s kind of exciting to me because ‘Impossible,’ came from that, and it was finished that night… We created a band without intending to, which is kind of cool.” The next five days ended up with five more songs, all of which can be heard on Centerfold. Simon added, “We’re not the type of band that writes 50 songs and strips it back, every song we wrote had intent and was crafted in a way where there was no question of whether that song was going to make it to the record.”
Centerfold is MOTHXR’s debut album comprised of eleven sleek, sexy, and ultramodern tracks that explore observations on events that involve others. Many of tracks lyrically center around a woman, but Simon clarified that the subject is not the focus of the image. “I don’t think there is a subject. If it were a picture it would be more of a landscape than a portrait of someone… It’s a bit more three-dimensional than being directly about someone.” Going beyond that, it’s important to hear the music as much as the words in this band. The music created a sonic place draw inspiration from for the lyrics, leaving the two entirely interconnected and codependent on each other, to the point that one would not exist without the other.
Having to classify MOTHXR sonically is something that stumped even one of its own members. Minimal, warm, transparent, and imperfect were words that were thrown around, but I think it’s best to let the sound speak for itself. I’ve found that words don’t describe this band as well as feelings or colors do, and feelings of warmth, darkness, and sleekness are what seem to fit best. Singles such as “Stranger”, “She Can’t Tell”, and “Touch” are all genre-bending and don’t have a specific place to fit into, but they all are cohesive in the sense that they make you feel. I mean, “Touch” doesn’t have a chorus and “Victim” has an almost minute long sax solo. MOTHXR is a product of their environment- four guys went into a room without knowing what they wanted to go for, and this album is what came out.
Being given the creative space to create for the sake of creating came with its complexities. MOTHXR never set out to be a band, let alone make an album. Then when posed with the idea of touring, each member had to learn to play the record live. Simon admits, “That was actually an extremely exciting part of this whole thing, once we realized that we probably should put out a record and try to get people to hear this, we realized that people would also want to hear this live.”
For touring in 2016, they’re spending about two weeks in Europe opening for The Neighbourhood, and then they’ll be throughout the Eastern and Mid-United States opening for POLIÇA. Simon added they’re planning some West Coast dates after that, so I’m hoping for an early summer tour on this side of the US.
Although this band began on something as simple as one note, MOTHXR has grown into its own category of sound, wallowing in the complexity of 2016’s desire to give everything a specific genre. With lyrics that aren’t set to a finite set of experiences with one person, and a sound that is born out of the desire to create, they’re easily the coolest band floating around the airwaves right now. Like seriously, don’t sleep on this band because you’ll regret it in the next few months. Be sure to catch to their debut album Centerfold that releases this Friday, February 26th, and check the singles that are out now in the meantime, because you don’t want to wait any longer to listen to this group.
Another thing: If you’re wondering why Penn Badgley sounds so familiar, it’s because he played Dan on Gossip Girl. But we’re focusing on the music here, and Simon said at the beginning of the interview, “If you have any questions about Gossip Girl, you can go ahead and leave those out.” Luckily, I did not, and I’m going to keep their attitude about their previous lives, but I still felt the need to mention it somewhere outside of this article. I mean, the reason I found this band a year ago was because I had just finished binging Gossip Girl on Netflix and was wondering was the cast was up to almost eight years later. Also, again, do not sleep on this band. They’re opening for The Neighbourhood in a few weeks, and they’re going to get huge quick. Don’t miss out on these guys before they’re tainted with the black and the white. Xoxo, Anna.
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