By Brian Tucker
Mood Mechanics began as a long distance music project between Logan Tabor and Brian Obernesser. The two have known each other since childhood and for creating music they emailed music ideas, each building upon them. The process wasn’t cumbersome, the pair had been writing together for years after learning to play guitar and recording covers of Oasis and Staind songs.
“There was a lot of back and forth with the first album Manzari,” Tabor said. “It was all about sending the other person an idea and waiting anxiously to hear what they had to contribute.”
The band will perform an album release show Saturday August 30th at The Calico Room for latest album Once a Mountain with the band Must be the Holy Ghost.
At its core Mood Mechanics is a duo, but they don’t see anything as finalized. Always open to new and potentially permanent members, the duo enlists friends to flesh out the songs as a live act, like Denis Desloge from Damona Waits.
Once a Mountain is the result of Tabor and Obernesser both living in Wilmington (Tabor is from here) and writing music together which was a more of a relief than anything else.
“It allowed us to get ten times as much work done in half the time,” Tabor said.
The album marries experimental indie rock along with gutsy, sometimes falsetto drenched R&B singing along with smart, cool ambiance. But for all power and presence in the varied songs the music bears a subdued quality. Devoid of bravado, songs feel as if though created to paint for a listener’s ears, not bombard them. Tabor says this happened not so much from how they learned to play their instruments but the output of artists like Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, and Iron & Wine.
“(They) taught us that an entire song can shine as a whole as opposed to any one of the individual band members shining on their own. You won’t often hear a ripping solo or a crazy high note in a Mood Mechanics song unless we think it is absolutely necessary. We have always preferred to tell a story together rather than each one of us inserting our own “opinion.”
The band’s name is fitting given their music is emotionally driven, be it somber overtones on “Goners” or the romanticism of Tabor’s vocals on the slow burning “Manifesto.”
“We are nerds when it comes to our tone and the mood we want to convey with it,” Tabor said. “If you hear a weird sound in one of our songs it is because we spent a lot of time creating that sound and making it relevant. We have spent a lot of time developing ourselves as songwriters more than anything else.”
Case in point is title track “Once a Mountain,” a song feeling sonically as much about loss as it does healing. The lyric “What was once a mountain is now a hole in the ground” is affecting. It’s a song the band is particularly excited about but has universal appeal, something Tabor discovered after presenting it to them.
“Once I came up with the idea for the lyrics, the song’s basic structure just fell right into place. I actually wrote the lyrics about a personal situation that I was going through at the time. (Obernesser) thought that I was making a ferocious statement about a personal situation he was going through at the time. “Once a Mountain” has since become a deeply personal song to all of us.”
More with Logan Tabor
Have you ‘finalized’ the band, now a trio whereas before a duo?
Tabor: Essentially, Mood Mechanics is just a duo consisting of myself and Brian Obernesser. Our lineup is never set in stone so to speak. We are always open to adopting new and potentially permanent members. For now, the behind the scenes stuff is managed between the two of us. However, in order to reproduce our sound in a live setting, we commission trusted friends/musicians.
“Once a Mountain” is a great song. Can you share the germination of that song, thematically?
Tabor: Thank you, “Once a Mountain” is a song that we are particularly excited about. This song actually started out as just a single guitar riff that Brian brought into the practice space one night. At that time we were doing a lot of writing with our friend Denis DeSloge and the three of us just sat in the room for an entire night going over this idea. It started out with a programmed electronic drum beat and Brian and Denis developing their respective guitar parts and me on piano. Once I came up with the idea for the lyrics, the song’s basic structure just fell right into place.
The sound of the album is mature, yet catchy.
Tabor: Again, thank you very much. We never actively attempt to sound like anything when we are writing; we just write what we feel and shape it in a way that, hopefully, listeners can relate to. We would certainly like to think that we are mature sounding. We have spent a lot of time developing ourselves as songwriters more than anything else. The truth is, there are so many great acts out there right now and so much fresh material coming out all over the place, that we are just doing our best to stake a claim in today’s music world. Maybe one day we will have left a nice 13-sized foot print…if Brian is doing the walking…he is a giant.
MM began as a long distance recording project. How difficult not being in the same room together?
Tabor: Well, there was a lot of back and forth with the first album, Manzari. However, the two of us have been writing together for so long that it really wasn’t very difficult at all. We had both reached a point in life where we had to create something or I think we might have both gone insane. And yes, for the most part it was all about sending the other person an idea and waiting anxiously to hear what they had to contribute.
How do you see Mood Mechanics expanding creatively – an all instrumental album, scoring a short film?
Tabor: While we have always wanted to try our hand in scoring a film or doing an instrumental album, Mood Mechanics will always be our precious little babes. Brian and I will, more than likely, have side projects as the years go by, with or without each other, but we have an unspoken understanding about Mood Mechanics. It is priority number one.
There are a lot of little things that texture and nuance the album.
Tabor: Before we go into a professional studio to put down the final tracks, we always do pre-production on our songs. We lay down all of our ideas in a somewhat crude fashion with whatever microphones and recording software are available to us. We obsess endlessly over little things like “where the tambourine should go in this one.” And we make tons of revisions before we are ready to take it up to Last Chance Studios in Bahama, N.C.
To get more specific, “Goners” was almost a completely different song before we started pre-production. The drums were loud and heavy, there were guitars saturated with distortion in the background and, believe it or not, it was about a minute longer.
Are you careful with mood and ambiance of a song when writing?
Tabor: Absolutely. If you hear a weird sound in one of our songs it is because we spent a lot of time creating that sound and making it relevant to the song. When Brian dials in his reverb and delay it is different for each song because it has to be. We are nerds when it comes to our tone and the mood we want to convey with it. I think we take more joy in writing and recording new music than we do in anything else.
The video for “Cool Uncollected,” hy not include it on the album?
Tabor: “Cool Uncollected” was an instrumental tune we came up with while preparing for a string of shows we had booked. We ended up liking it so much that we included it in our “Cool Uncollected Sessions,” a series of live in-the-studio performance videos we made in 2013. At the time, we felt very confident in our live sound and wanted to capture it in a way that we could present to the public. “Cool Uncollected” itself did not make it onto any of our albums, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t make it onto an album somewhere down the road.
If you bonded over music what were some bands you enjoyed early on?
Tabor: Our parents lived in the same neighborhood. We instantly became the best of friends, taught each other how to play guitar and started recording covers of Staind and Oasis songs on his parent’s computer microphone. AOL and Napster were huge at this point in time. From there, we just kept it going. We have literally been writing and recording music with each other ever since. Fourteen years later, we really feel like it was all meant to be. We are able to lock in on song ideas instantly and we always seem to be on the same page. It makes for a very pleasant and fulfilling song-writing experience. As you would assume, you can expect to hear new music written by the two of us for years to come.