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vol 7 - issue 05 (jan 2005) :: untapped
UNTAPPED TALENT: MOOREBECK STELLAR
Interview by Wayne Chinsang

I USED TO SAY THAT YOU SHOULD BE VERY, VERY AFRAID WHEN SOMEONE YOU BARELY KNOW HANDS YOU A CD AND SAYS, "THIS IS MY FRIENDS' BAND. THEY'RE GOOD. REVIEW IT." UNLESS, OF COURSE, THAT BAND IS THE MADISON, WISCONSIN-BASED DUO KNOWN AS MOOREBECK STELLAR. TO GO ON RECORD, I STAND CORRECTED.

Wayne Chinsang: First, tell our readers who Moorebeck Stellar consists of, and what each person does in the band.

Andy Jansen: I play synthesizer, guitar, drum machine, and specialize in home cooked meals.

Elliott Kozel: I play banjo, guitar, organ, drums, and enjoy helping out with the kids. We both have no limits on our roles in the band. Anything goes, as they say. The good ideas that we agree on are the ones we keep.

WC: How did you guys meet? And how did you both come to make the music that you do?

AJ: We met in high school early around my senior year, which would have been early on in Elliot's junior year. I had been recording music for maybe a year, while Elliot had been doing it for a quite a while. We both played with different friends throughout high school. I saw some of the things Elliot was doing, and hoped to one day cross paths.

WC: Most times when people start up bands they simply rehash or mimic something that already exists, because it has worked before for other bands. But the sound of Moorebeck Stellar is so far removed from anything else out there. How did you two decide on your sound?

EK: I wouldn't say that the sound is something we decided on, but something that we allowed to happen as organically as possible. We just kept getting together and using the instruments that we slowly accumulated over the years, and played whatever felt appropriate at the time. Most of the parts in each song were pretty much improvised and then edited down into the best parts; sort of chiselled away at until the song would emerge. There were, however, a few things we knew for sure. We knew we wanted a mostly instrumental album that was pretty tight and pretty organized, and, in the end, we wanted each song to be part of a larger whole. We wanted to make an album you could crawl inside of and live in for awhile. We made music that we would enjoy and that wasn't out there yet.

WC: What things, both musically and non-musically influence your art?

EK: I really love the art of Ralph Steadman combined with the journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, and the way they work together in such ugly harmony. I mostly try to be influenced by my immediate surroundings, as I am drawing from my mood and the moods of those around me. I'm also influenced by morning feelings, chandeliers, naked bodies, Captain Hook, women in makeup late at night, and public transportation. David Shrigley's drawings are another big influence.

AJ: It changes constantly. Right now I'd have to say Menomena-- which is a band from Portland-- early Nineties intelligent dance music and drum 'n' bass, Swedish hardcore, and early Kraut-rock.

WC: If you were to come across someone that wasn't familiar with the band, but wanted to know what you sounded like, how would you explain it to them?

AJ: A yin-yang. A cross between Buddha and Dr. Seuss, pressed into a musical pill that sometimes gives acid reflux, but hopefully and usually creates sexual tension between those ingesting the sound.

WC: What has the progression been for you guys from your first album-- A Blind Man's Waltz-- to your newest album-- down-tight/in bloom?

AJ: Well, A Blind Man's Waltz was pretty much us testing the waters. It was a pretty rooty, traditional approach to undertaking an album. The songs usually were finished within one or two days, as opposed to the much longer and arduous down-tight/in bloom. We've also accumulated much more technology, and knowledge of that technology. That's probably the biggest progression, moving from playing simple folk songs to actually using a digital space to relay our ideas to the listener.

WC: You now have at least two full albums under your belt. When you started Moorebeck Stellar did you think it would get that far? Or did you just start it and push it to see how far it could go?

AJ: I think we had an idea of being rather prolific with production. Elliot actually has two other albums that he has made with our roommate Phil. The project was called Franklyn Silver and Oliver Brask, and was similar in taste to our first album; more folky and indie. And I came out with a shoddy first album under the name of Cray Stanly Robinson.

WC: It says on your site that you planned the new album out meticulously to flow in such a manner. Is down-tight/in bloom a concept album? And why is it important to you for the listener to experience the album as a whole?

AJ: The album is very conceptual. The name down-tight/in bloom is actually how the album goes. It starts out chill-- down-- get's tighter and more beaty, but also more tense. And then in the end it blooms. The idea about listening to the album as a whole is important, simply because we like to create an atmosphere for the listener; an experience. A whole hour passes by as you listen, and hopefully we invoke some sort of mystical intrigue or something on par with a spiritual plateau.

WC: It seems like every aspect of the new album was controlled by you guys. Do you have a greater level of pride because you were able to control so many aspects of the album? Or are there aspects of the recording process that were a total pain in the ass that you'd love to pay someone else to do?

AJ: For me, a lot of these songs were huge pains to make. It starts with a fun, perky idea, and three weeks later, after the beat has been driven into you thousands of times, you begin to get sort of numb to the magic of it and it simply becomes a task. When that happens, it is a pain. But we still somehow find the inspiration to finish. Many times throughout last year we would have five or six songs on the shelf, just to make sure that we weren't getting sick or agitated with what we were doing. We do have pride, but it is not because we had total control over the album. It's simply because we made an album we truly love.

EK: I personally love every part of the recording process. I definitely feel very proud of everything on the album, and feel like it's an extension of myself and my tastes in music.

WC: Visual art seems to be very important to you both, as there are drawings and illustrations all over your site. Whose art is this, and how do you feel it relates to the music you create?

EK: The art is something I have been working at for a while. I feel that the music and the visual images are just another representation of what's going on inside my brain, and they are a part of the world that Andy and I create as a band. I hope the two work together well in creating a mood, atmosphere, or feeling for the audience.

WC: You have done a few live performances in Madison. How does Moorebeck Stellar translate live?

AJ: Actually, what we have been playing live lately has been our rock band project, Sleeping In The Aviary. We hope to play some Moorebeck Stellar live in the future and do a little tour, but right now it has been extremely hard to translate something so electronic into a live show. Neither Elliot or I are huge fans of playing shows with laptop computers. I've been to shows like that, and it's hard for people to feel it. We want our music to translate live so people can connect with us and dance. So, basically, we're working on it, but in the meantime we've been playing hard rock.

WC: Has the feedback been good on your live performances?

AJ: It has. People dance and rock out. But we haven't had too many shows yet. We hope to play in Milwaukee and Chicago soon, and keep the love coming.

WC: Have you guys been approached by anyone yet that is interested in possibly signing you to any label, even a smaller indie label?

EK: No.

AJ: We actually have to send stuff out ourselves. But I think that's because we haven't been playing out live. Once we do that, I feel like a lot could come our way. We had some asshole try and make us pay them to push our stuff to record companies and radio in Phoenix, but that was a bunch of crap.

WC: You seem to offer a great deal of free music on your site. Some bands are totally against giving away free shit, while others are all about it. How has giving away free MP3s of music on your site affected your band?

AJ: I think it has affected it in a good way. But we're not sure, because you don't know how much of your stuff is out there when people get it for free. We aren't against free music. I just wish more people would email us with their opinions.

WC: You're both from the Milwaukee area, and now you're in Madison. How have your surroundings affected your music? I mean, has Milwaukee and Madison been both a productive and accepting environment for you guys to be able to do what you do?

AJ: Both environments are great to be in. But right now Madison is where we are located. I eventually want to move back to Milwaukee, where I hope to push my music really heavy and play out live a ton.

WC: So what's next for Moorebeck Stellar? More live stuff, back into the studio, or both?

AJ: We're working on another album. We got the rock shit. And we plan on having a bunch of mini tours. There's going to be a lot happening.

WC: If you could warn or school kids that were interested in starting up something similar to what you're currently doing, what would you tell them to watch out for?

AJ: I'd tell them to just do it and have fun. And also to not get too distracted with partying and getting drunk all the time.

WC: Lastly, here's the question we ask everyone: do dogs have lips?

AJ: I do.

EK: He does.

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