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Metavari's Moonless Journey
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Metavari are a group of friends and Fort Wayne, Indiana natives that make the kind of music you can simply get lost in. It has a dream-like quality to it that allows you to simply let the outside world disappear for a little while as you become enveloped in their hazy electric piano, synths, and subtle beats.
Plus, there's some really cool visuals at their shows to help you disengage from this reality as well.
Metavari are Nate Utesch, Kyle Steury, Ty Brinneman, and Andrew McComas and has been for a long time. They seem to be one of those great stories about a local band that worked hard, put in the shows, put in the miles, and made all the right choices about their music and art. And now, after many years of writing and honing their skills, the hard work is paying off. They are releasing their new album Moonless this month and are having an album release show on March 7th at The Phoenix, followed by an after show party at The Brass Rail, both in Fort Wayne. I caught up with the band to get the skinny on the album, what they've been up to since we last heard from them, and what the future holds for Metavari.
E.A. Poorman: So catch us up with what Metavari has been doing since we last from you guys?
Nate Utesch: Here's the cliff notes edition of what we've been up to since our last full length in December 2009. Prepare for some horn-tooting.
2010— we added a fourth member: Kyle Steury. Kyle was a long-time friend and multi-instrumentalist from the band, Darkroom.
Between 2010 to 2012 we went on one US tour, two US/Canadian tours and played 163 shows. Our first show out of the country was to a sold out audience at Casa Del Popolo in Montréal. We were stunned! To make things more unreal, Andrew and Ty met one of the guitarists from Godspeed You! Black Emperor moments before the show. They quickly shared tour stories (at the time we both had the same tour van—our now RIP, Chevy Beauville). And as if that wasn't thrilling enough, he then ended up running sound for our set. It was goosebumps-all-over all night. The second time we made it back to Montréal the website, We Are Post Rock, came and filmed the song "Twilight Over Akaishi" from our set. You can check it out on our website.
We finished two non full-length releases—
2010 - Studies vol.1: Loosen the Bands (an experiment taking field recordings from the US tour supporting Be One of Us and Hear No Noise and turning it into a 17 minute, 1-sided LP)
2011 - volume 24 of Flannelgraph Records' Excursion Monthly (fives previously unreleased b-sides and rarities)
And then in March 2012, Moonless commenced. We hit pause on all shows and touring and launched into a three-year writing coma. During the time it took to write Moonless Metavari had two weddings and four babies.
E.A. Poorman: Let's talk about Moonless. Electronic music has always been a big part of Metavari's sound, but Moonless completely embraces it. Can you tell me about the direction of the album and the making of it? Who were some influences Metavari pulled from for the making of this album?
Nate Utesch: We quite consciously made an effort to dream up this next record without letting anything we had written previously influence its direction. We wanted to almost exclusively use analog synthesizers and sequencers. We wanted a fully "electronic" record. We own a Moog Prodigy and at the time we were borrowing the Korg MS2000 and a Yamaha DX7, but had a wish list of dozens and dozens of synthesizers and sounds we needed to make this a reality—the Oberheim Matrix 1000, Roland TR-707, Roland SH-101, Korg Wavestation…the list is endless. We made a couple friends in Los Angeles and an incredible ally from Berlin who we paid a fraction of the cost of the physical equipment to record and supply us with a massive catalog of hi-res sounds from almost every synthesizer we’ve ever dreamed of owning. Raw waves we can tune, modulate, filter, etc. from within Ableton. Most of the synths even have multiple oscillators. They were recorded in multiple octaves so that we aren’t grossly twisting the sounds from their original. Yes it’s blasphemous, but we wouldn’t be using it if we weren’t extremely happy with it. And the best part is that we can take these libraries with us on the road.
We all love electronic music and are massive fans of a lot of the same artists—old classics like Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder, the artists that raised us like Aphex Twin and Daft Punk and new classics like like Ford & Lopatin and The Tough Alliance. We deconstructed the production of old Chris Hughes and Mike Howlett records and Hugh Pagham-era Genesis and Phil Collins records. We learned some of the sequencing and arpeggio patterns used on our favorite Tangerine Dream records. Scoured the earth for the Linn LM-1 drums used in old Prince records. And we are so deeply inspired by the saxophone in Angelo Badalamenti and Al Regni's work on the Twin Peaks soundtracks and Will Gregory's work on Songs from the Big Chair.
E.A. Poorman: Moonless was a crowd-funded album. How was that experience? Is it something you guys would consider doing again?
Nate Utesch: Kickstarter was a dream come true and an ongoing nightmare wrapped into one. There's no denying how insanely grateful we are for the thousands and thousands of dollars our friends, family and fans gave us to write Moonless. But we are four excitable, impulsive dudes who didn't think everything through to the end. Although we raised as much as we asked for, we needed (and ultimately spent) more than three times that amount. For that reason Metavari bookkeeping has given us all ulcers. We'd probably go that route again for sure, but not without some better planning.
E.A. Poorman: Can you tell me a little about the record company Metavari signed with, Vital Shores? How did the band get hooked up with them?
Nate Utesch: We sent Moonless to 10 record labels around the world. Three of them politely thanked us for the record but said "no thanks." Three of them listened to the demos but didn't respond to our emails. Two of them didn't open our email. And the remaining two volleyed with us for over a month about what the future might look like before ultimately turning us down. So we did our homework, put in the hours and started our own company. The future is—as always—unknown, but for now we run our own international digital distribution, music publishing, limited physical distribution in the US and act as our own publicist as Vital Shores Electronic Music Company. Physical copies of Moonless will be available in New York, Chicago, Austin, Seattle and throughout Indiana—for now!
E.A. Poorman: March 7th is the release show for Moonless. Tell me about the show and what you guys have planned for that? There's also an after-party as well at a different location. Where are these shows going to be? Will you be selling vinyl copies at these shows?
Nate Utesch: We are so pumped for this show. The release show itself will be at The Phoenix and in addition to us will include sets from our friends in Heaven's Gateway Drugs and Wickerwolves. We'll be playing Moonless from start to finish—vocals, sax, sequencing, the whole shebang. We'll also be featuring a new synchronized light show and video projections for each of the tracks on the record. We've enlisted the help of cinematographers and experimental video artists for help in our live set. To name a few, some of the artists include a dude from Singapore who experiments with ferrofluid, magnetism and milk; an artist from Poland who created feedback using analog video effects; an artist from Los Angeles who gave us digital extractions of experiments he created on VHS almost 30 years ago; and two artists from Amsterdam who used macrophotography to record various positions in a liquid light show.
Immediately following the release show we'll high tail it across the street to The Brass Rail for the after party. If The Phoenix was the wedding, this is the reception. Metavari will DJ a quick set to kick off the night, then one of our most favorite humans, Sankofa, will do what only he does so well. Fresh Ben will wrap up the night and DJ us into the next morning.
E.A. Poorman: Any extensive touring planned to promote Moonless? Any shows already in the works you'd like to tell us about?
Nate Utesch: We'll be touring Moonless this Spring. We just signed with a booking agency called Sweet Love Touring who is run by the singer from one of our most favorite bands, The Appleseed Cast. Until then our weekends will be filled with one-offs and quick jaunts around the Midwest. We hope to do some in-stores in Indianapolis and Bloomington. We're also working on release shows in March and April in Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis.
E.A. Poorman: Moonless is a beautifully-produced and orchestrated record. Lots of dance and synth hallmarks can be heard (from both present and past artists), but it still retains the wandering and expansive sounds of your earlier work. Do you think this is a direction the band has always wanted to head towards? It seems that so many bands that have been tagged with the "post-rock" moniker don't particularly care for it. Lots of connotations come with that moniker. Does Metavari have that same love/hate relationship with the post-rock label?
Nate Utesch: We started Metavari in 2006 with five members (3 of which were on electric guitar) and an incredibly eager yet novice understanding of sequencing and electronics. So no matter how we littered our songs with beats and arpeggios, the instruments we were most comfortable on became the loudest voices. And on paper those voices equaled, "post-rock." We are fans of post-rock for sure, but from day one I think we wished we were better at all the things that make this band who we are today. That makes Moonless really exciting for us.
Additionally, there's singing on this record! Of the twelve tracks on Moonless, seven of them have vocals. Five performed by us and two by our good friends, Burke Sullivan and Chelsey Scheffe. Burke sings on track one, "Heavy Love," is from Bloomington and makes music under the pseudonym "New Terrors." He's an incredible electronic musician and songwriter and the marriage of our production styles is something we're really proud of on the first track. Chelsey Scheffe sings on track 3, "See Again." Chelsey is an artist and songwriter from Seattle. She's a good friend of ours, has an incredible voice and we are huge fans of the projects she's been a part of in the past: Seattle's Beat Connection and T|nes.
E.A. Poorman: So what does the rest of 2015 hold for Metavari? Can you see new music coming from you guys in the next couple of years?
Nate Utesch: During the course of Moonless we built the home studio we've always dreamed of. Writing is the funnest it's ever been and we have a lot planned this year. Without over-promising (another lesson we learned from our Kickstarter adventure) we can at least tell you there's an EP coming yet this year. That said, we've been cooped up writing this record for three years saying "no" to so many shows. We cannot wait to play live this year.
Nate and the rest of the Metavari guys seem like a bunch of super nice, down-to-earth fellas. They're a musical crew that are making some of the most interesting and exciting melodic, pop song-structured electronic music my ears have heard in a long while. Moonless is an incredible record. It's dense, pulsing, and incredibly catchy electronic music for both the folks that like some depth and layers in their electronic records and those that, well, just wanna move their bodies.
Come out March 7th to The Phoenix for Metavari's record release show, then follow them across the street to the Brass Rail for the after-party and buy the guys a shot. Head to shop.vitalshores.com and order a copy of Moonless. Or if you get into great conversation and the company of fellow physical media lovers, head over to Neat Neat Neat Records and grab a copy from Morrison.