Electro-folk on the L.A. fast track from Seattle's Motopony
It's not a secret that aspiring bands cross state lines to seek fortune in the L.A. music scene. Enthusiastic acts come and go with the frequency of our city's Metro bus line -- there's almost always one driving in from somewhere. Motopony, however, landed in SoCal with a bit more momentum than the average lot.
The four-piece charged in from Seattle with a full head of public radio steam, winning over tastemaking DJs with its electro-inflected folk-rock. Together since 2009, Motopony recently caught the attention of Jason Bentley, music director of KCRW-FM (89.9), who championed the band's format-friendly sound by playing rather intricate tracks such as "King of Diamonds" and "June." Not bad for a band whose self-titled debut was released on May 24 via New York's budding tinyOgre.
Comprised of frontman Daniel Blue, keyboard/beat maker Josiah Sherman (a.k.a. Buddy Ross), guitarist Brantley Cady, and drummer Forrest Mauvais, Motopony will have a busy Saturday with two free shows -- one at 1 p.m. at Origami Vinyl in Echo Park and at 7 p.m. at the KCRW Summer Nights concert series in Pasadena.
Pop & Hiss recently caught up with Blue from inside the band's tour van.
This is your second run of shows in L.A. since your gig at in May at Troubadour. What’s been your impression of the L.A. scene?
You hear a lot of rumors about paying to play and the difficult crowds and how you don’t want to play in Hollywood and how everybody down [here] is trying to do crazy Hot Topic heavy metal. But we trusted KCRW and they really did us a favor of putting us in front of the right type of people. The fans that came out to the Troubadour show were super respectful and seemed really intelligent and the perfect audience. It was a freakin’ Tuesday night too. So we were blown away by the respect and the encouragement we got. I talked to lots of people afterwards and I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m in Hollywood right now having all these meaningful connections.’
Your sound seems to occupy an interesting space between the folk realm and electronic music.
I think the way I went about writing songs for the first album, it ended up being really folksy. And Buddy [Ross] has a background in hip-hop and electronic music. So we thought it would be really interesting and we both respected each other’s work. So that’s where that blend is coming from. And it’s cool to watch that evolve, and I like the idea that we don’t fit into a genre because it really gives us enough freedom to do whatever we want.
And you have a background as a graphic designer right? How did you go from that to music?
I worked in graphic design for a short time and then was doing fashion design using reconstituted materials. For me, music was definitely a goal. I just needed to find my voice and I just sort of attacked any other sort of artform I could find in order to avoid getting a real job.
You made the video for 'King of Diamonds' in Las Vegas. That doesn’t seem like the typical locale for most indie bands.
I really attribute a lot of that to Josh Forbes, the director. He was chill to work with, he just set us free and he had a vibe he was looking for to get out of Las Vegas. It was really a whirlwind for us. We were only on the set for a couple days. Vegas is such a strange and unnatural place to experience for the first time. We were just sort of wandering around in sort of strange acid trips -- that’s kind of what I felt like the whole time. And just seeing the result, it was really heart wrenching and beautiful and ugly and everything I really wanted the song to say.
What’s your chemistry like as a band? Were you all friends before the band?
We have a pretty special relationship in that Buddy, Brantley [Cady] and Forrest [Mauvais] grew up in the same town south of Seattle. I grew up in sort of a smaller community. We have sort of a woodsy vibe so we can relate in that way. But we outgrew the small town and tried to move to a metro area because we felt we had something to offer the world. But it can be like a big dysfunctional family sometimes.
How and where did you guys record your debut album? Was it more computer-based or done in a studio?
Most of the album was done in Buddy Ross’ basement. He sort of secludes himself down there. And we communicated a lot through email. He was living in Seattle at the time and I was living in Tacoma. But he took some pretty raw material and built it into what you’re hearing now. We did some drums and vocals at some friend’s studios nearby. But it’s really a bit of a homemade record, which is really surprising to a lot of people given the quality of it, but that’s really Buddy’s chops as a producer.
Motopony performs at 1 p.m. Saturday at Origami Vinyl, 1816 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, and at 7 p.m. at at One Colorado Courtyard in Pasadena. The courtyard is tucked among Colorado Boulevard, Union Street, De Lacey Avenue and Fair Oaks Avenue. Both shows are free.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo credit: Genevieve Pierson