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Mysterious Motopony

 

“For me, a motopony is any tool that you attribute some living characteristic to,” Motopony singer Daniel Blue says by way of explaining the band’s name. “My motorcycle becomes a horse, and my car a living chariot,” he continues, “our instruments are personalities, like dogs barking – our van is a giant purple pickle possessed with the spirit of Ozzy Osbourne. In this way, we intend to gain respect for the inanimate world, and ask ourselves to love what has been made, as much as those who have made it.”

Purple pickle?

Guitarist Mike Notter is a bit more brief in his description.

“It’s a little red pony with a motor and wheels,” he says simply.

Perhaps it’s that dichotomy between band members that keeps Motopony as interesting as they are. For the unintroduced, Motopony’s music  – which has been called “schizophrenic” on more than one occasion – hops from genre to genre with sometimes alarming abandon, making brief bus stops at indie-rock, folk-pop, shoegaze, and old-school soul as the mood suits them.

Born of the Pacific Northwest as just Daniel Blue and collaborator Buddy Ross, and now calling Seattle their home base as a five-piece band, the whole Motopony thing started at a dinner party in Tacoma, Washington, where Blue and Ross first met and realized that their respective approaches to songwriting – which ranged from merely unusual to bizarre – complemented each other well. Today including Brantley Cady and drummer Forrest Mauvais as well as Blue, Ross, and Notter,  the band’s cohesion in spite of themselves is due in large part to their determination.

“Motopony is an eclectic band, and we’ve put a lot of energy into trying to translate the strange and magical things that Daniel and Buddy create on tape into a powerful live experience,” Notter says. “It’s been a challenge taking songs that were born on an acoustic 3-string guitar, then run through Buddy’s production process, and attempting to create a balanced and intriguing live show as a five-piece band.  It’s taken a lot of intention and focus, and we’re really proud of what we’ve come up with.”

“We love both digital and analog gear,” Blue continues, “and we love things and instruments made of natural things and of robotic parts. We wanted a sound that was folk and world, but also tech and track – it’s our goal to be in the future and the past all at the same moment.”

A good example of that ambition can be heard in several of Motopony’s songs, which feature a simply-strummed acoustic guitar and unenhanced vocals alongside more artificial synth elements. It’s a striking and sometimes challenging listen.

“We’re also beginning to experiment with live vocal effects controlled by the synths themselves, a la James Blake, who’s been a recent inspiration,” explains Notter, “as a means of toying with melding the natural aspect with the mechanized.”

Another inspiration is their town of residence, and the Pacific Northwest as a whole, which Blue says is an unavoidable influence on their sound.

“You can’t escape the grey winter here – it just permeates, ” he explains. “I’m sure that leads to a depth of feeling that is hard to achieve in the sunshine. But aside from that, when its good weather here, all that water covers every space patch of dirt with green. Even the cracks in the sidewalk bloom when the sun shines. It’s a beautiful thing to know the joy of spring. So I’m sure it pours through the cracks in my mind as I write and record.”

As might be expected, his bandmate has a similar – yet different – view.

“The Northwest’s rain and grey often seem to drive people indoors, into coffeeshops, pubs or just holed up at home,” Notter says. “I think this promotes an introspective mood, which may show in the vibe of the music we’ve made. But then again, there are also good bands from Seattle, take the Head and the Heart for example, whose music feels very celebratory and extroverted. I don’t think a band’s locale really determines the band’s sound, but rather the personalities and backgrounds of the people involved.”

All five people in Motopony have been involved in a lot of rehearsal time as of late. The entire month of April, Blue says, was spent sitting in their practice space working out how to play their next album in a live setting.

“We intend to take those songs and record them live before we head into a studio to get them some production,” he confirms. “We just got so inspired recently in the van listening to The Beatles’ Anthology and hearing some of our favorite songs when they were just acoustic ideas – so cool.  We want that live feeling to be transmitted to the record, and we want that moment of conception in a live setting to find its way into the performance.”

“The main difference between this record and the last, I think, will come from the fact that five of us are writing, thinking, trading ideas, and dreaming up what we want the band to become moving forward, instead of just two. I love the first record,” he nods, “but I’m really curious and excited to see where we end up with this.”   – Kristi Kates