Previously unaware of Mossbreaker's existence, their debut LP, Between the Noise and You—due July 28th via Glory Kid (and now available for pre-order)—took me by surprise. The stubborn grump that I can be from time to time, I feared it might be a little too "spacey" for me—perhaps overly drenched in post-rock-leaning effects; too shimmery. I found myself warming up to its somber melodies and grunge-tinged alt.-rock density, however. I read of the album's creation amidst the passing of frontman Gabe VanBenschoten's father, and recognized the emotional intensity it must convey as a result. Top that off with a number of rockin' and angular cuts that introduce a catchier edge with a major Failure-esque aesthetic—tracks like "Runway," in fact—and, well, shit... this is good. Digging into the L.A. trio's back catalog further solidified my interest—surprised that I had yet to encounter the group beforehand.
So, here I am—mere days later—pleased to play my small part in hoping to spread the good word about Mossbreaker and their music. Stream "Runway" below, followed by a discussion with guitarist, vocalist, and engineer Gabe VanBenschoten...
As I type this, I've only been aware of and listening to Mossbreaker for about 21 hours. Having fairly quickly digested your discography, it seems that Between the Noise and You finds the band branching out just a bit to explore more atmospheric elements and dynamic contrast. How much of that was driven by the weight of what you were striving to communicate throughout the writing process?
I think it was more of an organic evolution. We had been toying with these songs for a while, and they ended up evolving on their own, more or less.
That being said—perhaps because of the album's spacious ambience—"Runway" was one of the tracks that immediately jumped out at me on the first listen. It's got more of a straightforward energy, and that rockin' Failure vibe that's prevalent throughout much of the Mossbreaker catalog.
"Runway" is definitely one of the more driving, visceral tracks on the album. This song shows off our post-hardcore roots with the syncopation in the verses, but still opens up into a more melodic/pop chorus. It is a major change in the sequence of the record, but still carries the dark, brooding attitude.
"Runway"'s lyrics at times conjure some fairly specific images, but it definitely feels as though the delivery was abstracted enough to where the listener would be able to interpret their own meaning. How would you describe your approach to the lyrics given the circumstances that fueled this album?
When I wrote most of these lyrics, I was in a state of despair. In the year before we started recording, my father was diagnosed and given a short time to live. They prescribed him heavy painkillers so he could just sleep all day and not have to deal with the pain. I kept the imagery far enough away so that it wasn't obvious, but that's what this song is about: the choice to tune out and let the drugs take care of things, or to endure the pain and be present. It was a back-and-forth battle, but I think the listener can most definitely interpret their own meaning.
With its warm, fuzzy, hard-hitting distortion, "Runway" also highlights the fact that Between the Noise and You sounds freakin' amazing. Having spent a year self-producing the material in your home studio, you really achieved a super professional end result. My own inexperience would lead me to assume that you must have a pretty legit studio setup?
I went to school for the recording arts, but I learned most of my recording techniques from [Failure frontman] Ken Andrews. I worked under him as an assistant engineer after finishing my schooling for about two years until Failure reunited, then I went out on tour as their guitar/bass/drum tech. This was part of the reason that the record took a year to finish. We had to do it in pieces when I was home from being on the road. At the time we made the record, I had great gear and resources, but I hadn't finished my studio yet. We ran lines out from my garage and tracked all of the instruments in my living room. I did all of the lead parts, vocals, and mixing in the untreated garage, which was challenging to say the least. It was an awesome experience as far as dealing with what we had and grabbing the bull by the horns, though. Once we completed the record, I put all of my focus into building my studio, Akira Audio. I just finished a new record for INTRCPTR (Pelican, 5ive), as well as some other projects I can't talk about yet.
If I were an 18-year-old whippersnapper enjoying Between the Noise and You for the first time, and I asked you to recommend me three albums to check out as a direct result, what three albums would you choose, and why?
- Failure, Fantastic Planet. This album taught me a lot about songwriting, as well as dynamics.
- My Bloody Valentine, Loveless. This record made me realize I can do whatever the fuck I want with as many pedals as I want.
- The Jesus Lizard, Goat. One of the best punk records ever. It's a shining example of pure, unadulterated art.