Monday, May 28, 2012

The Mock Suns; Thoreau, chocolate and bbq's

How fun would it be to make a chocolate mold of your face? Well that’s exactly what the Mock Suns did to promote their debut album, Here Nor There. Check out our interview below with this trio right out of Philadelphia. They let us in on the meaning of their name, the recording of the new album and plans for the future. Hit up the links below to connect, listen and download.

How did you decide on the name, “Mock Suns”?
Steve: We were in our practice space one day coming up with all kinds of strange names and stumbled upon a Thoreau novel. We found a lot of great two word phrases and we felt that with the general motif and philosophical subject matter of the band that Mock Suns really fit well.

What does the phrase mean?
Tom: The illusion of more than one sun in the sky- we really dug the concept. We figured graphically, it would have a lot of potential in terms of posters, promotion for shows, etc.

How did the band come together?
Steve: We originally started out as Giant Mind which was a 5 piece. One of our former members Andy Hagerman knew Greg from home and we all went to college at Temple (Greg went to Tyler when it was off campus). Greg was looking for a band to not only back his individual recordings but to also move forward and write new material. Giant Mind definitely became more about our own new material than the original Greg Puglese stuff. After we lost two members of the band to Brooklyn we decided it might be worthwhile to see what we could do as a 3-piece, and well, here we are

Tom: All three of us really blended together pretty well in terms of creativity and continuity within the songs so we all wanted to keep playing music and really liked the idea of looping and exploring what we could do with a three piece.

Tell us about your marketing campaign for the new album? How has the fan feedback been?
Greg: Well, I think that in this era of internet media overload, it’s hard enough to get your friends to listen to an album, let alone attract new fans, so we really wanted to try to do something tangible and bizarre to promote the album. The biggest thing that we did was place about 250 advance copies of our album around the city. Some copies had special redemption codes on them that allowed you to log on to our website and claim a custom made chocolate face. Overall, the reaction to the campaign was very positive, a lot of people loved the album, and if they didn’t, they enjoyed the candy. We want to continue to do more interesting, guerilla advertising like this, as it’s proven to be our most effective approach to standing out from the crowd and promoting the band.

Steve: Greg came up with a fantastic idea of making the chocolate faces into different flavors like Chocolate Tom Tom, Cookies and Steve and of course his signature brand Dulce de Greg. We've had some success with it I think. We've definitely have taken steps in the right direction now we can only hope to push forward with it.

Tom: They seemed to really enjoy it. One person said that the faces were and I quote "Much larger then [she] expected and the best chocolate [she] ever ate." It's been really cool, but kinda creepy with the idea of someone eating our faces. It's been also a nice theme to incorporate for the album. Also, a lot of respect for AKA records, who let us use their facility for people to come pick up the chocolate faces. By and large, the promotion has been awesome and the feedback has been all positive.

How was it crafting those chocolate faces?
Greg: The candy faces were a process to say the least... They were actually the last component in a bigger concept that we’d created for Mock Suns. We started out with the idea of taking photographs of plaster molds of our faces; we liked the idea of the photos being kind of like a twice-removed version of ourselves. Anyway, we had to use this stuff called alginate, (the stuff that dentists use to make molds of your teeth) and smear it all over our faces. Then we backed it with plaster strips, and made plaster casts from the alginate molds. Then, from the plaster casts, we made food-grade silicone molds. Making the chocolates in the silicone molds was a trial and error process, but we’ve pretty much got it down to a science at this point. We were told by one person that it was the best chocolate they’d ever had.

Tom: Cookies and Steve was by far the easiest to make because it was just crushing up oreos and melting the white chocolate, combining it and freezing it. That in mind, The "Greg's" and "Tom-Tom's" were tough because we had to pour the top mold, let that send, put the filling in the middle, let that freeze and set and then make the boxes for all of them. It was really fun though, seeing all of these faces take form.

When I first sat down to listen to your new album, within the first 30 seconds I thought: Pink Floyd and Fleet Foxes. Where would you say your influences come from on this album?
Greg: I am definitely a big fan of both of those bands. Songwriting-wise, I think my influences come from all over the place, but at the time of writing the album I was listening to a lot of Tame Impala, Grizzly Bear, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, etc.

Steve: Well we all come from drastically different influences, naturally we have a lot of common ground but I have been somewhat criticized by people for years (not by my band members) for loving reggae and I feel it is pretty evident that I love the genre in my bass playing. I'm also a closet R&B lover. Most of that music, I understand, is not of the highest quality lyrically. That being said I really enjoy many different styles of music. Anything from Medeski Martin and Wood to Peruvian Chicha, to Bon Iver.

Tom: I know that growing up, my musical interests were fairly different than Steve's and Greg's. I listened to bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, etc. In college that expanded to a great degree, however, entering Giant Mind and eventually Mock Suns, Greg and Steve's musical styles definitely changed my style of drumming for the better. I don't know that we directly said "Hey, let's do this part to this part of the song to make it sound like this band." However, you can definitely hear bands we listen to as parts of the album. Case in point, I would say that the second half of "North Rim" certainly has a My Morning Jacket feel to it. Obviously, there are Beach Boys influences throughout. I think that as an album, the musical styles we have came through.

Here Nor There sounds much deeper than a trio. With it being the band’s debut full album release, what was the recording process like?
Greg: Actually for this album, we really wanted to simplify things. With Giant Mind, there was a lot of... overindulgence in our approach. We kind of had a no-holds barred, genre-less approach to every song. It gave me the urge to go back to the basics on things to some extent. It was a personal challenge for me to try to make music using a smaller set of tools and fewer band members. Although there is some double tracking happening on the album with guitars and vocals, there are very few parts that you’ll hear on the album that aren’t actually played live. I think we have a tendency to sound like a bigger band than we are at times because of our extensive use of looping and other live effects. The actual recording process was a blast; recording is probably my favorite thing to do. We did all of it ourselves, partially at our studio in Fishtown, and partially at my apartment in Fairmount. Mixed and mastered it all myself.

Tom: The recording process was intense to say the least. As far as drums are concerned, we ran into problems from the get go. Greg had transferred in between jobs and had about 7-10 days off so he and I decided to knock it out in that time period. However, once we had gotten the entire studio set up and were ready to put the mics up, we realized that his recording interface shit out. Long story short, we bumped out the drums in about 2 days. The kicker was that we were doing the recording in a studio in the middle of June and the studio doesn't have central air.. Needless to say, a lot of shirts were used, and we had to take a number of breaks throughout. The guitar, bass and vocals were done by Greg and Steve, independently over the course of a few months. That said, Greg is great to work with and it was a lot of fun. In between recording breaks, we played pool and a nice case of Hoegaarden certainly added to the experience. I'm incredibly pleased with the way things turned out on the album.

Steve: I believe I was the last person to put down my tracks and it wasn't for a lack of trying but we all have careers and it is obviously difficult to find the time. Outside of writing my individual parts and knowing the kind of tone and recorded sound I have to give all the credit to Greg. There wouldn't be Mock Suns without him!

What has been your venue to perform at so far? What’s your favorite venue to attend?
Greg: Johnny Brenda’s has probably been my favorite venue to perform at, as well as to see a show. I just love the size of it and the vibe of the whole place, can’t be beat for me. We also really love playing at Kung Fu Necktie, there always seems to be a great crowd there.

Steve: I deservedly get a lot of flack from the guys because I was pissing and moaning about 90 degree bottles of water given to us at Johnny Brenda’s but I absolutely loved playing there. They really take care of their musicians and the venue itself is incredible. I also don't know of any venue where you can get a 3 dollar pint of craft beer.

Tom: My favorite venue that we've played at as Mock Suns is definitely Kung Fu Necktie. It always draws a solid crowd and the sound is incredible. Also, for a three piece, the stage has plenty of space. My favorite venue to attend has to be Johnny Brenda's. There is always a built in crowd, the people treat you well there and the bands are always solid.

What are the plans for the rest of 2012?
Greg: Just trying to keep the momentum going. First and foremost, we are focusing on playing as many shows as we can and continuing to promote the album. We’ve got a live video shoot scheduled for June at a friend’s barn in Honey Brook, PA, which we’re pretty excited about.

Steve: We've got a good jump on our next record which will be somewhat of a departure/concept album. Plus we love taking the opportunity to grill out so more than likely we'll be BBQin'

Tom: Without giving too much away, the material we are writing is being done in a very unique style. As far as what lies ahead directly; we should be coming out with another video of us playing fairly soon (by July or August). We do also have plans to promote Here Nor There on a "mini-tour" so to speak. We are going to see what venues are like in the tri-state area and beyond. Stay tuned and keep checking the website!

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Tom: By and large, I couldn't be happier with the album. Steve Greg and I spent a large amount of time dedicated to it and all the promotion as well, especially Greg. He did a great job mixing and mastering the album and we are starting to play shows on a more consistent basis now.

Steve: Come see our next show in Manyunk at the Grape on June 2nd and look out for us in nearby cities and suburbs in the near future; we'll be looking to broaden our horizons.


Alexis Canary

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