Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Motion Sick, November 7th, 2007

October, 2007

Listening to The Motion Sick, unsigned Boston indie rockers, is like digging up a grave to find a clown buried inside. Both the lyrical content and musical arrangement contrasts a haunting sensation with childlike euphoria. The Motion Sick comfortably blends bright and dark moods and themes, juxtaposing the playful and the poignant. They’ll have you dancing while conceptualizing fate.

The band consists of acoustic guitarist and vocalist Michael Epstein, guitarist Patrick Mussari, bassist Mathew Girard, drummer Travis Richter and friends that fill in on various instruments. They sat down with me to talk about the band and their new album, "The Truth Will Catch You, Just Wait." Guitarist Patrick Mussari wasn’t present, but “cutting cheese,” as the band affectionately put it, his part time job at a whole foods grocery store. After the interview they played two songs . The highlight was Girard’s hilarious vocalization of an electric guitar solo in the middle of “Walk On Water.”

Their music bends the normal parameters for genres. It couples folk instruments such as acoustic guitar, banjos and tambourine with synthesized electronic elements and fuzzy, wailing electric guitar riffs.

The lyrics will have you thinking outside conventional love song boundaries. The content ranges from the French revolution to society and politics to video games to suicide and the walking dead, all built on a romantic foundation. “Sometimes there are lines in songs that people think are really sad and awful and some people think are really funny,” Epstein says. “The Most Beautiful Dead Girl” is definitive of this duality. For a song about the living dead and a girl that commits suicide, it sounds like a silly dance tune.

The track is from "Her Brilliant Fifteen," the band’s first release. It has a focus more on the playful side than their second, favoring the acoustic instruments and electronic melodies. The album earned the band the title of one of the best Boston albums of 2006 by the Boston Metro and band of the month in January of 2006 from SPIN magazine. They achieved this notoriety without being signed to a label.

The Motion Sick remains independent because the band insists on artistic freedom. Girard, who has experience in the industry as a recording engineer, says, “It’s much more about business and almost nothing about art. It's very difficult for artists to make their own way where they feel like they don't have to compromise their integrity to make a lasting career.”

At the same time the band isn’t restricted by indie dogmas. “I think the DIY ethic is very important to be aware of,” Girard says, but it’s also important to “know when to reach outside of that circle, or when people are trying to reach into your circle.”

The band admitted that the venture was far from profitable without a label backing them, relying completely on listener support through selling CD’s, MP3’s and merch. Epstein says they’d consider an offer if it was right for them, but “until that happens, we're kind of in a situation where we have to do most of the work on our own.”

Work they do. They write and fund the music themselves, while mastering and producing with the help of friends. They put out their second record, "The Truth Will Catchy You, Just Wait…" through Naked Ear Records; its producer, Barry Marshall, an Emerson professor. They’ve also filmed their own music video for “30 Lives.”

The Truth features the electric guitar more prominently than the first record, giving the album an eerier feel. Richter says “Her Brilliant Fifteen was very much a studio project for Mike to begin with. On this go around, it was much more collaborative,” he says, noting there are more songs that are “very dark and deep and creepy.”

The song “The Owls Are Not What They Seem,” outlines this audible and thematic difference. Howling guitar and thunderous cymbals crash along to the repeated line, “There is no escape.” The title for the song is an allusion to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, dealing with one of the album’s biggest themes, the futility of resisting fate.

You can check out videos of the interview and songs, “Tiny Dog (Nodboy Cries)” and “Walk on Water,” below and support the band by visiting

Tiny Dog (Nobody Cries)

Walk on Water

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