Midnight Masses began in the Spring of 2008 started by Autry Fulbright and Jason Reece with Autry later joining Reece to play bass with Austin’s …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. This past week their LP was released on Superball Music, Departures, and is available around the world.
They’ll be playing August 7 at Holy Mountain with Ringo Deathstarr and touring the country this August.
Can you give some background on why you decided to start the band and where it came from for those that may not know?
I started the band in Jason from Trail of Dead’s house in Austin over six years ago. A lot of reflection on my part of my religious upbringing and navigating through very strong feelings of loss and grief. The first song we wrote was a song called ‘Deserter’s Song’. I don’t think we necessarily had any intentions other than to make something together. I had the idea to name a project Midnight Masses for about six months or so before that and it seemed like a good fit.
I returned to my home in Brooklyn and continued writing songs with the help of Gerard Smith, bassist/keyboardist of TV On The Radio. That’s when the songs began to take shape. It felt natural to start working with others and to make the project an actual performing band, and Destiny Montague (later of Austin band Feathers), Eric Rodgers, and Peter Hale begin rehearsing and writing with me. At this point Midnight Masses was a much larger ensemble, over the years fluctuating from a three piece to a 14 piece with strings, horns, and backing vocalists.
Gerard passed away in 2011, and maybe two years later I revived the project as sort of a gateway towards closure of the original ideas/concepts and also a way to create something new inspired by what I had originally done.
The band’s sound has a very ethereal feel, at times reminding me a lot of Pink Floyd especially the breakdown at the end on the song, “Departures” and in your vocals, and there also seems to be an electronic influence throughout.
While I could guess at the artists who influenced you, what artists and producers helped shaped the sound contemporary or otherwise in the songwriting and then in production? I know Gerard Smith from TV on the Radio was very important to you and the album is dedicated to him.
As I had mentioned Gerard had a very unique way of approaching what were originally simple dark folk songs I was writing. He transformed them into these living creatures with a pulse. He had a very forward thinking process and experimented with sampled percussion. To really make the songs unique. His influence is still part of the music now. I know that German groups like Neu! And Can were always dominant influences in my songwriting, as well as Spiritualized, The Zombies, and Sonic Youth. I like music that’s beautiful and melodic, but also dark.
I’m an admirer of the production styles of the RZA, Phil Spector, and Adrian Younge. I’m also a fan of slightly more obscure artists like the Turkish psych folk troubadour/activist Selda, lambchop, Jim Sullivan, the Make-Up, and Panda Bear.
Can you talk about the time between releases? Obviously, joining Trail of Dead I’m sure pushed off the project for some time, but why did this feel like the right time? Why now and not later or earlier?
Now was the right time. Now is always the right time. It just didn’t work out earlier, and it might not have worked out if I waited.
Was the album recorded over a longer stretch of time as well or recorded at once?
Some of the songs were written years ago, while some happened very spontaneously and were recorded the same day they were written. Overall, from entering into the studios and finalizing the album, the entire process was a little under a year. It was recorded in three different places – Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas. The Ohm Home in Encinitas, California, and Stu-Stu Studios in the upper west side of Manhattan. I’d have to pass where Lennon was shot every day to get there. It was a block away. Post-production was done in Los Angeles. It was a little drawn out and complicated, but ultimately I’m glad it was finished.
How difficult was it to get all the guest contributors to the record and get them in the studio to record on the album? Can you talk about what they brought to the recording?
I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by so many talented people. It wasn’t difficult- everyone came in as they were available. Often times I’d have an idea or a demo and I’d have a band or a guest reinterpret the idea. Everyone involved brought their own unique translation of the material. It was usually best for everyone to come in individually. It allowed everyone to have some creative freedom.
Can you talk about some of the new projects you’re working on?
Right now I’m about to start a few video projects for the next Trail of Dead album. I’m also getting ready for a North American tour with Midnight Masses. I have a new project called Vanishing Life that just started writing and recording an album. I’ve been going to Los Angeles to write with a singer-songwriter named Zella Day. I’ll start co-producing the next BLXSPLTN album soon as well. But other than that, just sitting on my ass.