Sunday, November 9, 2014

Brooklyn trio Mesiko to bring unique, captivating sound to Chicago

Brooklyn trio Mesiko is not the type of band that can be easily labeled.

Strands of folk and psychedelia weave their way through the band's full-length album debut, "Solar Door."

Mesiko will brings its captivating sound to The Gingerman Taven, 3740 N. Clark St., Chicago, on Nov. 11 for a free show.

Jeff Taylor also is on the bill. The music starts at 8 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to singer/guitarist Raquel Bell, guitarist David Marshall and drummer Ray Rizzo about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. In sitting down to make "Solar Door," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a meaning behind the album's name?

Rizzo: "Solar Door" has lived up to and exceeded our expectations. It was important from the get-go to be specific about how we would become a band and shape the music. We prepared for a year and a half before we recorded "Solar Door."

Bell: To get in the room with the people we got to be in a room with was our goal and our wildest dream. For the rest, we're just holding on to the floor, if you get my drift.

Marshall: But oh what a feeling when you're dancing on the ceiling...You know. Nicole Ritchie's Dad.

Rizzo: In our Mesi-world, many words and phrases including our band name and "Solar Door" have appeared to us like found art to help us identify and navigate things that otherwise can be very trying to discuss. Solar Doors are real things for us. We like to open them.

Q - Sam Cohen, Kevin Ratterman and Joe Lambert, who all have impressive resumes, worked on the album. How did you hook up with them and what do you think they brought to the table?

Rizzo: I had previously worked with Sam and Joe.

Bell: We knew Sam from working in the Dumbo Arts Festival.

Rizzo: I knew Kevin from Louisville since he was in Elliot, but none of us had worked with him. One of Mesiko's earliest shows was for The Lebowski Fest in Louisville.

That's where we all met Kevin. He was dressed like a nihilist from the dream scene wearing a smoldering red shiny body suit and we thought, clearly this is the guy for us.

Bell: Yeah, we need this man. This wizard is IN.

Rizzo; As delicate as we could be with shaping the music, our record had to rock, and we needed the presence of people we trusted and were inspired by in order to complete the gesture. Sam and Kevin and Joe helped us step into the sweet spot.

Q - Michael Shannon is featured in the fundraising video for the new record. It seems like that was a fun video to make. I understand that he plays in the band Corporal with Ray. What is it like working with him?

Marshall: He's a seriously talented man, the sort of artist that inspires you to bring everything you've got. Be it sharing the stage or a pint, it's serious, and you know it's going to be great.

Rizzo: Mike is an encyclopedia of music, a true artist and a profound songwriter. He plays Thelonious Monk melodies on the piano and always has a song or album that he is obsessing over. He's filled in on bass for a Mesiko show.

Bell: Anytime you get to work with an artist as enthusiastic and all-in as Michael, it is the best.

Rizzo: We had everything ready to go for the Pledge Music campaign but we needed a video. Mike was down to help so I showed up at his place with a script and a few props and David's white cat helmet and we took turns filming each other. We did it in about 30 minutes. It was indeed very fun.

Q - Ray, what made you want to co-found the Motherlodge Festival in Louisville, Kentucky and has the festival met all your goals?

Rizzo: Moving to Brooklyn from Louisville, the aspect of travel and mixing the communities of New York and Kentucky was essential to Motherlodge. In New York, I'd gotten to know many inspiring independent-minded theatre and music makers who were responding as I was to a culture of underwhelming art experiences resulting from the commodification of the arts in the 20th century. 
The impact of artists' dependency upon non-profit structures, arts funding and focus groups not only negatively affected the immediacy of many artists' work - it also limited the expectations of the audience and artist for what is possible in an artistic exchange.

I thought that, even with no money, something could be started that in its essence could rejuvenate the creators and throw some new light on dim circumstances. In some ways, Motherlodge is more successful philosophically than in application, but the goal is still to share the creative moment with audiences that aren't as exposed to live art and to keep broadening the communities that take part. 

Technically, my wife and I are taking a year off to build an infrastructure that can better support Motherlodging, but we'll probably be in Louisville making something happen on the last weekend of February 2015. It's a tradition now.

Q - How did Mesiko form and how do you see the band fitting into the New York music scene? Who or what are the band's biggest musical influences?

Rizzo: I had been playing my own songs, and when Raquel asked me to play drums, we asked Steve at GBBM if he would give us a longer slot for Raquel's residency and we threw our jams together. We were Mesiko from the first show.

Marshall: After Ray and Raquel joined forces, Bell called me (having been in past projects together) to bring some of my sounds to these songs, that's when I met Ray and saw the potential.

Rizzo: I'm very proud about how much New York music comes out of us on "Solar Door," and proud of what I consider to be our version of American Pop. The shreds of Can and Bowie and X that people pick up on are come by honestly, but we didn't strategize those things or hole up with records. 

We arrived at the music being as it is because we are heatseekers and novice lucid dreamers.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

Rizzo: Always. Mesiko is a big one.

Bell: Bring Michael Jackson back to life and do the "Hamptons BJ" dance in space.

Marshall: My dream is basically realizing Raquel's dream of touring in a self contained, mobile, live studio/stage vehicle, performing where we land. Park 'N Play. The Mesi-bus.

Rizzo: I've never heard this in my life.

Marshall: What? That's impossible.

Rizzo: Nope, but I like it.

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