For those of you just tuning in, I’ve been sharing a bunch of info about MOBRO on my Facebook page each Monday. We’re only about a week away from our May 13th release. Can’t wait for you all to hear it! Today I’m sharing some commentary for each track that I wrote for the Japanese magazine Way Out West. I think of these musings as personal program notes (perhaps we’ll get Andy to chime in with a version of his own at some point). As this will be translated into Japanese for the magazine, I figured it might be nice to share this with all you English speakers, as well. Enjoy!
MOBRO is the third collaboration that my friend Andy Bragen and I have undertaken. We’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between language and music, and have slowly begun to consider longer narrative structures. Andy had the idea to use the historical journey of the MOBRO 4000, a garbage barge that sailed in 1987, as the inspiration for a story of escalating rejections and ultimate redemption. We spent a week in New Mexico working with a physical theater group called Theater Grottesco, and came up with the outline of the events, a kind of super structure that we then began to flesh out once we got back to NYC.
Anticipation – Our protagonist, the garbage, begins it’s journey. The sound of the brass is meant to capture a feeling of yearning, expectancy, and well…anticipation. We imagine the feeling down by the docks in the early morning with an exciting adventure ahead. With the entrance of the rest of the band, the hustle and bustle of the preparations for the journey begins, and the mood is a little foreboding – this journey may not be all our garbage protagonist hopes it will be…
Sailing – As they set sail, there is a feeling of innocent bliss in the air, captured in a lovely duet between Sachal and Johnaye. Everything is A-OK. In other words, what could possibly go wrong? But the feeling of foreboding continues, subtly at first, and then more ominously as this section comes to an end. Mike Moreno plays the guitar solo.
Storm – Miles Griffith enters the story as the voice of the storm, a violent and terrifying weather assault on our protagonist garbage. He also sings as the voice of the garbage, imploring “what did we do?” But the violent storm ensues, a brutal assault, and innocence is capsized. Alan Ferber is featured on the trombone.
Rejection – After the Storm, our garbage protagonists experience their first feelings of rejection. They’ve been beaten up and pushed around by the storm, and are now trying to make sense of their new outlook. Becca Stevens sets the tone here, and Sachal Vasandani joins. Josh Roseman plays the trombone. The lyrics describe innocence lost, yet they leave a measure of hope in the metaphor of seabirds. The journey continues, but the innocence has been discarded, dismantled.
Mutiny/Rebellion – The rejection, introspection, and uncertainty of the journey begins to turn our protagonists against each other. Infighting ensues. They vie for dominance, and ultimately end up insulting each other, “We’re not like you! You are garbage!” Shane Endsley plays the trumpet.
2nd Rejection – As the chaotic feelings of mutiny fade away, our protagonist garbage settles into another soul-searching melancholy. Sachal Vasandani leads us here, and Ryan Scott plays the guitar solo.
Military – Slowly floating along in self pity, our protagonists are rudely interrupted by an external military assault, attacked as invaders while looking for shelter.
Doldrums – As they drift away from shore following the attack, time stretches out infinitely and our protagonists start to hallucinate, pulled into the doldrums.
Snarl – Out of their hallucination comes the Snarl, a utopian and sensual garbage island in the middle of the ocean, beckoning them to abandon their quest and experience immortality with the other aquatic waste. Sachal is the voice of the Snarl.
Self-Knowledge – Once our protagonists manage to avoid temptation, they begin to find some clarity about themselves and the journey, and they gain some self understanding through reflection. Miles and Johnaye sing the duet here, and we hear John Clark on the horn solo.
Mourning – Although the reflection brings understanding, it also brings a deep melancholy. The end is near and our protagonists can see that now. This is the sadness of accepting death and that the journey, both difficult and wonderful, must come to and end. Becca Stevens leads us here.
Celebration – In the spirit of a New Orleans funeral we mourn the loss, but then we celebrate the life. We march on.