by Hero Magnus
This week, I called the band Mystery Friends over the phone. I had loved my sneak peak of their recent single “Nowhere to Be” and was feeling lucky that I was about to catch even one member of the rock-disco Washington, DC crew. Instead I caught three of them: the vocalist and synths-player frontwoman Abby Sevcik, guitarist and synths-player David Mohl, and bassist Robbie Lee. Once we covered their DIY music video (the production has been delayed briefly, allegedly because the video includes roller-skating but David is a roller-skating novice), Mystery Friends and I talked about their old record, new projects, and upcoming work.
How is “Nowhere to Be” different from your recent album, Past and Future Self?
David (D): There was a different group of people who recorded with us on the new stuff. We recorded Past and Future Self with an engineer from Maryland, who is also great. But do you know the band Color Palette? We recorded the new stuff [a slinky cover of “Toxic” as well as “Nowhere to Be”] with Jay from Color Palette. It was a totally new approach to the mixing process. A little more hands-on, wouldn’t you say, Abby?
Abby (A): Normally, we go in with the bones of a song and see what we can pile on to it, what feels right. This time Dave put the bones together for himself beforehand. Rather than figuring things out as we go, there was more of a collaboration, an intentional hand involved.
David, I know you worked on the synths for “Nowhere to Be.” What did that look like?
D: It was a very educational experience for me to work on synths. I’m pretty good at the twisting knobs and making sounds. Jay and Kyle are good at recording software… one of the things that really came together with the synths on this particular track was that we wanted to fill the space. We could make sure that there was a really rich and full sound by playing with different synth textures. It is a little wink that really adds to the song without being distracting.
What inspired you to write “Nowhere to Be?” Does it have to do with COVID-19, or is that just a wild coincidence?
A: We wrote it before all hell broke loose, actually. It’s a song about fighting the urge to not go out and not coordinate anything in the middle of winter. You’ve got to fight the inertia. It’s a dancey song with a lot of room to breathe around the instrumentals. It says: I made it out, I’m all here, and I’m going to have an awesome fucking time…
D+A: We really wanted to lean into this track and embrace the repetition. Disco music is repetitive and entracing. It’s not about a person, but it’s personal.
In some of your promo materials, you say you want to help bring back disco. What do you like about disco music?
Dave: I used to be a disco skeptic. I thought disco was all the Bee Gees. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Bee Gees! But I started to learn that disco music really affected punk music and post-punk music.
Abby: We love the Talking Heads and Blondie.
Dave: We’re kind of like jittery post-punk with a lot of lucious synths.
Abby: I love that phrasing– lucious synths! It’s kind of a disco-infected pulsing sound that isn’t afraid to be fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Disco instrumentation is really layered and complex, and we felt very inspired by that.
How has being part of DC informed your music?
D+A: I knew a little bit about Dischord, but I didn’t really know much about the DC scene. When we got here we started diving into local bands. We know there are a lot of political events happening around us, but our music is not exactly inspired by that. It is a way to find community and happiness and healing, in a way, outside of the often toxic political sphere.
In DC, you meet so many cool people. Unlike New York and LA, where things are a bit more cutthroat and competitive, DC is a community, and it’s not as much of an industry. Even if sometimes it should be a little more of an industry. But there’s a benefit to the lack of money in the DC scene! It means it’s not all about the money.
Oh, that makes total sense. Good AND bad for the DC scene, I think. Now I’ve been dying to know this: why is your band name called Mystery Friends?
D+A+R: We started the band right before the presidential election, a super notable point in time. But the band name itself is totally random. It’s actually from a random hipster name generator. We felt like it was part of our larger conversation: how do you have a name that you appreciate but that doesn’t take itself too seriously?
Haha. That’s a great story. What else should our readers keep an ear out for?
D: We have a couple of songs following the release of “Nowhere to Be” and we plan to dole them out on a regular schedule.
A: Yes, totally. Three songs coming out after “Nowhere to Be.”
That’s so exciting.
D+A+R: It’s like this. We made an album we’re really proud of, and now we might let the rest of these songs come out as they go. They go to more extremes than Past and Future Self.
You might have noticed a theme in the album that we kind of have two types of songs [quieter and more danceable] and we stick to that same theme in the upcoming work. Some of it is moodier and quieter and more contemplative. In other ones, we really work on embracing the banger.
Alchemical Records is thrilled to announce the new Mystery Friends song “Nowhere to Be,” following the release of last year’s debut album. Check them out above (even if the meaning of their name is still a mystery).
Flow-bending artist aSanTIS discusses art, culture, and whether sound can solve the world’s problems in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
My interview with Amy Santis aka aSanTIS began in the most unexpected way. The Maryland-based flow-bending artist and lyrical storyteller came prepared to engage in conversation around questions I had posed – and she also brought one or two of her own thoughtful prompts based on her curiosities around my view of learning.
This practice of taking in her surroundings deeply through observation and inquiry has come naturally to aSanTIS ever since she was a young child. In terms of her early starts in music, she notes that she began as a discerning listener. “Just listening to music from my mom, on the radio, just being a consumer in the world of sound. But I think mainly, my mom has always loved dancing and listening to music, so that was sort of like second nature. We play music at gatherings, we play music in the car, and these songs are sort of like diaries that take us into a specific place.”
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