It’s Dead Outside (Live)
jazner became BOBBY’s first honorary roadie-slash-groupie during SXSW, attending all three of the group’s performance and fulfilling the most important task of handing Tom Greenberg a flask. One of jazner‘s oldest and most cherished friends, Greenberg gathered his troops for a special interview that gives a peek inside of BOBBY’s world.
THE ROAD TO Austin was a long one for BOBBY.
With stage legs set after wrapping up their first tour through the East Coast and Midwest opening for the Low Anthem, the six-piece crew packed two station wagons to the brim with equipment and hit the interstate for a 32-hour drive of 2000+ miles from their Montague, Massachusetts home to SXSW.
After 3 gigs, Tom Greenberg, guitarist, singer, and engine of the BOBBY machine, was running on fumes, looking about ready to collapse on the Swan Dive’s stage, until a 77 year old man, whose boundless life experiences and wisdom outnumbered Greenberg’s by 54 years, came up to the artist to personally thank him and let him know that BOBBY’s set put him in heaven.
What better way to describe BOBBY, the elusive group comprised of Greenberg, singer Molly Erin Sarle of Mountain Man, guitarist Paolo Menuez, bassist Julian Labat, drummer Martin Zimmermann, and “the glue” Roby Moulton, whose rich tones, complex polyrhythmic song structures, and mesmerizing melodies leave listeners in a speechless state of ethereal bliss.
BOBBY’s debut album drops June 21st off of Partisan Records. Their current set is comprised of 5 numbers, starting with “Peels”, a Twigz song available here, followed by the single “Sore Spores”, then currently unreleased tracks “Dust Beam” and “Nap Champ”, concluding with their latest single “Groggy”, available for listen above.
The crew rolls deep with tons of effects pedals, various synths and a Rhodes keyboard, giving the set a dreamy feel with undefined edges and a warm phosphorescent glow.
“BOBBY is a schizophrenic being, a swirl of emotions,” Zimmermann tells jazner.
BOBBY utilizes this concept of schizophrenia by challenging traditional forms and song structures with tracks that constantly morph and transform into different but related sonic ideas. The music is multi-dimensional, the personalities are simultaneously disparate yet connected through the collective imaginary of BOBBY, and the emotional spectrum ranges from euphoria to paranoia.
Greenberg is the heart, keeping the music pumping while fleshing out the bodies of the group’s tracks with his rhythm guitar. Greenberg and Amelia Meath, who is also with Mountain Man and currently subbing for Sarle as she continues her studies, mesh up seamlessly, each constructing a beautiful harmonic connection that lasts throughout the set.
Labat’s basslines are simply incredible, carrying the low end with intricate chords that push all the right buttons. Just listen to what Labat throws down in the latter half of “Groggy.” It’s dirty enough to make you brush your teeth and wash your clothes.
Moulton sculpts the tracks with critical textures of percussion and synth.
Menuez’s guitar dots the soundscape with ringing, colorful illustrations.
And Zimmermann weaves it all together with his web of rhythms, wrapping the pieces up to complete the BOBBY enigma.
PART OF THE enigma is rattled by those who have tried to sum up BOBBY’s sound in terms of a style or genre, which has mainly been folk or rock, partly due to the group’s tour with Low Anthem and the connection to Mountain Man.
But BOBBY is multifaceted, “a network of bacteria,” as Zimmermann describes, full of alternative personalities, deeply rooted philosophies, and a musical passion that resides as far from the conventional as one can be without complete immersion into the Twilight Zone.
It’s not as simple as plugging BOBBY into a genre, because “genres exist to make people feel comfortable, giving a preconceived sense of the music before anyone hears it,” Zimmermann muses.
“People listen to things on a superficial level,” Moulton notes, handing off a scrap of a SXSW genre tree poster that just says ‘wizard rock’ to demonstrate his point. “BOBBY begs not to be categorized.”
“There’s no endpoint nor complete BOBBY,” Menuez concludes.
“It just shows how word of mouth works in the music industry,” Greenberg adds. “It’s a giant game of telephone. One blog just recycles information from another. No one has come and asked us,” he adds, until jazner, of course.
DESPITE THE FLEETING origins, blurred definitions, and hazy overtones, jazner can trace an important phase of the BOBBY telephone game to Bennington College in Vermont, where the majority of the group met while pursuing their undergrad degrees.
Bennington allowed Zimmermann to learn under the guidance of Professor Milford Graves, a legendary jazz drummer and percussionist who has a teaching residency at the school.
“Milford Graves is my biggest drum influence,” Zimmermann divulges. “He taught me the power of polyrhythm and multiple feelings. You can think of the rhythms as 4 limbs, 4 different people. There’s a lot of interplay,” he concludes, a theme that comes out in the 12/8 meter of “Nap Champ”.
The power of the 12/8 time signature is its ability to be approached from various angles, whether in triplets, an elongated four beat pattern, or other beat sets, leaving the listener with an extremely layered and finely textured composition that’s diverse, warm and inviting in myriad ways.
Listen to a 12/8 sample from “Dust Beam”, taken at BOBBY’s French Legation Museum set at SXSW here
AMPLIFYING THE NUANCES of Bobby’s multiple personalities are the illustrations of Keith Smith’s text, Bobby, which tells the story of the artist’s imaginary friend.
“It was a serendipitous discovery,” Moulton explains, adding that the group had already established the BOBBY moniker before encountering Bobby, yet gained an important asset of the group’s consciousness after seeing the text.
Smith, a prominent figure in the book art world, is credited as being one of the first digital artists and zine creators, and gladly gave BOBBY permission to use pieces of Bobby for their upcoming album.
“BOBBY was loose in our heads, whereas Bobby communicated what we wanted to do. It gives us something to attach to, something visual,” Greenberg relates.
The graphics are old-school and super pixilated, further mystifying the allure of BOBBY with vague shapes and distorted perspectives.
If you can’t tell by now, jazner is counting down the days till BOBBY’s full length drops. It’s a special project that is very near the heart and only a few months away from becoming an instant classic. Patience is a virtue. Snack on “Groggy” in the meantime.
This entry was posted on March 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm and is filed under On Notice with tags Bennington, Bobby, Groggy, Julian Labat, Keith Smith, Martin Zimmermann, Milford Graves, Molly Erin Sarle, Mountain Man, Paolo Menuez, Partisan Records, Roby Moulton, Tom Greenberg. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.