We chat with Mosman Alder
At six members, Brisbane’s Mosman Alder certainly make a lush, ambitious racket, and their fans aren’t the only ones noticing. They’ve already played support to a number of key emerging acts from all over the nation; including Sydney’s Deep Sea Arcade, Brisbane’s Hungry Kids of Hungary and Melbourne’s Big Scary.
They were even asked personally by Australia’s newest diva sensation, Kimbra, to open for her in the band’s hometown of Brisbane. Not only that, but they’ve been pegged for a slot on this year’s Splendour In The Grass.
Not bad for a group that have been together for less than a year.
It may be something in the Queensland water, as Mosman Alder’s six members were able to quickly capitalise on their various musical influences. Their line-up is nothing if not diverse, consisting of a classical pianist, a heavy metal drummer and even a Scottish violinist.
So how did such a mix of musos meet? “We’ve been friends for quite some time and all played in a number of bands,” says singer Valdis Valodze; he of the rich, velvety baritone and penchant for classic literature.
“Originally Jackson and Kat[arzyna Wiktorski, piano/vocals] started talking about a new band,” the vocalist recalls of the band’s origins “Damo [Wood] was a friend of ours and a drummer. We just got together, and regardless of anyone’s musical background we just thought we’d give it a shot. It’s been going good ever since.”
Simple enough, but what about that equally exotic moniker? Mosman is the name of the area the six musicians were located, but Alder? “It’s a kind of wood,” explains Valodze. Righto…
Luckily, their music retains a mystery that defies such simple evocations. A mix of the heady, widescreen sound that larger acts like Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens’ ensembles are given to produce; but also combined with cathartic tones with a darker edge.
It’s all captured in microcosm for “Raisin Heart,” the lead single from their debut EP, Burn Bright. Synchronised guitars and violin play out an upward melodic motif, while chugging bass and drums march in unison; with room for evocative piano lines and textured vocals. Valodze’s rich vocals singing of “blood as black as thickest mud.”
It’s stirring stuff, and considering Brisbane’s cultivation of a number of bands leaning heavily on the button marked ‘jangling guitar with Afrobeat percussion;’ Mosman Alder’s verdant sound sets them apart from the leagues of bands trying to milk the success of Hungry Kids of Hungry, Jinja Safari, The Jungle Giants et al.
“We don’t want to be part of any particular scene, or against one,” offers Valodze, “it’s never bothered us at all… we just focus on what we’re doing and hopefully, people like it,” he adds democratically.
Speaking of democracy, with six members vying for input, does equality every become a difficulty? “Not really” offers Valodze, “No one is completely in charge – you just bring an idea and allow everyone time to think of some kind of creative input… It’s the only way a six-piece band could survive, you have to be very democratic about it.”
For Valodze, it’s this collaboration that defines the band’s sound, “that’s what’s so special. Getting all that input and learning from each other, because everyone has such a diverse musical background.”
The strong friendship between the band was also enriched in a unique deal that saw them putting down their instruments for… gardening tools!?
Mosman Alder were indeed once offered free recording time in exchange for gardening work – more specifically a garden belonging to a former member of Powderfinger, “Yeah… we were thinking of some place to record and Ian [Haug, ex-Powderfinger guitarist] who owns the studio has a fairly big property and needed some help,” explains Valodze, “so we had a deal with him, where in exchange for yard work, we’d get studio time.”
“It was a good bonding experience,” he continues, “everyone in the band getting to plant trees and cut things down, just hang out. Knowing that we were working towards free studio time and saving a lot of money. It was a big deal.”
Literally getting their hands dirty, led to working on what would become their debut EP, Burn Bright; a five-song collection that acts as an introduction to the band’s vivid, diverse sonics developed with the help of a pair of producers. Namely, Sean Cook (formerly of Yves Klein Blue) and Yanto Browning (whose previous work includes Kate Miller-Heidke and The Medics).
Valodze explained the pair’s involvement as a two-part process, “we worked first with Sean and he was really interested in doing a lo-fi feel… whereas Yanto has a very big, lush sound.” The best of both worlds essentially.
“It worked very well together,” agrees Valodze “we didn’t want to lose what Sean had recorded for us, but we wanted to make it bigger because the lo-fi sound didn’t really suit us; which is where Yanto came and helped us out.”
The results contain a dramatic flair, with titles “Mr. Pinckney & The Beast” and “The Ice Queen Of The Silver Screen” hinting at the group’s cinematic aspirations as well as their sonic detail. They’re also songs that Valodze thinks are “fairly old for us now. It’s exciting to share [them] with all these new people who haven’t heard us before.” But Mosman are already looking to the future – with work on new demos (including a recording of live favourite Tokyo 1933) – already well under way.
They certainly don’t rest on their laurels, forgoing the baby steps bands usually take in their earliest days. Though conversely, the Brisbane sextet are rising to the occasion, particularly given their much-coveted spot on the Splendour line-up.
Valodze, an old fan of Smashing Pumpkins, is particularly excited. Could we possibly expect a cheeky tribute at one of their gigs in the near-future? “Nah, I would like to, I don’t know… we’ve actually been talking about doing a cover.” Fair enough.
Given the size of their line-up, deciding on a song they can all agree on must be the tricky part, “that’s the hardest thing,” agrees Valodze. “We were thinking something completely different, like a Deftones cover. Not too sure yet… wait and see.”
A six-piece Deftones cover? If anyone could pull it off, with interest, it’d be Mosman Alder.
Burn Bright is available now through Dew Process, and Mosman Alder begin their East Coast tour this Friday 15th June at Alhambra Lounge in Brisbane, followed by Friday 22nd June appearance at Melbourne’s The Grace Darling and finishing at FBI Social in Sydney on Saturday 23rd June. More details at the band’s Facebook page.