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Mock Orange | Mind Is Not Brain | interview | alternative | Lollipop
Mind Is Not Brain (Silverthree)
By Tim Den
Interview with Ryan Grisham(guitar/vocals), Joe Asher (guitar/backup vocals), Zach Grace(bass/backup vocals), and Heath Metzger(drums)
At the closing night of their 10-week U.S. tour, the members of Mock Orange writhed uncomfortably under the interrogation light, forced upon them by their old friend, yours truly.
I love these guys, and you should too.
Most people know the story by now, but retell again the disaster that was signing with Dead Droid prior to Silverthree.
Joe: Long story condensed... we recorded Mind Is Not Brain in January '03. It was supposed to be released on Dead Droid a few months later. During the course of recording, George Lucas contacted Dead Droid and said that the label had to either change their name, or get sued cuz Lucas Films owns the copyright to the word "droid." At that point, the owner of Dead Droid disappeared from the face of the planet. He didn't return emails or phone calls for eight months. Our record was done and we couldn't do anything with it. It was fucking ridiculous.
Then lawyers got involved. And after a very long, protracted thing, a deal was worked out where Silverthree was able to get the record for release. Thank God.
Just for the record, how do you feel about your last full-length, The Record Play, which was written and recorded in a rush?
Heath: It had its time and place, but it wasn't that original.
Ryan: It had its moment, we did the tours for it, and now we're just trying to move on.
How many of the old songs did Zach learn upon joining right before Mind Is Not Brain?
Zach: Probably about 10? A few tricks that we can pull out of the hat from time to time.
You didn't learn "All You Have," did you?
(laughs all around)
How did Zach join in the first place?
Zach: I was in a band called The Dustin Change with Ryan and Brandon's (Chapelle, ex-bassist) little brothers. The last tour we went on, we just really lost our asses. We came back broke and hating each other. That was about three weeks before Brandon quit. I was gonna move to San Diego with my girlfriend...
Ryan: He learns shit in like one minute.
Heath: Yeah, we had a show in Detroit the day after he joined. Brandon said "I can't do these shows," and we had always known that he might quit, so we called Zach.
Zach: I learned 15 songs in about three days. I'm a guitar player. I'd never played bass, nor did I own a bass. Playing bass is a lot more manly than playing guitar, so for a while, my hand looked like it got caught in a wood chipper.
It seems your fans are finally accepting the fact that you change styles with every album. In fact, Mind Is Not Brain's departure seems to be embraced by everyone. Alternative Press even gave it a perfect score!
Joe: It's interesting you say that, from the outside looking in, cuz being in the band, I don't see that at all. I get emails from people saying "the new stuff's good... but why don't you play the old stuff?" And I hope this doesn't sound rude, but hands-down, it's like a cross-section of the populace: 20 year-olds and younger are way into the old stuff, and everyone older is into the new stuff. The only thing we really did was introduce melody! All I can say is we worked really, really hard on this record and I hope people like it.
Even back in '98, you guys would noodle blues riffs on the guitar all day long, and I always wondered why you didn't incorporate that stuff into your music. Seems like Mind Is Not Brain finally does...
Ryan: After The Record Play, I was sitting in my room writing stupid songs - like the acoustic silly songs at the end of Mind Is Not Brain - and after doing that for a while, I realized I could sing differently than Nines and Sixes. Instead of screaming everything, I started doing falsetto, and I started listening to a lot of classic rock-type music: Led Zeppelin, Wilco, etc. I realized that there's so much more out there than just Nines and Sixes and The Record Play kind of stuff...
Would you say that your upbringing in Indiana has contributed to your current "country-fried" style?
Heath: Sure, we're from Indiana. We're hicks! And I'll say this: What we were listening to when we wrote those old records was derivative of those albums. For Mind Is Not Brain, the influences were much more vast. We still carry with us the old influences, but...
Joe: When we wrote Mind Is Not Brain, we were sort of in the shitter. I was living with my Mom, sleeping in my little sister's bed, and Ryan was living at his Grandma's. We wrote the whole record in Ryan's Grandma's garage, and it was exciting cuz, at the end of the day when we've written a new song, we'd be like "DAMN, can this be Mock Orange? Man... this is COOL!" We felt like THIS was Mock Orange, and the stuff we did before was NOT. It was only us trying to figure out what Mock Orange really was. I think we know now, but the next CD has got some WEIRD country-fried, chicken picking...
Zach: We grew up around a lot of bluegrass...
Ryan: My family always got together to play guitar, bluegrass. It's part of who we are.
Maybe if you were from California, you'd be like The Beach Boys now.
Ryan: (laughing) Or West Coast punk.
No wait, that's what you started as (sort of).
Ryan: We might've stuck with it!
Joe: (laughing) People out there (CA) still think that shit (Nines and Sixes) is cutting edge, man!
Just to squelch requests and rumors once and for all, when are you going to stop playing anything before First EP?
Ryan: Hopefully starting now! Except for select cities. We have to be a "whole" band and be true to what we're playing right now. When we play the old stuff, we sound like we don't really know what we're doing. And that turns off people who've never seen us before.
Zach: The only time we'll pull out old stuff is when the whole room is shouting for a song. That happens in some cities, believe it or not.
Zach sings a lot live now. Will you be contributing vocally to the new stuff?
Zach: We just toy around at practice to see what we can do. Ryan recorded all the vocals on Mind Is Not Brain, and I didn't even sing until recently. Cuz Joe's got a lot to undertake on some songs...
Joe: Zach's voice compliments Ryan's voice a lot better than mine in a live setting. They've got similar voices, and Zach's got better pitch than I do, so why shouldn't he sing? And it frees me up to play the weird feedback stuff, which I can't play and sing at the same time.
Heath: Notice they took the mic from me a long time ago. (Heath sang lead on "Poster Child" on Nines and Sixes)
Didn't you just play "Poster Child" recently?
Heath: (chuckles) We played it in Japan last time we were there. It was fucking AWESOME. It cracked me up.
Ryan: They go INSANE.
Heath: It's weird, someone told me they heard that song during the Olympic warm-ups. That's just stupid.
(laughs all around)
Joe: Two days ago, I got an email saying that the Notre Dame football team - the Fighting Irish - play "Window Shopping" over the PA when they come running onto the field. YEAH. The Notre Dame fucking football team.
Heath: No way!
(everybody's hysterically laughing)
Joe: There has to be some money in that.
Do you ever see any loot from all the ESPN, Fox Sports - and now Olympics - spots?
Joe: They don't really pay, cuz if you say you want money, they'll be like "Well, then we won't pay you. Guess what? There's a million other bands who'll do it for free." Honestly, they never even asked us if they could use the songs. They just started using them. I mean, that's fine with me... It's just weird when you're watching some soccer game and your song comes on, and you're sitting there thinking "Is this cool? Or is it totally not cool?"
Ryan, your lyrics are getting weirder and weirder, dude. What the hell?
(laughs all around)
Ryan: Sometimes it's just stream-of-consciousness stuff. I sit there and think of a funny line to start the song. Usually it turns into something meaningful. Or something that I can find meaning in.
Joe: Songs about the afterlife. It's about how we're all going to die.
Heath: Not me, man. I have something to live for.
Joe: Heath is married. Fuck it, I'll die whenever. I don't care.