Interview: Those Mockingbirds

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Those Mockingbirds is a band we have a lot of love for.

When we made the conscious decision to move our journalistic home from the college pizzerias of New Brunswick, N.J. to the city-by-the-sea of Asbury Park, N.J.; Those Mockingbirds, despite their North Jersey roots, were the first band we interviewed. They were our gateway into the rich independent music scene this city fostered.

When we threw our first ever Shipwrecked at the Shore original band showcase at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, Those Mockingbirds was the first band to sign on and perform.

Our love for these guys doesn’t come from the fact they’ve always been cool to us or they performed on our first show. No, the reason we love these guys is because they absolutely kill it every time they perform. With a sound that evokes images the best of the grunge era and an intensity that melts faces, we’ve always had an affinity for the sonic boom that is Those Mockingbirds.

This summer we were privileged enough to listen to a super, super rough version of their brand new full-length album. Hell, we don’t even know if those songs will even make the record, but what we heard made us realize something important…Those Mockingbirds have arrived. This was a band pouring every ounce of their creative souls into the creation of a song. This record is going to be a game changer for this band. It’s a record we’re dying to hear.

Pop-Break caught up with lead singer Adam Bird, bassist Rob Fitzgerald and vocalist/violinist Tory Anne Daines to talk about their soon-to-be-released record, their upcoming performance at The Stone Pony and their plans for future.

Photo Credit: Eric Schnare
Photo Credit: Eric Schnare

Pop-Break: We start with a big, sweeping, grandiose questions first. When we first met Those Mockingbirds on Pop-Break you were on our first ever show at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey back in 2012. How has the band evolved both sonically and personally since that frigid February night nearly two years ago?

Adam Bird: Well we actually debuted a song called “Destroy My Love” that evening, which is going to be on the new record, so we were starting to take the steps towards being the band we are today. We’ve gained a lot of inside jokes between then and now, as well.

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PB: Your full length album is going to be released early next year. Is the anticipation killing you? How bad do you guys want this record out there for people to hear?

AB: I’m dying for it. We felt that we really upped the game for ourselves with this and the people who have heard it thus far have been really excited, so we feel confident that people are gonna dig it.

Rob: Fitzgerald: Yes, we’ve actually died and been resurrected several times so far, so it’d be an understatement to say it’s been killing us. But as much as we want to get it out there we’ve also seen too many bands with albums we thought were insanely good get completely overlooked because the timing wasn’t right and it gets pushed out prematurely. It’s a bunch of back end stuff, but our hope is that by being patient and disciplined it will pay off for us.

PB: When you were writing and recording this new record what bands/artists did you draw inspiration from?

AB: As far as recording, we pulled sonic influence from all over the spectrum, some examples of things we cited for different songs… Pinkerton by Weezer, In Utero by Nirvana, The Shape Of Punk To Come by Refused, Jupiter by Cave In, Danny Elfman’s Batman scores, Jack White and Josh Homme’s guitar tones.

RF: In a lot of ways, each other. When we released our last EP, Fa Sol La, we had only been a band for a few months. In fact, Jon was only in the band for about three or ­four weeks before going into the studio for that one. So while we had practiced the songs and wrote much of it together, we were still feeling each other out. Even “The Difference Between Love + Addiction” single was similar to that, being the first song we wrote together. This isn’t to say we’re not very proud of those recordings, we are, and we feel they really captured a unique moment in time that only happens once for any band. The infant stages, if you will. But for this record we had really learned how to pull off of each others’ influences and personal tastes and style. Whether that be structuring songs to play to somebody’s strengths or even being inspired by somebody else’s part and working outside of your own comfort zone to compliment what they’re doing. And being more in tune with the overall fabric of the band allowed us to focus more on the big picture of writing what is ultimately best for the song.

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PB: You worked with Howard Willing (Smashing Pumpkins, MUTEMATH) and Dean Baltulonis on the new record. What did each of these individuals bring to the album? How did they impact it?

AB: Dean was excellent as a producer. We moved into his place in New Hampshire for a few weeks and just focused solely on the album. Before recording, we rented a cabin up there and just hammered the songs out for pre-production. Dean really got inside the songs and wore them like a skin suit in order to give us the best advice he could. As far as Howard, I am convinced the guy has a magic wand, because every mix he ever sends us sound FAR greater than I could’ve imagined. He added so much power to this record, and I cant thank him enough for his contributions.

RF: Dean said we were “the worst people on earth” so naturally he understands us and we love him for that.

PB: The artwork for your single “How to Rob a Bank” was hand drawn by Bella Agnello, the 7-year-old daughter of John Agnello who’s worked with Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, The Thermals and countless others. Can you tell us the story behind how you 1.) came up with the idea for the cover and 2.) got the daughter of such a famed producer to do this for you?

AB: We have some really excellent artwork that ties into the theme of the LP, and it was done by our good friend Zan Czyzewski, who worked over at Adult Swim. When we decided to release a single first, we realized we didn’t wanna spoil the artwork she had done by putting out just a portion of it early, so we decided to go the other direction with it. Enter John. We have become good friends with him over the last year or so, and discovered that he is an absolutely awesome dad, who is great with his kids. One night, I just asked him if Bella would wanna draw something for us; we decided that we would only tell her the song title and let her go to work. The subtle social commentary of a bank robbing a person in the artwork is all her.

PB: The single for “How to Rob a Bank” dropped last month along with the accompanying music video. In the end, how do you feel these both came out? Artists can be their own worst critics, so I want your honest to God opinion on how you think they turned out.

AB: I am really proud of the track. It was the first song I did vocals for on the new record and it gave me the confidence to really push myself on the rest of the album. As far as the video… I love it as well. However, its actually the second shoot of it. We shot the video once, and the files were actually destroyed due to a power surge problem and we had to re-shoot the entire thing. Ultimately, it allowed us to add a few things we missed the first time around, and it made the video better.

Tory Anne Danes: I’m very happy with the video and the reception, but I regret not covering myself in more dirt on set. I also could have done without the limp from a hurt foot. So not sexy running down a hallway looking like I’ve got one leg in a ditch.

Photo Credit: Maxwell Barna
Photo Credit: Maxwell Barna

RF: I love the video. I can be kind of particular with videos because I see so many through my day job, so going into this I was pretty adamant about creating a video that I would want to watch and would enjoy seeing. We knew we didn’t have a big budget, but fortunately that’s not an issue these days if you have a creative idea and talented person behind the camera. John Komar was that guy. He kept the spirit of the video throughout and made a lot happen with only a few resources. It doesn’t hurt that the kid cop steals the show and basically shames the rest of us. If we didn’t have those two, we never could’ve made this video. It’s not flashy but we feel like it’s clever and it’s fun.

PB: Once the album finally is released to the masses do you guys plan on embarking on a substantial nationwide tour or is there another plan of attack you’re employing to promote the record?

AB: We will be touring yes, and we have a bunch of other ideas up our sleeves…some weird ideas were already beginning to roll out that are a bit under the radar.

PB: Thanksgiving Eve you perform at the annual River City Extension show at The Stone Pony. This show is always filled to capacity and the atmosphere in the venue is electric. For those who may be unfamiliar with the band, what can they expect from a TMB live show?

AB: We are loud, and I talk a lot on stage. Some nights, I can be pretty funny. Other nights I just sound stupid. It’s a mixed bag, you’ll have to be there to find out which way it goes!

TAD: Zazz

PB: In regards to the live performance…what emotions go through you before, during and after a show?

AB: Before a show, I tend to get a bit nervous that something is going to go horribly wrong. During the show, I feel like i am plugged into the very core of electricity itself. Its a really hard thing to describe accurately, but im still feeling those nerves and anxiety at the same time, so I just try to turn all of that energy into a performance. Afterwards, I wanna go right back onstage… every time.

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RF: I’m the kind of person who is more worried about the logistics like stage setup, the length of the set, etc. before going on stage, so I don’t really allow myself much in the way of emotions. Once we’re on the stage playing, it’s just about playing the best we can and putting on a good show. It’s the only way you’re going to ever win over an audience.

PB: What is it that you love the most about performing in Those Mockingbirds and with the people in your band?

TAD: I love being in a group of talented musicians that share the same level of dedication. As much as I hate it while its happening, I also love how nitpicky we all are about making the music the best it can be.

RF: Love is a strong word…

Those Mockingbirds will be performing on Wednesday November 27 at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey with River City Extension and Kevin Devine. Click here for tickets.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

4 COMMENTS

  1. I have seen TM probably close to 20 times. I have watched them evolve into a well oiled rock and roll machine. At every venue, no matter who they’ve played with, they have stolen the show. I have heard the new tracks over and over. The new album is going to launch them into national recognition. Tony C.

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