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More InformationMosman Alder's debut EP featuring the single 'Raisin Heart.'
Every so often a storyteller captures your imagination. It may be as modest as one profound sentence, a simple alliteration, or perhaps one perfect metaphor. Whatever it is, good storytellers know how to take you to their world and convince you of its existence. Mosman Alder’s debut EP “Burn Bright” does exactly that. Lead singer and lyricist Valdis Valodze takes you through multiple journeys with characters filled with revenge, torment and heartbreak.
So what inspires such dark motifs? Surely a traumatic event or shattering experience must have taken place in order for the band to write about such dejection and doom. “To be honest,” explains Valdis, “It’s all story telling. None of it is about me or my experiences… I found it more interesting to tell stories.”
Lead single ‘Raisin Heart’ is an example of that storytelling, following a crestfallen man who is convinced that his heart has shriveled to nothing, pleading for a replacement. The content is overly macabre, almost so that it could be preposterous. But that is, of course, the point. “When I wrote some of ‘Raisin Heart’ I was in Germany and reading a lot of Kafka, it was super depressing but I found myself enjoying it. Once you’ve pushed yourself past that initial darkness it rolls over into absurdity. I found that interesting.”
Guitarist Jackson Muir and keyboardist Katarzyna Wiktorski agree. “When you write about dark things you’re less afraid of darkness.” says Jackson, who worked with Valdis to complete ‘Raisin Heart’ once he returned to Brisbane. “It’s also a nice juxtaposition,” points out Kat.
It wasn’t only Kafka that gave Valdis a skeletal structure to bounce off. The likes of Neil Gaiman and American short fiction writers Pinckney Benedict and Breece D’J Pancake are all also credited as influences, each of them known for their own dark outlook on life. In fact, ‘Mr Pinckney & The Beast’ – perhaps the track that is the heaviest of the band’s palate – is a direct nod to two of these authors. “The idea came of writing a story about separating reality and mythology, and going into hell essentially, from works by Benedict and Gaiman. I just put pen to paper on the subject and didn’t really think about it.” And a new storyteller with his own unique voice has come to the fore.
Every story has a beginning, and for Mosman Alder, it all began in Far North Queensland. Valdis had grown up in Cairns, along with guitarist Jackson and bassist Liam Haug. Once they had both embarked on the rite-of-passage move to Brisbane they accumulated classical pianist Kat and – from the opposite end of the spectrum – metal drummer Damian Wood. It wasn’t until they started recording demos that they realised just how much they needed strings. “I could already hear violin on the songs, we were talking for a while about really wanting it.” recalls Valdis. “One day I saw a girl walking down Brunswick St Mall with a violin in her hand. I chased her down and asked her to come play on a few tracks for us.”
That girl was Robyn Dawson, who was then a tourist in Australia on a working visa and a whim. The band laugh about her being their ‘resident Scottish fiddler’, “I’m really glad she agreed, I can’t imagine any of our songs without her now.”
Together the violin, piano, drums, bass and Valdis’ distinctive baritone vocals create music that is as moving as it is uplifting; with undertones of foreboding that gives way to a sense of hope. The effect is a triumphant gloom that takes you into a world of loneliness, loss and the occasional demon, through the creation of fantastically absurd worlds.
Whilst the lyrics, storyline and music were written with apparent ease, recording the EP was anything but; “…it was painful!” says Jackson when remembering the prolonged process. “The recording took about 15 days, but it was stretched over six months due to flooding, renovations and rewrites, which was really hard.”
As an unsigned act, Mosman Alder were struck with the usual battle of trying to recording on a budget of nothing. “When we were offered free studio time in exchange for yard work we jumped at it. It meant that we were cutting down trees, weeding, raking leaves and planting trees in-between recording, which was interesting.”
“We still haven’t finished the yard work!” admits Robyn.
They recorded (and gardened) at Airlock Studios in Samford Valley, about 20 km outside of Brisbane CBD. With the production duties shared between local emerging producers Sean Cook and Yanto Browning.
“One of the tracks, ‘The Ice Queen of Silver Screen’ was literally ripped in half in the studio. We had a lot more written for this song but we felt it was much too long. So it was pulled apart and then safety-pinned together again.”
Valdis’ writing method is based off one of his favourite authors, Williams S Boroughs’ technique; he had the propensity to go through books and cut out certain words or pages he liked and piece them into a story. Valdis combines this bowerbird approach on opening track ‘Jasmine’, which is named after the flower his grandmother grew to ward off snakes.
Once satisfied with the writing process, the EP was then put in the very capable hands of Tony Espie (The Avalanches, Mercy Arms) for mixing. The outcome was five tracks of compelling emotion, exquisitely crafted melodies and above all, stories. “Burn Bright” is a brooding grandeur of beautifully heartrending songs. A body of work this mired in fathomless darkness shouldn’t sound so dazzling, but it does.