Peter Sax, Noam Schatz, and Ben Sterling are Mobius Band. Their new album is called Heaven.
The group started in earnest when they moved together to a small rural town in Western Massachusetts called Shutesbury (pop 1,800). Cradled in the Pioneer Valley and bracketed by college kids and semi-retired alternative rock stars, Mobius Band woodshedded for several years, rarely venturing out of New England until 2004, when Ben and Peter moved to Brooklyn’s quiet Carroll Gardens neighborhood.
There, the group picked up momentum, releasing their debut album, The Loving Sound of Static (Ghostly 2005) and embarking on a non-stop touring regimen, notching over 150 shows, including tours with neighborhood confederates The National and trans-Atlantic friends like Editors and Tom Vek. What at first seems like a mixed bag of associates (noir indie rock; junk-shop electronica) actually provides a rough triangulation of what Mobius Band is about—pop hooks grounded in experimentation, subtle musicianship, and a taste for ruminative lyrics.
Hence we find ourselves in Heaven, a self-directed effort recorded in both studios and homes with some engineering help from band friends Emery Dobyns (Antony and The Johnsons, Battles) and newcomer Eric Spring. It was written and recorded over an extended 19-month span, during which the band’s lives were considerably more taxing than their recording schedule. A father passed away suddenly on the cusp of the group’s first national tour. A longtime girlfriend ran off with an old friend. The stresses of New York life were amplified by the inescapable drama of a life on the road, draining the band emotionally and financially.
“Why do we make the choices we make?” asks Ben, when discussing the circumstances fueling the album. “Don't we know how unbelievably ill-advised most of those choices are? But we make these decisions as if we were helpless to consider any alternatives.”
Heaven revolves around repeating motifs – decoding the secret language of ex-lovers, the betrayals of quote-unquote friends. It’s melodies are more dynamic, its themes more direct. Where their previous album still grappled with post-collegiate anxiety, here there are larger questions of control, bewilderment, and loss. "Darling I can't get the stain out of my head," Ben sings on “Leave the Keys In the Door.” (He and Peter roughly split lead vocal duties throughout.). On “Tie a Tie,” we hear the stop-start refrain "I see people change / I see people stay the same," and are left with the overwhelming impression that day-to-day life with friends and lovers is as precarious and as dangerous as anything we might fret about in the wider world.
Musically, the album pulses, crackles, and hums. Though Mobius Band has always alternated between a desire to make pop songs and an interest in experimental textures, Heaven’s sound is marked by Noam’s new obsession — “circuit bent” keyboards.
Inspired by a chance encounter in Minneapolis, Noam took to deliberately short-circuiting the innards of toy keyboards, turning them into bizarre machines capable of incredibly sophisticated and impossible-to-duplicate sounds. While Peter and Ben crafted Heaven’s songs in the band’s Brooklyn rehearsal space, Noam — the one member of the band who remained in rural Massachussets — spent many months in isolation, alternating between an extensive rewiring and renovation of his old country house, and long hours in the attic—begoggled, soldering gun in hand, tinkering with fifteen flea market-ready Casio keyboards salvaged from yard sales. At a time when anyone with a laptop has a wealth of pre-fab electronic noises at their disposal, Heaven’s sound is a tribute to Noam’s dedicated approach and sui generis sonic research.
How does it all add up? Mobius Band creates songs that seem, at first, like something you’d hear on the radio, but they insinuate themselves in the manner of something more complex. They are circuit bent pop songs.
So, welcome to Heaven. Some believe it's where you go when you die if you’re lucky and good. For others, it’s a refuge available to all. No one's can prove it exists, but we ask that you have faith, believe.