To normal bands, when a member announces that he or she is packing their bags and moving to the further-most part of the country, it is the time to start hanging “musician wanted” posters around town; or in a worst case scenario, break up.
But Maserati is not a normal band, and when founding member Steve Scarborough and his new bride Amy Scarborough (formerly Amy Dykes) of Athens’ I Am The World Trade Center announced that the couple was planning on moving to Portland, Oregon, about as polar opposite of Atlanta/Athens, Georgia as you can get while still staying in the United States, the other band members viewed it as a good thing.“I’m actually looking forward to it,” laughs guitarist Matt Cherry.“It might be good for us.”
Already having drummer Jerry Fuchs who resides in Brooklyn, New York, the Athens/Atlanta split based Maserati is used to the few and far between band practices. The band convenes once every 3 or 4 months, holing themselves up in their practice space to write music for days on end.
It is in this fashion, that Maserati is able to craft their venerable collection of songs; a collection of well designed, sonic journeys that wax and wane the spectrum of musical balances. “We’re really interested in good melodies and pop hooks,” says guitarist Coley Dennis.
Cherry chimes in, “not ‘pop’’ Pop makes me think of Of Montreal or something. I think that we sound like psychedelic pop songs, middle-era Pink Floyd or something.”
In six and a half years of existence, Maserati has released 2 EPs, 2000’s out-of-print *37:29:24* and 2003’s The Confines of Heat, and one full length album, 2002’s The Language of Cities. The band relentlessly toured the United States and began to make waves in overseas markets. A memorable and luck-filled show with Japan’s ambient rockers Mono lead to a lucrative label deal with the Asian island’s Matador Records-equivalent: Human Highway. The band also picked up a deal with the Australian start up label Sugar Rush Records during their many travels.
The affects of a mass migration of band members to have a band practice or even a songwriting session have had some positive as well as negative consequences. Cherry says that the rare practices have made him into a better musician, “I feel more focused (as a musician), and writing in spurts seems to work for us.”
However, the three or four times a year songwriting weekends may have some serious consequences: imagine spending hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket or gas money just to have a serious case of writer’s block.
“With Jerry in Brooklyn,” says Cherry. “It has happened a few times. We will get together and work on some things, some of it will work and some of it won’t. If nothing comes out that we like, we just take a break for an hour or whatever. And then we will come back and everything will be ok.
“And if doesn’t we just say ‘fuck it’ and go get some margaritas.”
Despite relocating and relocated band members, Maserati has somehow found the time to write and record their second LP, tentatively titled Inventions for the Outside World. A vast departure from the band’s previous releases, Inventions illustrates the Georgia respected outfit’s finding a more vibrant and artistic quality to their music that pushes the boundaries of indie rock. “We were obsessed with math rock in the beginning,” cites Cherry. “(Inventions) is so far away from that, we took these new influences that we had discovered and put our own spin on it.”
The new influences that Cherry references is another example of how luck seems to be with the members of Maserati, the same way the band found international labels, by being in the right place at the right time. In the summer of 2004, the members of Maserati took a break from the band and parted ways, each member drifting to various parts of the country for a period of a year. When the band reconvened the following summer, each member had discovered the genius of “kraut-rock.”
Kraut Rock was the surprisingly influential movement of Germany’s 1970 economically depressed, post World War II twenty-somethings who pushed the envelope of experimental rock. By taking the psychedelic pace of American 1960’s Haight-Asbury bands and the blossoming dance movement of the UK “Madchester” scene, German bands such as Neu! and Popol Vuh created a spinning atmosphere of repetitive drum loops filtered through an ever-evolving cascade of rising guitars and hooky bass lines. It was the new youth’s movement against the country’s forced split political sides, the East and the West. When bands like Can brought concrete blocks onto the stage and attacked them with sledgehammers, it was a not-so-subtle attack on the Berlin Wall-era politics that would later influence the nihilism of the latter-decade punk movement, but also a deconstruction of the rules of what rock music could and could not do.
“It seems that we all came back with this new appreciation for these German bands,” says Dennis. “I remember hearing Ashra Tempel and knowing that it was going to change me (as a musician). We are wearing our influences on our sleeves.”
When the band reconvened, luck was with them once more. Previous drummer Phil Horan did not return, band members had found Jerry Fuchs to fill in on percussion. “Jerry is by far the best drummer that I have ever played with,” says Cherry. “And I don’t want it to sound like I am saying that (Horan) wasn’t a good drummer, he was a solid rock drummer and that was good for us at the time. But Jerry is the best drummer I have seen. He finds this groove and just repeats it, and I mean that in a good way.”
Fuchs’ ability to find a beat that accentuates the melodies of Maserati is a necessary tool in order for the band to move into a new spectrum of music. As any musician will say, it is the drummer who makes or breaks a band, and Jerry Fuchs’ musicianship is the center and the foundation for what may be Maserati’s greatest triumphs, the new album Inventions for the Outside World. It took the band one year and five visits from the out-of-town members to complete the masterpiece, but the travel expenses were well worth it. The new album twinkles and swirls in an ever-evolving pattern, moving from ambience and into a straight, head bopping rock grooves. It is the same method of German self-deconstruction that Maserati has adopted, a destroying of the old ways and the start of the new; Maserati no longer sounds like your typical Athens indie rock band, but has transcended into a new level of creative elements.
Maserati is not alone in a deconstructive movement, Atlanta has become a hot bed for out-of-the-box noise rock with the likes of Deerhunter, 1,000 Holy Shards, and Good Friday Experiment, all of which Maserati cite as some of their favorite local band; and the venue Eye Drum seems to be the center point of this movement. More of an art gallery than a music club, the room caters to the local painters as well as musicians. The gallery located at 290 Martin Luther King Boulevard has hosted some of Atlanta’s most recent yet legendary showcases. “I have seen some Deerhunter shows in there where there were only ten or twenty people there,” says Cherry. “But some of those shows were great.”
If we all crossed our fingers and wished on every falling star that the second coming of Kraut Rock would turn into a nationwide sensation, and that Atlanta could somehow be the center of this movement, it would be expected that it would be Maserati who would sway the tide; the final pay off of almost seven years of devotion to their trade and tired-less touring that would culminate into guiding the forces of the new movement. Maserati would sit back and watch as their work ethic caught on and, like their German influences, the old world of rock music would succumb to their sonic warfare.
And if doesn’t? Fuck it; we’ll all just go get margaritas.