Museyroom is a NY based band composed of Jack Donovan (guitar and vocals), Ben Cohen (guitar and keyboard), Sammy Weissberg (bass), and Alex Feldman (drums). Rare Candy met up with longtime friends and musicians Jack and Ben to discuss the idea of “future nostalgia,” life in New York, and their past and future projects.
by Jewel Britton
Rare Candy: Your band’s genre is often described as “future nostalgia”. Can you talk about what that means, and/or how your music combines these two elements?
Jack: It’s a term that our old manager made up. The point of it is that [our] melodies are a bit impressionistic like Debussy or Ravel. There’s this kind of blissful nostalgia to [them], and it’s kind of melancholy music coupled with electronic music. That’s the meaning behind it, but we are very ambiguous about it. I don’t hate it, but I’m not in love with it either. I feel like it can sound pretentious, and that is exactly what we don’t want our band to be.
RC: Is there a term you would use to better describe your music?
Ben: Whenever people ask I say Indie Rock.
Jack: Pop. Our culture is so quick to essentialize everything. Our band really strives to not essentialize ourselves or our sound, so we try to keep switching it up.
RC: Your album Pearly Whites was released last year, and before that you released the songs “Ranges” and “Ballad” as singles. What are your thoughts on the new trend of pre-releasing tracks in the form of singles?
Ben: It’s a big ask of someone in 2017 to listen to your full album, and if you can put out a single that somebody likes, they can listen to your music. Even if they never listen to your complete album, it will expose them to your music in a compact way.
RC: Do you see Pearly Whites as a continuous work? Is there a theme that connects the songs together?
Jack: In general, the lyrics are all connected. I’ll be talking about something and then I’ll relate that to a personal experience. I try to acknowledge the complexity of the individual perception of life. Everything kind of gets muddled together, and things connect in different ways because they all relate back to life in different ways. We also have a couple songs that are more political. They’re not saying any names or anything, but it does relate to how I feel about current issues.
RC: Your first EP had very few lyrics. In contrast, Pearly Whites has more lyrical content. Has the writing process become easier with each album?
Jack: Yeah definitely. As you get older you get smarter, you read more, so you have more sources to pull from.
Ben: It also seems like with this new stuff, [Jack] made a conscious effort to not repeat the same lyrics on the second chorus, so there are more lyrics for that reason. We have been decreasing repetition in the new stuff.
Jack: Continuous songs are a big thing on this new album. Nothing repeats. If you listen to Paul McCartney or Harry Nelson, they do this stuff all the time. It’s important to think about ways to make things new and different, and one way to do that is to not have a chorus. Instead, our songs become a two minute track of different melodies.
Ben: It’s a cool challenge to write a song that never goes backwards, and only forward.
RC: How do you think your music has changed from your first EP to now?
Ben: Well, the first EP is super old now. It was made in 2009, so that feels like forever ago. I think we definitely have a better idea of how to make our music now. I did not know what I was doing at all when we were making the EP. Comparatively, we put a lot more work into Pearly Whites. We were more detailed oriented. Pearly Whites is also a very studio produced album, in the fact that we developed the songs while we were recording it. We had to create song names in the studio because a lot of the songs were just ideas that we flushed out during recording. We were really able to create the sounds as we went, rather than capturing something that [we] had already been playing. So the approaches are very different. The next album that we’ve been working on goes back to the EP approach.
Jack: We can play all of the new songs live, but we only play two songs from Pearly Whites. The studio was an instrument, and we can’t have ten crazy harmonies filling the space when we play outside of the studio. Unless we were to add some addition people on stage, because we would need some additional limbs.
RC: You mentioned a new album, is there a potential release date?
Jack: Probably in the fall, maybe September. We’re in the process of mixing it right now.
Ben: There’s no date but that’s what we’re shooting for.
RC: How do you think the music and “sound” from your new album will compare to Pearly Whites?
Ben: I think Pearly Whites has more electronic elements and repetitive loops. The new stuff is based more in fully flushed out songs that we have played and worked out. It’s a little more rooted in the “60’s Psych Pop” as well. Going back to the idea of “future nostalgia”, it could be considered to be less of the future and more of the nostalgia on the continuum of “future nostalgia”.
Jack: Each song is an art piece individually since we spent more time on them on their own.
RC: The music video for “Ballad” has some really cool digital animation and the visuals seem to fit your music well. When writing, do you ever visualize your music in a conceptual way like that, or is there something else you visualize for your songs?
Jack: Usually I think more about a memory or an image. Like take the song “Three Stones”. It’s a place [where] we all smoked weed in Prospect Park during high school. There was also a street festival on 7th Avenue that would always happen on Father’s Day that was a huge part of growing up in Brooklyn. The whole song is about aspects of growing up in Brooklyn. When I’m writing I think about specific days that I had, [specific] memories, smells, people, people’s faces . . .
Ben: And definitely New York in general.
Jack: New York is a huge influence, especially the people. I write a lot about people, places, and days when writing. I think about a really good day that I had, and then I want to write a song about how good that day was, or how bad it was.
RC: How do you think your experience growing up in Brooklyn and in New York in general has influenced your band? Do you think it was easy to get started here?
Ben: I think for young artists it’s really easy to get started because there are so many shows happening. We had places to play as 15 year olds. But also, since there are so many shows and so many bands it’s difficult to get people to come to your shows.
Jack: It’s a hard request to get people to come to your shows sometimes, especially those in Brooklyn. That’s the thing about all of New York, there’s a lot of it. You have to be pretty good to keep playing. I used to live in New Orleans, and it was very different there. It didn’t have the same kind of caliber. In New York, there’s a higher standard.
RC: Do you notice a difference performing in Brooklyn or Manhattan?
Ben: We were actually just talking about this, since we just played in Manhattan. It depends. Sometimes it’s a big ask of people to take a combination of trains to get to Bushwick or Ridgewood. On the Lower East Side, your friends can come see you and then go out to the bars across the street.
Jack: Not trying to offend anyone! Sometimes, it’s just a bigger ask. In Brooklyn, it’s more like the Wild West. You can really do whatever you want and that’s fun. The scenes are totally different.
See Museyroom next month! 5/18 NYC @ Pianos
You can listen to Pearly Whites on Soundcloud (also available on iTunes and Spotify): https://soundcloud.com/museyroom