Modey Lemon | The Official Modey Lemon Site - History III
March 2006 - Phil self-releases Phil Boyd and the Hidden Twin album
Spring 2006 - Starting work on new album
Spring and Summer 2006 - Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh, miscellaneous regional one-off shows
Summer and Fall 2006 - Recording for and appearing in Mysteries of Pittsburgh movie
February 2007 - Final recording session at Brass Factory studios
May 2007 - Paul releases Shaving the Angel with Midnite Snake on Birdman Records
July 2007 - Phil releases Minister Squid (aka Giant Squid) Battle of Neptune on Birdmanaphone Records September 2007 - Phil releases Hidden Twin Asleep in the Valley LP
March 2008 - Modey Lemon self-releases Birth of Jazz EP, US mini-tour to SXSW
May 2008 - Paul joins !!!
(May 12, 2008) Dusted Magazine - Album Review - Somewhere around Curious City, the Modey Lemon made a shift in direction, smoothing its rackety, blues-drunk grooves into a Krautish, hallucinogenic trip. You could pin it all on Jason Kirker, who joined after Thunder + Lighthing, but the shift is equally evident in Phil Boyd's vocals, no longer abrasive, and mixed substationally lower in the fuzz. And since Boyd has kindly created a muxtape of songs artists that influced Season of Sweets, we can see that it goes deeper than production values. Alongside oddities, like a track from Jesus Christ Superstar, he's included lysergic, drum-happy drone-merchantes like the Boredoms, Oneida,
Apes, and Kraftwerk - not a scruffy blues-rocker in the bunch. About the only thing that hasn't changed on Sweets is Paul Quattrone's ferocious drumming - and that's a good thing, because the Modey Lemon just wouldn't be the Modey Lemon without it.
June - July 2008 - US Tour
Quattrone is one of three or four really disticntive, noticeable drummers in rock and roll right now. At SWSW, someone behind me murmered, "He's like Bonham," in a break between songs, and yes, he hits as hard and as heavy as the Zeppelin drummer. Still there's an element of chaos, of rickety, boxy, falling-down-the-stairs abandon that distinguishes him from all the classic rock guys (except maybe Keith Moon). You watch him (or listen) because it seems like he's going to have to fall off the stool at some point, as fast as he's going. But he doesn't.
What's interesting is how the Modey Lemon incorporates this brutal, chaotic element into set of songs that are, on balance, fairly tuneful. In opener "The Bear Comes Back Down the Mtn." the drums give guitar-clanging riffery an almost ritual heft, pounding like a procession of soldiers under the song's slow-churning mysticism. "It Made You Dumb," the album's most immediately accessible cut, submerges 16th notes and slashing cymbals under pop keyboards and vocals. It's a lot like Oneida ins spots - placid and dreamy on top, explosively rhythmic and aggressive underneath
There are two extended jams on Season Sweets, which enable the band to stretch out its vicious, 1960s-psyche boogie to epic length. "Ice Fields" follows an octave-jumping blues riff over extended improvisatory intervals. The vocals subside after a couple of minutes, and a long duel between guitar and moog ensues, with Boyd throwing down and Kirker answering. "Live Like Kids" is vaster; its notes blossom, waver and disapper like ghost images without really establishing a melody. Yet, even the shorter songs have a zen element to them, finding melody and calmness in the middle of frantic rhythms and distorted discord.
All of which is to say, these are real, well-constructed songs, wrapped in undulating waves of psychedelic turmoil. Season of Sweets rocks as hard, but never aimlessly. The devil, and its horns, is in the details.
(June 4-10, 2008) Time Out New York - Season of Sweets - Album Review - Not unlike Akron, Ohio's the Black Keys, this Pittsburgh trio squeezes all of the grit and grime of its rust-belt surroundings into its noisy garage-punk jams. On Season of Sweets, Modey Lemon's fourth full-length, Phil Boyd's guitars come caked in layers of Foghat-grade fuzz, while Jason Kirker fills in whatever space Boyd leaves avaliable with distorted whines from a battery of vintage keyboards. Yet true to the CDs title, Boyd, Kirker, and drummer Paul Quattrone (a recent addition to Brooklyn's !!!) balance the heavy-metal tonnage with catchy psych-pop tunes; check out "It Made You Dumb," in which Boyd unfurls a triumphant vocal melody over Quattrone's advancing-army gallop.
(June 5, 2008) Pittsburgh City Paper - Modey Lemon Offers Stop-and-Think Moments on Season of Sweets - Things had been quiet on the Modey Lemon front for some time, with the band's touring schedule fairly limited and the members concentrating on outside pursuits. An EP released earlier this year was its only recorded output in the past three years. So the band's new full-length, Season of Sweets, is a not-so-immediate follow-up to 2005's The Curious City. But just as that earlier record did, Sweets represents a fairly significant stylistic change from its predecessor.
While some of the tracks -- "Sacred Place" and "Ice Fields," for example -- have the "acid trip in a haunted wood" feel of The Curious City, others recall the band's earlier efforts, if in an updated fashion. One can imagine "Become a Monk," with its bluesy central riff and irreverent thematic elements, as having appeared at some point earlier in the group's tenure, but not with the patience and narrative structure it exhibits here. Likewise, "Peacock's Eye" brings back the band's old chooglin' sound with some added sonic dissonance and weirdness.
Beyond the melding of elements already present in the group's work, there are moments that feel fresh and new on Sweets: Both "It Made You Dumb" and the epic closing track, "Live Like Kids," have an ethereal pop feel not wholly familiar from the band's earlier albums. These aren't songs that feel out of place, but they create stop-and-think moments.
While it's nearing the 10-year mark as a band, Modey Lemon manages to avoid falling into too comfortable a routine musically. Sweets is a logical progression for the group, and one that proves that, in addition to working on solo projects and non-musical pursuits, Phil Boyd, Jason Kirker and Paul Quattrone have been actively experimenting with new sounds and continue to grow as individual musicians and as a unit.
(June, 25, 2008) LA Weekly - After three uneven, overly silly recordings, Pittsburgh trio the Modey Lemon finally made an album that captures half of what their sweat-drenched, drum-filled, Kraut-meets-chaos live shows let us know they have in them. Fram the barnstorming opener "The Bear Comes Back Down the Mtn" on, it's heavy between bassist Jason Kirker's full-frontal bass melodies and the subtle pummels of Paul Quattrone's kit. Guitarist Phil Boyd brings jagged washes over all in the truest of T. Moore traditions, and this, like his smartly low-mixed and increasingly pop-friendly vocals, is a vast improvement over the winy, faux noise rock present in their 2005 Curious City. The Lemon's current penchant for Oneida-like Teutonic lo-fi precision and drone keys only varies for "Ice Fields", a funk romp pointing to their blues-explosion past. Like most everyhing on this album, it works becasue Quattrone and Kirker have the sound and nerve to do it seriously.
(July/August 2008) Mother Jones - Season of Sweets album review - A spirit of adventure trumps musty revivalism on the fourth album from Pittsburgh’s irrepressible Modey Lemon. In sharp contrast to the pretentious posturing of some psychedelic bands such as the Black Angels, this goofy trio actually seems to have fun. Alternately detached and agitated—and rarely intelligible—singer and guitarist Phil Boyd stuffs tracks such as “The Peacock’s Eye” and “Milk Moustache” with sputtering fuzz-tone licks. Meanwhile, drummer Paul Quattrone imitates a hyperactive toddler, attempting to smash catchy tunes like “It Made You Dumb” to pieces. His virtuosity turns the 10-minute “Live Like Kids” into a dazzling head trip.
(Summer 2008) - Skyscraper Magazine #28 - Modey Lemon: Whipped, Beaten, and Alive - It was *November 2006 (*actually January 2006), in Pittsburgh: football season. The Steelers were in the playoffs and Modey Lemon’s van had just been stolen. Guitarist and singer Phil Boyd remembers the day. “We were watching the Steelers play the Colts in this totally crazy game where [running back Jerome] Bettis fumbled on the goal line,” he says. “It was a really weird mix of emotions because we were happy to be home with our friends, hanging out back in Pittsburgh. It just put a weird twist on everything.” Adding to the stress of being the victims of grand theft auto, the band had just returned from nearly a year on the road in support of their third album, The Curious City. There were two European tours - one of which, on its own, lasted four months - and then a trip across the US. They were broken, beaten, and burned out. Recounting the story of the stolen van, Boyd seems almost indifferent now, as though the and’s taking another hard shot didn’t bother him at all. Later that year the Steelers would win the Super Bowl.
This June, Modey Lemon released Season of Sweets, their fourth full-length album and first since 2005. It is heavy, pounding, chunky psychedelia. Driven by the Keith Moon-esque monster Paul Quattrone on drums, the record’s nine songs are throwback rock with atmospheric updates - blues scales whomping on heavy strings. It is a terrific album and a welcome return after two years of relative inactivity, but the band is perhaps fortunate just to be here. Even before losing their van, the blasting trio of Boyd, Quattrone, and Jason Kicker - who are loud enough to blow the bolts off a Rust Belt steel mill - found themselves under a heavy stone. The future of the group, formed way back in 1999 as a duo of Boyd and Quattrone, seemed unclear - murky at best. Who knew if they’d even need a van? “We weren’t on bad terms with one another by any means, but we were kind of fractured as a band at that point,” says Boyd. “We did really tour for a long time. We were just kind of burned out,” adds bassist and keyboardist Kicker. “Phil almost made it seem it wouldn’t bother him if we never went on tour again.”
One stint in Europe was particularly trying. “None of us had seen our families,” says Kirker. “A lot of people would hate on us for complaining about this, but we were in Europe - mostly England, which is not nearly as cool as [continental] Europe - for, seriously, like four months.” At the time, the trio was signed to Mute Records overseas, a subsidiary of EMI and, for all intents and purposes, a major label. (They have stayed with the independent Birdman label in the US since 2003’s Thunder + Lightning.) Mute were pushing Modey Lemon hard. “When we first started touring, in 2001 and 2002, we were playing with some of those bands from Detroit that ended up blowing up really huge,” says Boyd. “We were those Rust Belt bands that were playing real rock music. The White Stripes came through and The Von Bondies came through.” Boyd and company saw those bands cash in; it was something Mute had hoped to do with Modey Lemon but the band did not share the same agenda. “That stuff contributed to a real general negativity on tour, especially when we spent all that time in Europe,” explains Kicker. “We’d be in England doing a tour, and after the tour we’d have 10 days to kill before the next tour and it’d be like, “You have to meet So and So from A&R’. It got weird.”
The band did what was asked of them, although that breakthrough moment the label sought remained elusive. “We felt like we were really hacking it out for the label and we weren’t really being appreciated for it, and so we coped this kind of attitude where were became real sarcastic and cynical.” says Kicker. “Mostly it was when they would talk to us and sort of complain about sales. They’d be like, ‘So, ahhh, you know, things aren’t going as well as planned… ooooh.’ They had that sort of attitude.” The financial focus made Modey Lemon, for the most part, uncomfortable. While the label cringed, moving 1,500 units in a week was something the band felt good about. Some bands simply aren’t meant for commercial success, no matter the amount of marketing and promotion behind them. “We definitely, definitely, 150-percent held up our end of the bargain,” says Kirker. “We played every single show they put on our plate, we did every single press thing. Some people just expected us to grow exponentially and park these huge places,” he continues. “We were sort of meant to feel like we weren’t cutting it, but we really were working as hard as we possibly could.”
The band and label failed to see eye to eye almost from the get-go. Modey Lemon’s first album for Mute, The Curious City - the record that they toured so heavily to promote - illuminated the differences between the artists and the industry. The label came in with the dough, which was more money that the group ever wanted or needed. Previously, Modey Lemon had done their own recording and mixing. The process was familiar and comfortable, and to them it did not need altering. They recorded in the studio Kirker had built named the Brass Factory. The space was old and vast. Perhaps the quintessential Pittsburgh spot, it was once a working brass foundry. When Kirker moved in, he became the only tenant. It was there that, before becoming a member of Modey Lemon, Kirker recorded Thunder + Lightning, a heavy, raunchy, blues-obsessed crunch. The album proved to be Modey Lemon’s breakthrough of sorts, yielding the single “Predator,” and it was picked up by Mute in the U.K. Although The Curious City was also tracked at the Brass Factory, Mute pushed for outside mixing. “We were mixing in L.A., and the guy we worked with was pretty cool - but we had to stay in a hotel for two weeks,” explains Boyd. “In a lot of ways it was cool because it did take some of the work out of our hands, but in some ways it was like being a little removed from something you’re deeply involved in.”
Although Boyd and Kirker both profess to like the general results of The Curious City, Kirker feels as though there were “too many cooks.” According to the bassist/keyboardists, “the album sort of fights itself. There are times on the album that I think it’s obvious that three or four people wanted to go in completely different directions.” More so than the aesthetic differences, Modey Lemon found distaste for, and pressure from, the financial implications involved in the deal. “Mute was really excepting of what we wanted to do,” says Boyd. “Honestly, they were investing a lot of money in us, and as soon as that starts happening they need to worry about making their investment back. For instance, the mixing we ended up doing on the last album was about half what they wanted to spend. We sort of had to talk them down and say, ‘We can do it here, it’ll be fine.’ They wanted to hire some big-name mixers that were gonna cost thousands of dollars per song and it sounded ridiculous.” Moreover, Kirker describes how drummer Paul Quattrone felt rushed by The Curious City process and held some regrets. Although he says the pressure never directly affected his artistic integrity, the apprehension loomed over Boyd. These were trappings Modey Lemon did not intend to fall into again.
When they returned from grueling tours in late 2005, Modey Lemon took a break. There was nothing else to they could do. “We took three months and did absolutely nothing,” says Kirker. “We didn’t practice.” During the layoff each band member worked on other projects. Phil Boyd began recording acid folk music under the name Phil Boyd and the Hidden Twin, to date releasing two albums. Jason Kirker also focused on a solo effort. Meanwhile, Paul Quattrone played with other bands including Baby Bird, Italian ice, and Midnite Snake, the psych-metal band with whom he has made two records, also for Birdman. (Quattrone has also recently joined !!!.)
Over the course of 2006, Modey Lemon played only a handful of shows - Kirker counts six. One of them, however, held great import - it signaled to the band that there was life yet ahead. About six months after their return, they were asked to play Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Art Festival, headlining the main stage. Playing Three Rivers, Boyd says, “was something we always wanted to do.” The show was outdoors, and “it was a perfect day in the city,” describes Boyd, adding “for us to get out there and play those new songs at a pretty meaningful show, even though it took us longer to actually start recording the album, I think it was one of the turning points.”
Eventually the band hunkered down in the Brass Factory. Rather than beginning work on the next album, however, they began jamming regularly and recording the output. Playing without form and simply for the moment was restorative fro the band. “We would go in a couple of times a week and we wouldn’t worry about anything,” explains Kirker. “We would set up a stereo-microphone in the practice space and hit record and get these really long, sometimes Krautrock-y, really rhythmic, repetitive jams.” The recordings piled up. Kirker estimates that the band captured some 30 hours, which they would then comb over, making note of the most interesting moments. Usually working alone, the guys would chop out and loop pieces of jams, slowly piecing together songs from slices of the bigger whole. “A lot of the new stuff we’re writing is coming about in those ways,” says Boyd, “although there were sources other than just the summer jams.”
The band also began writing and recording music individually. “Paul will have his laptop at his house and go in this garage and mess around with whatever is lying around, whether it’s a sitar or a synthesizer or whatever,”: says Boyd. “He’ll record himself playing percussive stuff or noise or somewhat melodic stuff and just give me the file. I’ll listen to it and find little snippets that can work in loops. I’ll loop them and start writing, and build off those loops.” After the sampled structure is cobbled together digitally, the band often goes back to re-learn and re-record the song live. Boyd and Kirker say that they are not tied to always re-interpreting the songs live for recording, and may well release more experimental, chopped up tracks in the future. Some of these processes have already shown up on a recent EP, The Birth of Jazz, which was self-released in March and actually contains newer material than Season of Sweets.
Early in the writing and recording of Sweets, the Brass Factory building changed hands. The new owner showed little or no desire to work with long-time tenants. He was uncommitted and dismissive. The band knew their time in the space was coming to an end, which directed and inspired the sessions as they began tracking the record. Boyd explains that “[we] recorded this album in the way we did because we knew we were going to lose the Brass Factory, which is where we came together for the first time as a band and where just the three of us were recording together. It was really important for us to go in there as a unit and work on these songs together in that space.” Season of Sweets indeed sounds like the place. It is big and deep and heavy - vast rooms full of monolithic weight. Almost every string rings with sustain as if it were open, and always of a thick gauge, like brass.
After basic tracking wrapped up the band moved out and Kirker spent the summer mixing. In autumn of 2007, EMI, Mute’s parent company, was bought out by a group of investors (they paid $6.2 billion, and, thus far, hav failed to meet their goals). Sweets was mostly finished and the band went to the label to move forward. Their requests were met with silence. After being swung around of a number of months, Modey Lemon found out through “several degrees of separation,” according to Kirker, that they had been dropped. It didn’t seem to disappoint them. “I’m fine with it,” says Kirker. “I’m not bitter, because we really did get a lot of it. We got a lot more than a lot of bands get out of - whatever you want to call it - a major deal. We pretty much got them to rebuild our studio for us, financially.” On top of the studio, they received touring gear and “a pretty big advance.” Birdman Record, who worked with the band in America throughout, stepped in to release Season of Sweets.
After slogging through the endless tours, and the label headaches, Modey Lemon has emerged with a new energy. In a way, they’ve been born again. Quite simply, they’re having fun, enjoying each other and the music. They are without expectations, financial or otherwise, They are even excited to tour, though the stints will be shorter this time around. “Now we definitely don’t need the band,” Kirker says, which makes it easier to enjoy. “There’s nothing surrounding the band that involves an element of extreme urgency. It’s just like, hey, being in this band is awesome.” Moreover, free from outside pressures and having optimized their own process, another large gap between releases seems unlikely. “I’m really excited for the new album,” Kirker says, already dreaming of the follow up to Season of Sweets. “We have a lot of ideas. As soon as we get back from this month in America we’re going to try to record another EP.”
(July 28, 2009) Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Modey Lemon - Season of Sweets Review - 3.5/4 Stars - It's been three years since the last Modey Lemon album - - and five since the band has sounded like this.
On the last full length, "The Curious City," Pittsburgh's fearsome trip dropped acid and channeled Syd Barrett, or soemthing to that efffect. After its release, they forecasted that the next one would be perhaps more melodic, more keyboard heavy.
Forecasts are known to be wrong. Despite the sugary title, "Season of Sweets" might as well come with a severe weather warning, much like 2003s "Thunder + Lightning."
Fresh from pursuing his softer side with a second trippy solo record, Phil Boyd has his guitar set on heavy psych-metal stun, and it's a beautiful thing to behold, whether it's squalling and throbbing like Hendrix on the opening "The Bear Comes Back Down the MTN," dangerously scraping the median strip on "Ice Fields" or gushing in shoegazer style on the 10-minute bang-up finish "Live Like Kids".
Jason Kirker, always the new guy in the trip, works his magic on the Moog synthesizer and keyboards, adding color, tension and sci-fi buzz to songs such as the darkly brooding "Sacred Place."
And then there's the one-man wrecking crew Paul Quattrone, otherwise known as the drummer. Lately, he has been terrorizing the kids with Midnite Snake. Now he's back to driving this engine with manic fury, at least until Led Zeppelin or The Who calls in need of a young replacement.
Boyd tops it all with his dynamically cryptic lyrics and a vocal swagger most rock singers would sell at least part of their soul for.
The Modey Lemon revels in being the kind of outfit you can't easily pin down, and as these nine varying songs demonstrate, the group could easily go off on a garage-punk bender, challenge the metal or stoner-rock scenes or just become the world's most dangerous jam band.
Modey Lemon manages to tamper with expectations by combining it all into one volatile concoction.
Put it on once and it's hard to resist repeat bludgeoning, each revealing a little more of the scattered intensity and brilliance.
(July 29, 2008) High Times Magazine - Concert Review - Modey Lemon at Mercury Lounge NYC - Do you like youre rock bands loud as fuck, and totally relentless? If not, stay far away from Modey Lemon, or at the very least try to stand as far back from the speakers as humanly possible. For the rest of us, set your feet wide apart, so you don't get blown over backwards, and prepare yourself or a non-stop-psychedelic-rock-meets-Sabbath-without-losing-its-soul thrill ride.
September 2008 - UK and European Tour
Pittsburgh's ever ambitious trio took their traveling road show to New York for two dates in the past two nights, opening for !!! at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday followed by an intimate Monday night gig at Mercury Lounge, with the later venue proving just barely large enough to withold the every escalating sonic vibrations of an hour long set that not only never stopped, but accelerated through every turn.
Did we mention they're pretty damn groovy too? Three years after their critically acclaimed breakthrough, The Curious City, Modey Lemon returned to Gotham in support of Season of Sweets, an album incorporating previous shades of garage rock, interstellar space jams and heavy metal infaturation, while deftly blending them all into something so wholly new that you pretty much have to hear it for yourself. And that's just the record. To really experience this band, you've got to have these guys blasting them out admid a swirl of head banging hair and onstage acrobatics
Rest assured that Paul Quattrone beats the drums silly, while Phil Boyd wails on guitar and Jason Kirker adds some seriously messed up synth.
Winter 2008 - 2009 - Working on new songs, Recording at Machine Age Studios
June 2009 - Phil releases Hidden Twin Pools album
August 2009 - Station Square Ampitheatre with Girl Talk, Wiz Khalifa, Grand Buffet, Don Cabellero, Centipede E'est, Donora
August 2009 - US tour with Arctic Monkeys
April 2, 2010 - William Pitt Student Union, University of Pittsburgh - final show
2010 - These Are Not Records release Modey Lemon - Wandering Eye 7"
2014 - House on the Hill and self-titled albums (re)issued on vinyl (Omentum, Mind Cure/A-F Records)