Los Angeles, California’s Mossbreaker’s deliver their debut LP, Between the Noise and You, which is a heavy and beautiful endeavor, born of pain and loss, that delves into both the raw uniqueness and universality of the human experience. Self-produced and mixed over the course of a year by the alt-rock trio at their home studio in Los Angeles, the album comes in the wake of singer/guitarist, Gabe VanBenschoten’s father’s death. The result is a powerful, haunting record, that offers layers of keen musicianship.
Between the Noise and You opens with “Song for My Father,” a modern-day dirge that sets the tone for the gravity to come. It’s followed by “Dissolve,” a Deftones-esque driving march that conveys VanBenschoten’s feelings of loss, with lines like, “I want to hold your hand / As you disappear.” That moves into the title track — a droning detuned, would-be radio hit layered with eerie guitar leads and driving rhythms. And “Shamer” is yet another heavy-hitter with a formula of minimalist verses flowing into catchy, larger-than-life choruses that’ll dig into listeners’ brains and take up residence there.
With each subsequent track, the band, which is also composed of bassist Kevin Lessley and drummer Jarred Tibbetts, creates a sonic masterpiece that blends energetic ‘90s-influenced rock, melancholy dream pop and shoegaze-soaked post-rock. Overall, it’s raw, yet composed; it’s mournful, but aggressive; it’s meticulous, yet sounds absolutely massive.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Tibbetts to discuss the loss of their first and most ardent supporter, collaborating with Failure’s Ken Andrews and five-time Grammy winner Roget Chahayed, and motivations for creating. This is what he told us.
This album comes in the wake of Gabe’s father passing and the music here is obviously influenced by that loss. Was the process of doing the album one of healing?
Yes, definitely. Gabe’s dad, Dr. Matt, passed about seven or eight months before we began recording the album, and all that time was spent writing and demoing. Gabe really poured everything into this record; emotionally, physically and even monetarily. It’s clearly reflected in the lyrics but Gabe also worked tirelessly on writing and recording. Any free time he had away from teching, Gabe was working on it.
We made it a point to be as meticulous as possible on the record, from the song choice to the performance down to the track ordering, to make Dr. Matt proud. He was probably the biggest fan of the band, way more than a regular parent. He was unbelievably supportive and it was a huge blow to all of us when he passed.
What is it about loss that makes it such a strong artistic catalyst?
I think art is the ultimate vehicle to express emotion, whether its happiness, anger, sadness, whatever. And loss, especially the loss of a parent, is one of the hardest things to bear. One day a person is there in your life, and the next they’re gone and a void gets left behind. I think an artist’s only way to process everything is to immerse his/herself in those feelings and create something to fill that void. You have to work through the pain to get over it, and if you don’t it just festers and manifests in much more sinister, devastating ways later on.
That said, what are some fond memories of Gabe’s dad?
Dr. Matt came to almost every show we played, and after every show he would have some amazing, over-the-top compliment and tell us that this show was better than the last. It always meant a lot to me because I have no formal training, never took drum lessons, but I had this amazing musician with decades of experience constantly complimenting and pumping me up.
I have two memories that stick out. The first is the very first day Gabe and I jammed as a two-piece. We were playing in the living room, jamming this syncopated, odd time signature thing and Dr. Matt burst into the living room with this look on his face like we just invented music. He was so blown away and tripping out on it. He just kept saying, “You guys are on fire!”
The second was when Dr. Matt joined us on stage early on in the band’s career. He was an amazing jazz bass player, so we asked him to play a song with us on his electric stand up. He played the song with us and then did this mind-altering solo with a bow. It was crazy. It was a nothing show other than that, but his playing with us cemented it as a milestone for me.
Why self-produce and mix the record? Did that afford you guys some freedom in terms of time? Or was there a more deliberate vision at work here?
Gabe is a recording engineer. He began working as an assistant engineer almost immediately following his education. It’s his passion and he obviously knows what he’s doing. So doing it ourselves was kind of a no-brainer. It definitely allowed us to work at our own pace and explore a lot more creatively.
But, I think the biggest reason was Gabe’s vision. He hears things in his head a certain way and he wants to make sure it comes out as close to that as possible. Big, slick and clean.
The album has a distinct ’90s post-rock and shoegaze vibe. What is it about those sounds and influences that stick with Mossbreaker?
To me, it’s just the next logical progression, musically speaking, after punk and hardcore. I was a kid in the ‘90s and the bands getting played on the radio were Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, etc. That sound always stayed with me: big heavy guitars, catchy-yet-grating vocals and beautiful melodies. Even when I got into punk in junior high and started playing drums, everything I heard just seeped in and weaved itself into my musical DNA.
Ken Andrews [Failure] does guest vocals on “Between the Noise and You” how did that come about? Has he provided any feedback on the album as a whole?
Yeah. Ken doing vocals was kind of unbelievable. I don’t think he’s ever done guest vocals for any other bands, aside from his own projects. Gabe actually became Ken’s assistant when he got out of recording school. He worked with him for a few years and started teching for Failure when they reunited, so they spent a lot of time together.
We started writing material for this record and Gabe just asked Ken if he would get involved in some way. He originally wanted to play guitar on a song, but he has such a distinct recognizable voice so it made sense for him to lend it to that song.
Ken is into the record. He’s the type of guy that only does something if he actually backs it.
Grammy nominated Roget Chahayed is also a contributor here. How did that collaboration surface?
Roget and Gabe have been good friends since high school. I met Roget through my girlfriend about six years ago. He was this virtuoso pianist that could just shred anything. He used to give lessons and play little jazz quartet gigs, and just make beats on the side. Now he’s a five-time platinum hip-hop producer. It’s a trip.
Will you be touring in support of the record?
Yeah we’re putting together a West Coast tour for early September and an East Coast and midwest after that.
Do you have lofty goals for Mossbreaker or is it “art for art’s sake”? Would you be making music if there was no one to hear it?
It would be nice to do big tours and make money doing Mossbreaker full time, but we all have jobs and responsibilities that take precedence. I think the goal is to find a happy medium between doing it as a job and doing it for fun. It’s obviously an important creative and emotional outlet for all of us to write and record, but we also love performing and playing live. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t play shows. We’d just hole up in Gabe’s studio and record songs that no one would ever hear. And I’d probably be fine with that too.
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