Speak Into My Good Eye

Interview: Adam Bird (Those Mockingbirds) Discusses A New Album, Danny Elfman & Proper Musical Parenting

Chris Rotolo January 28, 2013 Features, Interviews 1 Comment

Those Mockingbirds @ The Wonder Bar ’12 (Photo: Chris Rotolo)

While the wheels of my mind spin in an attempt to generate a lead to this feature, the obvious point of attack is to ask yourself why? Why is it necessary to paint this blank canvas with a portrait of Those Mockingbirds? And then it came, like a smooth left handed-stroke to a hanging curve ball…Those Mockingbirds call to mind the great Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly.

Is Adam Bird a two-time MVP award winner? No.

Does Tory Anne Daines have nine gold gloves on her mantle? Not that I’m aware of.

However, the similarities between the Montclair, NJ-based outfit and the former Yankees Hit Man can be seen if you’re willing to look.

Much like Those Mockingbirds, Mattingly was entrenched at the end of two spectrums. While the slick fielding first baseman was a model ballplayer and captain to his team, he defied management and George Steinbrenner’s ban on facial fair by sporting an elegantly disheveled mustache throughout his tenure in the Bronx. Those Mockingbirds too are a conflicting entanglement of poetic beauty that’s drawn comparisons to Arcade Fire as well as thrashing, angst-riddled, collective of rebellious emotions akin to Nirvana.

Those Mockingbirds also possess a love of creation and performance that allows the genre hopping Rock outfit to deliver the goods to a half empty room as well as a packed venue with a belief that its better to play to 20 people who really care than it is to play for thousands who aren’t why they’re there. This same quality was shared by Donnie Baseball, who, for much of the ’80s and early ’90s performed at an All Star caliber level (six times to be exact) while being part of team that seldom packed Yankee Stadium.

Finally, Those Mockingbirds carry themselves properly, practicing a motto they, and Donald Arthur Mattingly, hold dear: Keep quiet and let others do the talking. Venue quaking performances on rainy Asbury evenings to gritty basement shows in New Brunswick to loft parties in Brooklyn, Those Mockingbirds’ transcendent sound of uproarious guitar salvos, subdued string accompaniment, and thunderous percussion is able to blur genre lines and connect with listeners of varied tastes…and the word is spreading.

That’s why this group is worth talking about. That’s why it’s important. Because Those Mockingbirds sit one record away from breaking out, and that release could be on its way.

“This record takes things in another direction. We’ve added a bunch of different styles to our arsenal,” explained Those Mockingbirds frontman Adam Bird to some surprise, as the band’s vast catalogue of genre-hopping offerings leave few soundscapes uninvestigated.

“As a songwriter I end up as a fan of a lot of different music and musicians, and that comes through on this album. It gets boring to do the same thing, so with this one we’re pushing in a bunch of different directions.”

But where? Where is there left to push? The Moon? Christmastown with Jack Skellington? Well, in a way, yes.

“As weird as it sounds, we have a song that’s inspired by Danny Elfman compositions as well some rocking tunes, but even on those we’ve explored places we’ve never gone. There’s even going to be some Thin Lizzy-styled dueling guitars on one track.”

“There’s another song, called “Ballad From Hell” and it sounds like a Johnny Cash song played by Murder By Death. This record is the pushing of boundaries with all the instruments we incorporate, using all the colors we have. That’s my artistic way of describing it. A more cliché way of doing it is saying we made the riffs and hooks bigger. The popiness is more poppy. Every element we incorporate we’ve taken further.”

According to Bird this venture into the ultra accessible is less a cognizant effort but more a product of the songsmith’s surroundings.

“We’re not consciously doing this to become more accessible. I think I’ve always been a fan of catchy music and I dipped my toe into those waters with “Don’t Stray” from Fa Sol La (2011). We did a good job with that song and during a year run of promoting that record, the song was a joy to play every night. I want to feel more of that.”

And achieving that level of ecstasy isn’t without a painstakingly complex writing process.

“We’re really brutal on ourselves in practice. If something doesn’t kick ass we toss it out. We try songs in so many ways. We have another song named “Salt” that has 15 different versions, and that’s what we did to every song on the album. We tried it out to see which version we liked the best. I would never have done that by myself. The band has been way more involved with the songwriting process as time has gone on. I respect their opinions and talents and more input from the rest of the band is definitely the direction Those Mockingbirds is headed.”

“We have one song named “How To Rob A Bank,” said Bird in closing. We’ve played it live a bunch because it’s a really fun Rock song and it evolved into a place where I would do an Elvis impression throughout the vocals. We’re trying crazy different things on this record, not just to be weird or different, but because it’s about being open to whatever our songs can be. Basically we’re good parents. We’re allowing them to grow and be what they want.”

Those Mockingbirds: Proud parents and burgeoning Rock stars influenced by Danny Elfman, Johnny Cash, and Thin Lizzy. Look out for the band’s new record which is slated to drop in the first quarter of 2013.

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About The Author

Chris graduated from The College Of New Jersey in May of 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in both Journalism/Professional Writing and Communication Studies. He's held down a position in the Asbury Park Press’ Sports Department since September of 2010 and is a contributor to the outlet’s Arts & Entertainment section as well as Consequence of Sound (http://consequenceofsound.net).