by | Nov 5, 2012 | Interviews and Features

Tripping Through the Vocoded Forest

GENRE: Vocoder Rock
HOMETOWN: Pittsburgh, PA
ARTISTIC APPROACH: Hyper-processed vocals and hypnotic beats

When a band has been around a decade and is popular enough to nearly triple their goal on Kickstarter, you’d expect there to be some sort of information about them available online. Not Black Moth Super Rainbow. Here’s what’s known: BMSR is written, recorded, and produced by the same man that creates Tobacco; his name is Tom Fec and his latest work, Cobra Juicy, is as great and as weird as anything he’s made yet.

Listening to Cobra Juicy is like tripping through a digital forest. The journey is filled with vibrant colors and surprises. Part of the magic is how alike sounding the instruments are while remaining distinct. A fuzzed-out guitar could as well be a synthesizer or a wild electronic swoop might be a vocoded voice, layers piling onto each other until the colors blend into a living picture. Some of this is due to the Fec’s recording process. His home recording setup is centered around an MPC, which he uses to record and build his songs before transferring them to the computer for the final arrangements. His axiom is finding what fits personally:

“You can’t create something that’s your own by buying what someone else has; you have to buy what’s right for you and learn how to take it outside what it’s meant to do.”

For him, that’s a couple of synthesizers and effects, a vocoder, and one good mic. “You’ve got to find your own jerry-rig.”

His setup creates a distinctive sound that’s instantly recognizable. The vocoder blends his voice in with the surrounding sonic textures, a haze of words and harmony, just abrasive enough to blend with the rough sounds surrounding it. “We need limitations,” he remarks about choosing to keep his setup instead of trying to keep up with newer and better gear. “We show our personality through our limitations.”

Fec works alone, and after the album has been recorded the rest of the band joins him to figure out how they’ll perform his dense compositions with five members and no computers. Their singular sound has gained a cult following over their last two albums, respectively released on scratch-and-sniff vinyl and a hairy CD. Thanks to their successful Kickstarter campaign, BMSR is releasing Cobra Juicy as a rubber mask with a USB stick jammed in the gum.

photo by Seven Fields of Aphelion