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Jonathan Visger (of Mason Proper) Interview

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

This past Tuesday marked the release of Mason Proper’s second full length record, Olly Oxen Free. With the album in mind, lead singer Jonathan Visger and Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine recently discussed the refinement of the band’s personal sound, the internet’s influence on the group’s fan base and where Mason Proper might be some five years down the road.

Personally, I find it amusing when someone compares me to someone else – similarities exist in life, but no two things are ever really going to be the same. Reading a few reviews of the new material, the band is compared to a wide range of acts with a wide range of sounds – from Morphine to the Pixies. What has been the most absurd comparison that you can recall being made to the band’s music?

Jonathan Visger: We have a long history of what I consider absurd comparisons. There was a time period where after seeing us live, people would tell us we sounded like “Weezer on crack,” which always frustrated me because I figured it was just because of my thick glasses and brown hair. It seemed like people were defining the sound based on what they were seeing rather than what they were hearing. It is telling that nobody has ever made that comparison when talking about our recordings!

I would also like to mention that somebody once said we sound like John Mayer. Which is insane and hilarious to me. I mean, unless he’s got some noisy sample-laced post punk experiments that they aren’t exactly playing on top 40 radio. Lately the live show has spawned more Dismemberment Plan comparisons, usually from people who adore the Dismemberment Plan, and that’s a more apt comparison I am comfortable with.

Are you ever cautious when writing music for fear that you don’t want to end up sounding too much like anything else?

Jonathan Visger: Oh, absolutely. We’ve got a very developed personal palette of signature tricks at this point, so I don’t think we have to worry about it consciously very much, but if something sets off our pastiche alarm we don’t do it.

My Old Kentucky Blog’s Sirius Blog Radio, Daytrotter and WOXY have all featured in-studio performances by the band, and are all apart of a string of online outlets heaving accolades your way; Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller calling the band something just shy of epic. How has this online support aided the band in expanding its presence nationally and globally?

Jonathan Visger: You can never go wrong with having somebody whose taste a lot of people trust give you their stamp of approval. It’s been an enormous help to us. At this point, it doesn’t really seem there’s much of a difference between national and global when you’re talking about online exposure though… People are going to figure out who’s showcasing the music they want no matter where it’s coming from, and whether or not they can read the descriptions of what they’re downloading.

On the band’s MySpace page an update alludes to “Olly Oxen Free,” the title of the new album, as some sort of mystical beast on the prowl rather than a signal for children to come out of hiding. Do you look at the album as something fierce to be set loose upon an unexpecting listening audience…or does Olly Oxen Free have a meaning to you guys that no one else knows about?

Jonathan Visger: Haha… I recently read an unintentionally funny list about what to do if a bear attacks you (”Don’t imitate it or make bear noises!”). I crossed that with the idea of an album being “released” being kind of like a convict or a wild animal being released. As if it was in captivity… just twisting the meaning of the words a little. As far as whether that post has significance other than that, it was really just that I wanted to remind people that it was coming out and that they should pre-order it, and I wanted to make it fun to read.

I love Olly Oxen Free; it’s everything I hoped our second record would be. Maybe I even think it’s fierce. However, it’s not for me to decide or comment on whether anybody else thinks so. Doesn’t matter anyway. Someone will probably think it sucks, and someone else will probably think it’s fantastic. The fact is that I’m unlikely to encounter the person who thinks it sucks, and I will probably encounter many of the people who think it’s fantastic, since they’ll be the ones to come to shows. So, good times ahead!

A question has been known to come up whenever someone goes into a job interview or review, “where do you see yourself in five years?” Having been a band now for roughly five years, did you ever think you’d be where you are now? Furthermore, where do you see yourself in five years?

Jonathan Visger: I don’t believe we thought we’d be in the exact position we are now, but I don’t really remember what we thought. It’s been a long time since I’ve made any plans further out than a few weeks… I realized at some point it was more important to grow thick skin and just get down to the business of enjoying the moment right now. I have noticed that these days I laugh more easily, and louder, than ever before. That has ramped up over the last two years. I didn’t anticipate that particular change five years ago.

I know we’ll all be making music, and judging from the way things are now, probably together, as Mason Proper. The number of people listening to that music could be great, or could be small. We’ve got a nice way of life, a sense of integrity and purpose as an artistic unit, and a really tight bond as friends. What could possibly go wrong? The answer is: “Many, many things.” But that is absolutely okay.