Mystery Palace Interview
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music, Twin Cities.
Prior to this Summer’s Midwest tour Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine discussed a number of topics with James Buckley of the local act Mystery Palace. Contrasting the band with his own trio, aptly named the James Buckley Trio, the discussion in this edition of Five Questions drifted towards various subjects ranging from the formation of Mystery Palace to playing with Daniel Johnston.
How does your contribution to Mystery Palace contrast with that of the James Buckley Trio?
James Buckley: In Mystery Palace, we begin the writing process with a focused improve session (recorded), in which the drummer and I are attempting to make sense, and in fact songs, out of the circuit-bent manipulations of Ryan Olcott and his keyboards. Ryan starts it out with a blip-sounding beat, sometimes with a tonal center in mind. The drummer and I then begin playing ideas, trying to create a new song out of the blips and beats. Ryan then takes those recordings, edits them, and adds additional keyboard parts, and finally a vocal melody. That is how we come up with our sound.
The James Buckley Trio is a standard jazz trio. I write all the songs, keeping in mind the playing styles of Bryan (piano), and JT (drums). Like a standard jazz trio, there is a lot of room for improvisation threw out each song, leaving the end sound up to all three players, pretty much every time the song is performed. Keeping this in mind, I try to write music with a certain openness to it, to allow the other members of the band to help create each song how they are hearing it, every time it’s performed.
The time line on Mystery Palace’s web site depicts the addition of yourself and dummer Joey Van Phillips as a departure in sound from what Ryan Olcott was as a solo act. What has been the band’s main focus in direction since you two joined?
James Buckley: When Ryan was only playing solo shows, the music was a very open, improvised idea, that came to song-like resolves, and coasted on groovy, comfortable beats, noisy and droning. Actually, seeing these solo performances inspired me to ask Ryan and Joey to play with me for the first time. I heard a potential group-sound, and I wanted to see how we could develop it. Soon after, we began recording group improve sessions, encouraging Ryan to produce the sessions into through-composed songs, with vocals… The main focus, to be a pop group, using the sounds and instrumentation that brought us together musically.
I spoke briefly to Rob Skoro at the Turf Club one night about Bison Forest playing backup for Daniel Johnston at First Avenue earlier this year and he said that it was a spur of the moment thing and that it was mind blowing. Were you playing with the band that night and what was your take on the whole thing?
James Buckley: I was playing bass with Daniel Johnston at First Ave. that night. Well, we got the call to play, three days before the show, and a real long list of tunes that we needed to learn for the gig. We crammed in two big rehearsals, and a bunch of individual practice to be able to pull it off. Daniel’s manager was real cool, and open to us playing most of the songs that we felt comfortable on. The show went off without a hitch. I felt really great about it. It was a really great opportunity to meet and perform with Daniel Johnston.
There are a lot of really cool experimental electronic acts around the Twin Cities right now including the likes of Mystery Palace, Nobot, Tentacle Boy, Solid Gold and The Estate. As you’re apart of what’s happening here, do you think that these like-acts are building momentum off of one another?
James Buckley: The local electronic-music influenced bands are definitely building off of each other. For me, it goes back to Lateduster, Dosh, Fog, Poor Line Condition, Vertiform, and Tiki Obmar. We used to play at the Dinkytownerfor Crossfaded Thursdays, which was a series organized by James Everest. That venue gave us an opportunity to check out each other’s styles, and how each other were all pulling it off. We even booked improve gigs where we played together in a band, under the name T Collective.
In todays scene, we still feed off of each others creative ideas. Ryan Olcott from Mystery Palace just got finished producing and mixing the new Solid Gold full-length album. A few weeks ago, I laid down some bass for a new Tentacle Boy track. We all love each other’s music, and in form, we try to play shows together as much as we can, in order to acknowledge the common thread that we share. I would also like to add Digitata, Mel Gibson and the Pants, and Lookbook to the list of current local bands influenced by electronic-music.
Looking at the Mystery Palace’s upcoming tour schedule it leads one to believe that with all the “to be announced” dates that the group is taking a relaxed approach to the road. What are you most looking forward when heading out across Michigan, Ohio and beyond?
James Buckley: All we expect to gain from the road is more fans. I believe in Mystery Palace. I think we have a strong sound, supported by even stronger song-writing by Olcott. Yeah, we are relaxed about touring because we hardly have enough time to book the shows, play locally, and continue to write new music. Ultimately, we are here to make awesome music. That has always been our main goal.