Maus Haus

Interviewed by Meghan Logue, Noise Pop 2009

Here's a podcast of our interview with Maus Haus:

Maus Haus at Noise Pop 2009 on SomaFM

Jason: My name is Jason and I sing and I play keyboards.

Josh: Josh and I sing and play keyboards.

Aaron: I'm Aaron and I play bass.

Joe: I'm Joe and I play drums and keyboards.

Tom: I'm Tom and I play the sax and the flute.

Sean: I'm Sean and I'm a multi instrumentalist.

Meghan: What did you play Sean?

Sean: I played mostly keyboards and drums.

Meghan: You guys mentioned keyboards and drums as well as the other basic ones, but I saw a bunch of other...

Sean: Those are our secret instruments.

Meghan: That you would rather not share with me?

Sean: We're not at liberty to talk about those.

Meghan: Oh, ok. That was my next question! Can anybody name off the top of their head every instrument you used to record "Lark Marvels?"

Aaron: No. It'd take ten minutes just to name two...

Josh: There are a lot of synths that aren't on stage with us.

Sean: There's a rain stick on there, isn't there?

Jason: I don't think there's a rain stick.

Joe: Autoharp, did we use autoharp?

Sean: There's an autoharp or two, yeah. We sampled an autoharp.

Jason: We sampled Josh's autoharp.

Josh: There's a soprano sax that's not used and a recorder that was not used...

Sean: There's a lot of that. It was basically whatever happened to be sitting in whoevers' room.

Aaron: There's some guitar. There's a vibraphone. There's a little bit of acoustic guitar.

Josh: Generally we end up using something when... There's this old Yamaha keyboard I had from when I was in high school that I brought over to Jason's house just so he'd have something to work on ideas and it ended up being one of our primary instruments. Y'know, it was in his room.

Meghan: Where did you guys record the album?

Jason: Actually a lot of the basic tracks for a lot of things were done in this basement apartment.

Josh: It was more like a commercial space. I rented a room in this commercial space and we did some of the bass tracks for a lot of that there. We had the Rhodes and we had the drums there and we just did some...

Joe: ...Mushrooms.

[laughter]

Maus Haus at Noise Pop 2009 on SomaFM

Josh: ...And the next month they made us leave because they were repurposing the space so who knows what could have been if we had gotten to stay there.

Jason: It actually sounded pretty good there.

Josh: Because we got kicked out of there we ended up taking what we did and going into the bedroom and that sort of created the sound, I guess.

Meghan: Do you guys all have day jobs where you save up money for fancy recording equipment?

Jason: We have no fancy recording equipment. I generally use a P.C. Day jobs are here and there. Some of these guys have real jobs but not always.

Meghan: You guys have a pretty distinctive sound. For our listeners, could you describe it to me?

Sean: Sounds like music.

Meghan: In a less vague way.

Sean: Sounds like the future of music.

[laughter]

Josh: I think we've said that before.

Jason: We should just stick with that, why not?

Aaron: Sounds like an interstellar ping pong match.

Tom: Sounds like a soda commercial from the year 2012.

Josh: Brian Eno covering the "Lion King" soundtrack.

Meghan: That's a winner. I have one track in particular that I'm fond of. Can you guys tell me about "We Use Technology But It Let Us Down?"

Joe: That was something that came originally from one of those basement apartment sessions that I was telling you about. It was just basically that bass riff that Jason came up with that Josh was playing some drums on it.

Jason: Which is funny, because I don't play bass and he doesn't play drums!

Joe: And then I played that little synth when they were doing something else on top of it.

Josh: Yeah, Joe came up with the "Ee ee ee ee."

Joe: And I ended up hating it but they really liked it.

Josh: It's flawed too, it's not even played correctly.

Joe: That's another thing. A lot of the stuff, if you listen closely, is totally weird and played wrong.

Jason: But what's funny is that we took that and the second half of the song has parts that Aaron came up with and a chord progression that Joe wrote and Tombo laid down a killer sax solo that I totally destroyed with distortion.

Sean: It's actually a soprano sax but it sounds like a bari sax.

Jason: I pitch shifted it a couple octaves lower.

Josh: One and a half.

Jason: One and a half, maybe. Who knows? He'd actually played it for a different song and I took that chunk and I took it out a song that there wasn't any room for in this other song, but it was in the same key as "Technology," so I actually grabbed it and put it...is this too much? Is this like telling you how sausages are made? But Josh is the one, the author of the line, the classic line, "We use technology but technology let us down."

Josh: I think Joe and I were talking...

Joe: We were sitting on your porch.

Josh: Sitting on the porch, talking about how things tend to mess up.

Joe: It was about their Tonka truck they shared when they were kids.

Aaron: Yeah, we both had a Tonka truck and it broke and we both blamed each other but then we blamed technology.

Josh: The original line was "We put our faith in technology but technology let us down," but that was harder to sing. I had this idea for a melody, so it had to be, "We used technology."

Meghan: So do you write most of the lyrics?

Josh: No, he does, actually. But I come up with a lot of the melodies.

Meghan: What are some of your inspirations?

Josh: Jason is a good editor, coach, he'll send me an emotion to paint with words just to see things in my head and then trying to articulate them with words.

Jason: Josh is a painter, yes. Basically, Josh knows how to crank out tons of ideas. "Do something like this," and he'll come back with three pages. Then we can go through it and work something out for the song. There's already the feeling if we know what the songs about, so then it works in an edited fashion. We try to go the core of that perfect idea.

Meghan: How long have you guys been together in this particular formation?

Tom: We're not in a relationship. This is San Francisco but...

Josh: We played our first show...

Jason: It was about a year ago. February 7th. I meant to do something for our anniversary but I didn't. Before that, it sort of slowly came together through Craigslist occasionally not know if it was going to be a real thing or not. At some point we decided we had enough to put out our little sampler disc.

Josh: Yeah, we put the demo out and got a good reaction from that and decided...

Jason: Yeah, KALX actually played our demo before we had our first show.

Meghan: That's nice of them.

Jason: Yeah, it made things kind of exciting. We might have actually charted on KALX. But the funny thing is that they were on the radio before we'd actually played those songs in a room together live. That's the weirdest thing.

Aaron: It wasn't long before the first show that we were like, "Okay, how are we actually going to play this?"

Jason: Yeah, these are studio songs. That's the thing that I think we forget and then when we go back, when we try to play we're like, "This is so hard," because it isn't real, you know?

Meghan: You guys are relatively young, then, as a group. You're at a year and a half, two years, ish?

Joe: Yeah, because the beginning is all kind of foggy. We were all busy doing other things...

Meghan: All busy writing in your diary.

Josh: I wrote in my diary.

Jason: And these guys got on relatively short before we played our first show.

Meghan: You mentioned that KALX was playing you guys before you had officially all played together in a room. You guys are kind of the indie college radio darlings. What do you make of that?

Tom: Only in Canada!

Jason: We only hit number 46 on the charts, which I don't know...

Meghan: That's still good for a band as young as you guys.

Tom: That's not darling status, though.

Joe: I think darling is officially 39.

Jason: Maybe locally...

Meghan: I'm done. Do you guys have any parting shots for your listeners?

Jason: People of the world, we love you.

Tom: Yeah. I'm happy to be your darling.

Photos of Maus Haus at Noise Pop by Maris Kaplan, used with permission.

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