We Believe in Ghosts – A Conversation with Mock Orange
Mock Orange – Disguised as Ghosts
Release Date: April 12, 2011
Newburgh, Indiana’s Mock Orange have been creating a unique breed of rock music since their 1998 release Nines and Sixes. Thirteen years later, their sound only continues to grow with their latest release, Disguised as Ghosts. Mock Orange is able to achieve that rare balance of an ever maturing sound without losing any of the infectiousness or ingredients that make them so interesting.
The album opens with the track “Grow Your Soul Away,” a straightforward song swarming with lush, bigsby bending guitars, crucial mandolins, and Ryan Grisham’s (vocals, guitar) warming vocal tones complete with subtle lyrics: “Kicking the can down by the river, sunspots shiver up and down…” It’s an appropriate introduction that sets the mood for the intricately layered, yet accessible songs that Disguised as Ghosts offers. You could say that this is beautiful rock-n-roll . . . and not have to worry about being corrected.
The album’s second track “Silent Motion” is a clever jam that marries a distorted bass with some down home banjo picking. Reminiscent of Transmissions-era Flaming Lips,” My Car” is a fine example of the ever-evolving sounds of Mock Orange. The guitar riffs are quite inventive and ridiculous (in that good way) when the beat drops 42 seconds into the song. “I Can Sing” takes me back to the reason I fell in love with this band 10 years ago. Heath Metzger is by far one of the best drummers in this genre. The tight attack he shares with his band mates is nothing that can be taught or learned . . . it’s a gift.
The award for the most beautiful song of 2011 (so far) goes to “Going Away.” It’s a real award, I swear.
“Stop and Go,” the album’s closing track sounds as if George Harrison and David Bowie collaborated with Mock Orange. The guitar solos and vocal arrangements are something special. “The train is slow, stop and go, disguised as ghosts…invisible.” Yeah, I don’t know what it means either. I just know it’s brilliant.
As a long time fan, I have noticed the evolving sound of Mock Orange. What has influenced the bands ever-changing sound from Nines & Sixes to Disguised As Ghosts?
More than anything else, I would credit the passage of time. Nines and Sixes came out in 1998. That was a long time ago. We are the same people but grown up versions of those people in different stages of our lives.
The use of acoustic guitars is nothing new for Mock Orange. However, I noticed that the collection of songs on Disguised as Ghosts are more acoustic based while introducing mandolins and banjos. Has recording in Nashville been an influence?
Not so much. We are a midwestern band, but when we are in Nashville tracking or mixing, that is really all we are doing. I think a lot of our songs are initially written on the acoustic these days. We were trying to keep the finished versions of the songs as true to the demos of the songs as possible. When the acoustic is working for the song, we leave it in.
I think the banjos and mandolins give interesting textures and can accentuate certain bits of the song in an interesting way as opposed to putting a signal through another pedal.
You have had been considered one of the most underrated bands in the indie rock scene with moderate success in America, but seem to have a loyal following in Japan. What’s up with that?
I’ve read that about us before. I’m not sure if that is something to be proud of or feel frustrated about. We are just doing what we are doing and I certainly hope people find some enjoyment from the albums.
We were lucky enough to befriend a really fantastic Japanese band early on. They are called The Band Apart. They are really successful in Japan and we have been on tour with them over there four or five times. It’s amazing how kind they have been to us and how much it has helped us in Japan. We get to enjoy their crowds and management and label and distribution and it’s all very helpful.
The track “Going Away” is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. It reminds me of the Red House Painters meets Sufjan Stevens, and I feel Ryan’s voice and lyrics have tapped into a unique emotion that is worthy of praise. Does he know how much of a badass he is?
One of Ryan’s better characteristics is how much he does not realize that he is a “badass.” I do feel like, over the last three albums, he has really found his vocal character and it’s amazing watching how easily he lays the tracks down. It didn’t always go so smoothly and I think he is aware of his improvement. I really love his delivery and he sounds comfortable on this recording.
What were a few of your favorite albums from 2010?
That’s hard to answer. Off the top of my head, I’ll say Spoon’s “Transference”, the new Beach House…
I liked that Matthew Dear album a lot and also Washed Out, Blonde Redhead “Penny Sparkle” and the new Superchunk, Deer Hunter’s “Halcyon Digest”. I listen to huge playlists on random a lot. That album “Red Barked Tree” from Wire I just got and it’s really cool.
Who would appear in a dream collaboration with Mock Orange?
Oh man. The Band Apart, one more time I hope.
If you had to give the great unwashed a Beginner’s Guide to Mock Orange, what 5 songs would you include?
“Song in D” “Lila” “Payroll” “Crash and Die” “I Can Sing” “Grow Your Soul Away”. That’s six. I can’t pick five.
I’m dying to hear you play “I Can Sing” live! What does the tour look like to support the album and what’s next for Mock Orange?
It’s in the works!
You can listen to Grow Your Soul Away here. Get rolling on your Beginner’s Guide to Mock Orange. And if you already know all about it, well, enjoy Mr. or Mrs. Fancy Pants.