THANK YOU SCIENTIST: Music With No Pretense

Thank You Scientist

Having been added to the Progressive Nation at Sea cruise along with 14 other bands to the New Millennium stage, New Jersey’s seven-piece progressive rock ensemble New York Scientist keeps growing strongly. After excellent debut Maps of Non-Existent Places that media highlighted as one of the most innovative records in the last few years and appearance on the 2013′s ProgDay festival, the band is definitely one of the bands the progressive rock genre can rely on in the future.

With a recent change in the line-up, the band is to enter the studio this summer and record the sophomore album. Prog Sphere talked with the band’s guitarist Tom Monda.

You’ve been just announced for the Progressive Nation at Sea cruise in February. How does it feel to be invited to share the bill with artists such Jon Anderson, Devin Townsend, Periphery, Transatlantic, Riverside, etc?

It’s an honor and a huge opportunity for us. It seems like 2014 is going to be a big year for the band, Prog Nation, Rosfest, a new record, and some other big stuff in the works. We couldn’t be more excited!

Are you preparing something special for this unique event?

Lip synching and a highly graphic overly sexual dance routine.

You guys are not seasick, are you? [laughs]

Time will tell. It will be a much different show if that is the case. [laughs]

So, what’s the story with the band’s name?

There is none! It just sounds cool. It fits the music I think!

Elaborate on the chemistry you share between each others in the band. Considering that you are a 7-piece band, how does it reflect on writing?

The guys are my best friends, I love them all like brothers. The writing process is pretty involved and can frustrating sometimes, but it’s only because we all care so much about the music and are passionate about getting the tunes to be as good as they can be! It’s great to be in a band with 6 other people who all come up with great ideas. Too many ideas is a problem I’ll take any day!

Maps of Non-Existent PlacesThe debut full-length Maps of Non-Existent Places caught a lot of people by surprise. It’s been described as fresh, inventive and contemporary. Provide insight in the creative process behind it.

7 dudes busting their humps trying to make good honest music. I think that’s the key. People can hear when music is made with no pretense. They realize when you aren’t trying to prove anything or sound like anything other than YOURSELF. I think that’s the key to our process. Not being afraid to sound like ourselves, for better or worse.

The album carries tons of different influences ranging from quite diverse music styles. How do you go about channeling them into songs?

I think that relates to the rambling in the previous question. We don’t think too much about it. We don’t say, “this part needs a funk break, then a latin inspired trumpet solo, etc.” We just try to play what sounds good and excites us.

The album definitely sounds all over the place, yet it’s focused and accessible. Tell me about achieving that balance.

We write everything with the idea of a song in mind. No matter how convoluted we get, in most cases, you can always distill what we are playing down to melody and harmony and still have a clear picture of “the song.” When you break the tunes down, the inner workings aren’t much different from 60s or 70s pop stuff. I’m a big fan of harry nilsson, the beatles, emmitt rhodes, xtc, todd rundgren all the great american song book stuff, old standards etc. I love cleverly placed borrowed chords and turns of harmony. I also love heavy stuff, jazz, and weirdo music. It’s a marriage of all those different things I suppose.

What does the album’s artwork depict?

It’s a map of a place that doesn’t exist. Or something.

You recorded video for My Famed Disappearing Act. Why this piece in particular?

People seemed to go crazy whenever we would perform it live, so it seemed like a natural pick. It’s got a big sing along chorus and it’s rather straight forward as far as our tunes go.

Maps of Non-Existent Places was released after the successful Kickstarter campaign. What is your opinion on this part of technology which enables independent artists to fund their projects?

It puts the power in the hands of the artist and the fans. It cuts out the cooperate suit wearing dingles who look at music as only a miniscule element of a cold and calculated marketing campaign. No offense to suits, or regular folks that wear them.

What is the key of successful crowdfunding campaign in your opinion?

Having fans that believe in your music and want to be a part of making it a reality. Making sure that people understand that it is not a cash grab, or not (in most cases) artists trying to take advantage. It’s simply asking for people to show their support in advance rather than after the release of a record, thus avoiding artists who make very little money being financially enslaved by debt.

Russell Lynch quit the band recently and he has been replaced by Ben Karas. Have you already playedThank You Scientist with Ben? Is he announced as a full-time replacement?

We are all still great friends with Russ and he will always be a part of the family in spirit. Unfortunately he couldn’t play with us anymore due to circumstances beyond his control. We knew about this for a while but didn’t want to worry the fans, so we were quietly auditioning players for a bit. Ben actually went to music school with us and studied with the same teacher as Russ. It’s been a pretty smooth transition. Ben is now a full time member of Thank You Scientist and we are very excited about the future!

In March 2013 it’s been announced that you will be writing for a new album. Do you already have final song structures for the record? What are the new songs like comparing to the material off the Maps of Non-Existent Places album?

We are finishing off the writing now and hope to hit the studio this summer. The new material is a logical progression from “Maps.” The new tunes are very meticulously arranged, even more-so than the previous record. I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve worked on. I hope people dig it!

Tell me about the setup you use in studio and live.

Simple! Tube amps and microphones. Nothing fancy. We are pretty punk rock as far as “prog” bands go!

What are you listening to in the van?

Last tour? Hmmm… let me try to recall… Brad Mehldau, Jaga Jazzist, Doc Watson, Coltrane, Protest the Hero, Dear Hunter, Yes, Michael Jackson, Prince, Fiona Apple, Mahavishnu, EST, Mr Bungle, Elton John, Farquhar, Alan Ferber, Brecker Brothers, Miles, Oingo Boingo tons of stuff!

You’ve been playing The Beatles’ cover of I Am the Walrus. Do you have in plan to extend your setlist with any new covers?

Of course! We’ll through one in every once in a while. We prefer the element of surprise though!

Do you have a mapped-out direction to where your music will further evolve?

We just let it happen, man! We try not to force anything! I think that is the most important thing to realize in music. Just be honest and everything will fall into place!

Thank You Scientist on the web:

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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