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What do you get when you blend syncopated guitar strikes with fast rhythms and throw in sick electro beats and melodies?
Well what you have is the electro-clash sounds of What Model Citizens, a post-punk group, (usually one man), based out of Brooklyn and led by Alex Musto.
What Model Citizens is about to kick off a Northeast tour with a stop at The Rockin' Buffalo Saloon on May 4.
I had the pleasure of asking Alex some questions before his show on Sunday. Their official site has more tour & band info.
Can you tell me the names of the current members and respective instrument of each?
Well actually I pretty much am the band. I play everything on the recordings, guitars, synths, vocals, and programming. I’ll have people from time to time join me to flesh out the live act but for this time in Buffalo it’s me and my trusty (usually anyway) computer to put on a show.
Why did you pick your band name? How did you form? Why did you decide to play the genre or genres you do?
This actually hasn’t always been the band name. Originally I was calling it Spiro Agnew. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one with odd fascinations for disgraced Vice Presidents and there is another band from New Jersey also called Spiro Agnew. I was constantly getting confused with them and it got really frustrating. I decided, when I relocated the project to NY, I’d change the name. I took the new band name from the title of the first album I put out, OH What Model Citizens We Be.
As for forming the band, I started the project when my previous band fell apart. It was nice not to have to rely on other people as had been the case previously. I’ve always been attracted to electronic music and noisy punk music so I figured why not put them together. Thus Spiro Agnew/What Model Citizens was born.
Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process?
I use songwriting as a means of working through whatever anxieties I’m currently fixating on. Not a terribly unique form of inspiration I’m sure but it works. As for my process time was I’d lie on the floor staring at the ceiling with whisky and a pack of cigarettes working out lyrics on an acoustic guitar. These days it’s just the whisky. Usually I’ll get an idea together for a song structure and lyrics, then I’ll head down to my studio to do the real work, program some stuff together, start recording synth and guitar parts, and slowly piece it all together.
Any cool or unique places you have performed? What are some of your favorite venues?
I played this amazing venue called Notsuoh in Houston recently in an abandoned department store from the 30s. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend you check it out. I don’t have any favorite venues in Buffalo. This will be my first time through playing music. We’ll see how this place turns out!
Your website describes your style as a fusion of the noisy jagged guitar of The Gang Of Four with electroclash melodies of The Faint. For those not familiar with those bands, can you elaborate?
Ha, I thought those two descriptors might do the heavy lifting for me! Well the music is sort of noisy dance punk to get more specific. Lots of syncopated guitar strikes, fast rhythms, and electro beats and melodies. It’s dance-y and abrasive at the same time. A high-strung bundle of sound, like me I suppose.
Your last album release was Ohn E Amas. Can you explain how any new/upcoming material will be different?
Well Ohn E Amas is still fairly new but I am working on some even newer material now. I’ve got a couple of songs recorded that perhaps I could release as a single or maybe wait till I get enough together for a full release. I'm heavily into the electronics for Ohn E Amas, lots of arpeggiators and layers of synths. I’m dialing that back this time around. I hate to throw out an overused trope, but the new stuff will be back to the basics… sort of.
Have any recent or older releases from other musicians influenced your work?
I got really into Darkside’s album Psychic over the last few months. Like really into it. I’d like to think it’s going to have some sort of influence on the new stuff but will see. Might have to slow down for that though.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Well I started with one synth a guitar and vocals. It was really bare. Since then I’ve actually learned how to play some of these instruments for one. I’ve also added more to the sound to flesh it out and give it more life.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Well I’d say the biggest challenge we face is being in a band in an industry that’s been totally upended. There’s no clear path anymore. Everyone’s just sort of guessing as to how to make this all work. I’m doing the best I can so here’s hoping. I’ll let you know when I’ve overcome that one.
Who are your idols or greatest musical influences and why?
This project in the beginning was heavily influenced by the Handsome Furs. I saw them a few years back when a friend’s band Railcars opened for them. Railcars were a really intense electronic noise band. I decided to bridge the gap between the two; some pop, some noise. I’d like to think lyrically I’m influenced by Bob Dylan but I’d say even putting my name and his in the same sentence is a bit hubristic. I do tend to write 16 million verses for a song so I got that at least.
Do you think that online presence/social media is important for fans to find you and critics to find your music to write about, and how has social media impacted how you share your music?
Of course. It can be a little overwhelming sometimes because there’s just so much you have to keep up with but it’s critical I think. I had to fully assemble some of these shows for this tour and I was shocked at how many bands made it so hard for others to find them. There were certain bands I was able to find out about but couldn’t find a way to contact them because their web presence was so minimal. I might take it a bit too far, signing up for just about everything, but it’s important to have a few things out there.
Is this your first time in Buffalo, and if so what brought you here? What are your thoughts on the local music scene in general?
This is our first time in playing in Buffalo, though I almost moved there instead of San Francisco for graduate school. The snow kind of scared me though. I’ve heard some good things in general about Buffalo so I thought it’d be a good stop on the way to Canada. Don’t know too much about the scene specifically, though I’m eager to learn!
Being in Buffalo, do you plan on enjoying any chicken wings while you're here?
Sure would love to. Got any suggestions? (Editor: Being in West Seneca, you're not too far from Duff's)
What's next for What Model Citizens?
Well we’re going to do this tour heading up to do Canadian Music Week then we’ll see. Should have some new songs together soon, maybe by the fall. Sky’s the limit I suppose, to throw out another overused idiom.
Any last words? Anything you would like share?
Come shake your butt with me at The Rockin’ Buffalo Saloon! Sunday nights are for dancing now, didn’t you hear?
Check out the video Coming For Me as well as as the single Too Late both off of the latest album Ohn E Amas, and be sure to get to The Rockin' Buffalo Saloon this Sunday night for a musical sound you won't forget!
Coming For Me by What Model Citizens | From Third Album Ohn E Amas
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