A Moments Loss
It’s still surprising how structurally conservative rock music sounds these days, given the numerous ways musicians have come up with to create catchy pop songs. You can hear some beautifully unorthodox arrangements—the keyboard infused lullabies of Death Cab For Cutie, say, or, switching genres, the way hip hop copped every hook it could find in world music. But even these have the comfortable feel of a Stephen King novel; they’re well made and occasionally clever but don’t expect them to challenge your expectations.
“We don’t really like to do verse-chorus-verse; we think that’s done,” says Jon Perry, guitarist and vocalist for A Moments Loss.
“People either love us or hate us for that,” adds drummer Jason Baglietto. “They either love that it’s not typical and exactly the same or they hate it because they’re used to the structure.”
Joining Perry and Baglietto are guitarist Steve Lemaire and bassist/vocalist David Millim, who has the unenviable position of taking over after the departure of a previous singer and lyricist.
“The thing that’s weird about it,” explains Millim, “is before I started playing with them, I listened to a CD, and I’m singing to match my vocals to the vocalist before. And then I realized that I can’t. I wouldn’t be able to play his parts as good as him, either. I’m just singing my own way.”
The band’s latest EP, The Forgetting, is an aggressive response to the tired formula of verse-chorus-verse songwriting. The songs tend toward the epic, combining strands of hardcore, emo and the spacey atmospherics of post-punk bands like Sigur Ros and Mogwai. To put it another way, if At The Drive In were into metal instead of The Fall, they might sound a bit like this (especially when you consider what ATDI turned into).
My favorite song, “Red Handed,” with its Big Lebowski reference and frequent tempo changes, highlights the band’s sense of humor. It starts as a sweetly melodic emo number that ends up being fire-bombed by a swift surge of metal in the final third, ending with a guitar and bass duel. The change is so abrupt that I laughed out loud when it was over, and yet it works; it doesn’t feel choppy or forced.
“Lyrically, from my point of view, we went out of our way to not write songs about girls,” says Perry. “For example, the lyrics to ‘Agony and Ecstasy’ were about the movie about Michelangelo. He painted the Sistine Chapel and just laid there on his back and was totally sick and ill, but he was so into getting his vision across he just sat there and painted. Musically, that’s what we want to do. We don’t care if we’re sleeping in a van in a Wal-Mart parking lot. If we’re sick, we’ll still play a show.”
The band says its biggest weakness is its modest songwriting rate. “We can’t write more than one or two songs a year,” says Lemaire.
That may be true, but there are plenty of bands with the same problem who don’t aspire to move beyond the basic slow/fast, loud/quiet, verse-chorus-verse equilibrium occupied by modern rock. So you can’t help but respect a band that does because, as a famous social scientist, Thomas C. Schelling, put it, "An equilibrium is simply a result … the body of a hanged man is in equilibrium when it finally stops swinging, but nobody is going to insist that the man is all right."