Seattle supergroup Motopony has had measurable success in the world of arts and culture, but the journey hasn't been a short one, nor has it been easy.
Lead vocalist and band leader Daniel Blue started Motopony 11 years and five record releases ago, and the band has since graced stages from Seattle to Los Angeles to New York City. He and his band have even traveled as far as India, where Blue recalls his most memorable experience.
"We had to carry our gear down and out of this 10-story apartment building, and on the ground floor, there were these on-call drivers that drove these Toyota 4Runner-type cars," he says. "[One of my bandmates] got into one of them, locked all the doors, and started honking the horn. It was around 3 am.
"Then, a truck full of guys in identical khaki outfits in an open-face truck of 12 dudes with sticks came by. The driver made the cut-throat symbol at me and signaled me to 'shhhh.' We just bowed and got him out of the car, and drove away."
Since the beginning, Blue has cycled through 20 to 25 band members, which might lend a window into the mind of the musical ebbs and flows of Motopony.
"Ultimately it was refining my own character. I needed a lot of help initially, then later not so much," Blue says. "A lot of it was me kind of mucking my way through learning how to be a musician."
Motopony's self-titled 2011 release uses sounds like the creaking of a rocking chair, a church pipe organ and tribal-sounding drums to create a sense of grounded serenity. With Blue's pure vocals and straightforward guitar, he speaks to the soul of a person. Welcome You, their 2015 release, has a more full band sound, while holding tight to ambient, heart-engaging circular patterns, adding slightly more edge to the humble simplicity that is their signature style.
Motopony was inspired by a book by David Abram called The Spell of the Sensuous, an introduction to phenomenology, a philosophical exploration of the consciousness.
"[Abram] was trading sleight of hand magic with shaman tribes in South America, thinking that he would write his master's thesis on placebo effect, but he realized the shamans weren't using placebo," Blue explains. "The premise is that all sickness and war comes from being out of balance. If we could enter into a good relationship with things, even man-made things, we could come back into harmony and be the change we want to see in the world."
So Blue decided to start treating his motorcycle like it was alive and called it a pony.
"It changed my experience," he says. "I rode it really differently and I pretended like it was alive, and talked to it and was being in relationship with it. The energy that I put into it, I would get back out of it. Motopony was born out of that."
Since then, the concept has gone through infancy and into the mature stage of being a rounded artistic presentation with the same striving for balance. In more recent performances, soaring guitar riffs and beautiful harmonies come from Timothy Graham. Gabriel Molinaro also lends his voice, and covers a wide span of organ and synth parts. Bassist Carl Germain and drummer Michael Knight lend the driving heartbeat. Blue fronts the band primarily with his hips, but also contributes lead vocals, guitar and whatever fun toys he can get his hands on.
Motopony is Blue's personal outflow of creativity, and he remains the sole songwriter. He creates the song in his head, a sort of mental orchestra. He then communicates his brainchild to his bandmates by singing them their individual parts, and they interpret that vision and apply it to their instruments.
On their upcoming record (which is, as of now, untitled), Motopony has produced something cutting edge and special, and if you listen, you can hear influences of rain, earth and human conversation. Those elements coincide with and are completed by the balance of engaging electric melodies and synth parts that compel you to move. ♦
Motopony's upcoming show at the Bartlett has been cancelled.