Dan Fishman: Thanks for talking with me today, Josh. How would you describe the sound of Miracles of Modern Science [MOMS] to folks who haven’t heard it?
Josh Hirshfeld: When we started out we called ourselves “orchestral space pop” -- at that point, we were wearing space suits on stage. Then it became “orchestral rock” – which fit better but didn’t quite give the whole picture. Nowadays we just say “chamber pop." In terms of just describing what we'd do, I would say we are trying to make pop music in unexpected ways with an unusual batch of instruments: violin, cello, double-bass, mandolin, drums as well as vocals. Hopefully it’s something that’s catchy and complex, something you could dance to but also listen to closely to pick apart the counterpoint and structural things going on.
When we first got together as a band we were just excited to hear the sounds we could get with this combination of instruments. There are some creative limitations to using classical instruments to make rock music, but it also opens up possibilities. On a violin or a cello there are no frets – it just opens up a whole new world of sounds that you can’t get on guitar or keyboard. We end up writing different sorts of songs than we might write with more traditional instruments.
DF: I definitely hear that in your music. I remember reading an old SPIN Magazine issue that said your band was composed of self-acclaimed “orchestra drop-outs and jazz band rejects.” Can you tell me a bit more about that and about the group’s background?
JH: Well, [laughs] that line is from a slightly older bio of ours that maybe undercuts the skill level I think our players have. I think what that old quote is getting at is that in the orchestras and jazz groups our members played in back in college, there was a certain rigidity. We weren't getting everything that we wanted creatively. Our various members have a lot of traditional training -- Kieran played in orchestras from a young age, for example -- but we formed the band to have the freedom to be able to go a bit crazy with our instruments and songwriting. We're always trying to challenge each other to think beyond what's traditional.
|The band goes by the acronym MOMS.|
JH: Oh man. In terms of just venues in New York: Subculture, Le Poisson Rouge, and Mercury Lounge are at the top of our list. They really seem to care about the bands that come through and make sure they sound good. In terms of specific shows, the first year we played at SXSW we played before Thomas Dolby – the musician who wrote “She Blinded Me With Science” – and that was very cool. He was one of our early inspirations for the band (take a look at our name), and it was an honor to play before him, and have a chance to chat with him backstage. Another amazing experience was opening for Bernhoft, a Norwegian pop singer/one man looping band, for a whole tour: that was just a highlight for our band in general. We got a chance to play the Bowery Ballroom and a bunch of venues that we’d dreamed of playing for a long time, and every night we got to see Bernhoft do his unbelievable looping work.
DF: Here’s one last question: I think of this festival as a little celebration of the greatness of NYC’s music culture. What is your favorite part about being in New York as a musician?
JH: For me it’s just really exciting to have this community of bands all trying to make it together. I’m sure in smaller cities there are still really great music scenes with great bands, but it’s so concentrated here – so many exciting musicians. It’s a great place to be inspired and to challenge ourselves to be better.
Emerging Music Festival
Friday, August 21
5pm - 10pm