Is the Album Format Dead? Those Mockingbirds Weigh In
An interview with Those Mockingbirds’ frontman, Adam Bird
If you’ve lived in Hudson County for more than a few months, chances are high that you’ve come across the name Those Mockingbirds, as it’s near impossible to not see their name on an upcoming bill in Jersey City, Hoboken or anyplace nearby, really. Over the last few years the band has fast built a reputation of being one of the hardest working crews on the scene, knocking out jam after jam all while playing their asses off to whomever will listen.
Somewhat of an anomaly in our over-genre’d, way-too-specifically-categorized music culture, their music can be described with no adjectives: Those Mockingbirds play Rock music. They’re not an indie band (though they are fiercely independent); they’re not a punk rock band (though they preach a decidedly punk rock ethos); they’re not a garage band (though surely they’ve played in a garage or two). Those Mockingbirds are a rock and roll band who place emphasis on substance over vibe, look or feel. Their songs are catchy and their records sound like those of a band who actually put time and effort into their creation. And like any top notch rock and roll band, a Mockingbirds show can only be described as being a white hot, sweaty mess of rock and roll volume, energy and attitude.
Putting their music aside momentarily, Those Mockingbirds are exactly the kind of band we need more of in the world. Earnest. Hard rocking. Even harder working. Nose to the grindstone, no BS, no posture, rock and rollers. Lucky for us, these cats can write the hell out of a tune.
A lot of people say that rock and roll is dying. A lot of people say that the album as a format is dead. I spoke with Adam Bird, frontman of Those Mockingbirds, who has got something to say about that.
What are you guys working on now? Anything in the pipeline we should know about?
AB: We are slowly but surely putting our debut LP out. We’ve been hitting the road as much as we can as we roll out singles, and accompanying music videos for it. In addition to all that, we’ve got a handful of new songs in the bag already with plans to start demoing for a next record in the next few months.
You’ve recently told me that you guys are beginning to shy away from the album format and focus more on releasing a series of singles. Why so?
AB: It just seems like the direction technology is guiding us. I hate to bring up what feels like a cliche, but this has been very true the last few years — it’s getting harder to crack a person’s attention span. Then tack on to that being a musician trying to get someone’s attention, and the difficulty increases! So instead of handing someone 10 to 12 new songs at once, which you know in your gut are songs you believe in, and have people skip some, not due to quality, but simply due to length of time…it sucks. So we opted this time to try an idea I’ve had for awhile, inspired by the 50s industry model — and inspired by the early days of internet album leaks when often you could only find 3 to 5 tracks on a leaked album and you were dying to hear the rest — to give people smaller bits to take in at a time. We’ve been fortunate that our band has been growing in the 3 or so years we’ve been playing together, but in the big picture were still relatively unknown, and knowing that, we felt this was the smartest way to build anticipation among existing fans, and widen the window of time for us to bring in new fans, prior to the albums release.
Do you think the album is dying?
AB: Not at all. I just think a lot of the tried and true ways an album is looked at, released and listened to, have evolved drastically, especially when it comes to indie bands, and it’s up to us, the current generation of musicians, to try to put some pieces together to establish new working models. The album is a piece of art all on it’s own and I can’t see it going anywhere.
How has technology helped your trade? How has it hindered what you do?
AB: I think it’s been the same for a lot of bands. It’s great for reaching out to people and exposing your music to people who wouldn’t have heard you otherwise. However, on the flipside, those gates are now open to literally anyone, and people are being inundated with more and more music all the time, so they kind of tune stuff out, until something rises above the white noise and grabs their attention.
Did you always know you wanted to be a band dude? When did you start playing music? When did you start creating your own?
AB: When I was a kid, there was a Green Day concert on TV, and my brother and I loved it. To the degree that we would watch it over and over again, miming the show as it went, with hockey sticks in our hands to take the place of the guitars we didn’t have. That planted the seed. Shortly thereafter we each got a real one. I started with bass though, and I wrote my first song at about 10 years old or so. It was called “Leech” and I still remember how the verse went. I had no idea how to play though, so I had this song in my head, and no way to translate it and get it out, so I realized around then that I was a songwriter, and I needed to learn how to play in order to pull the songs out of my head. Shortly thereafter, I switched over to guitar.
Who are you favorite local artists?
AB: The Everymen, The Sound Is Fine, Holy City Zoo, Overlake, Reese Van Riper, Science, Pour The Pirate Sherry, Modern Chemistry, Trophy Scars, Frances Jones and the Saviors, Brick & Mortar, Joe West, Transcharger Metropolis, Bible Fiction. It’s crazy how ripe NJ is right now with great bands. We are lucky as hell to be surrounded by it.
If you could collaborate with three people that you could realistically get on the phone right now, who would they be?
AB: John Agnello. Dez Cadena. Dave Leto.
I’m sure you’ve seen some wild corners of the world thanks to this job. Where has playing music taken you?
AB: We’ve been in some really odd towns. West Warwick, Rhode Island sticks out as one because as soon as we pulled up to the venue, a kid no older than 12 walked up to us, covered in dirt, and tried to sell us the Xbox he was holding under his arm. No games, no controller. Just the Xbox.
Now that Maxwell’s is gone, what do you see happening to the Hudson County music scene?
AB: I have no idea to be honest. Maxwell’s existed long before any of us were old enough to even attend shows, and long before Hoboken became the “nicer” town it is today. So right off the bat, nothing will replace it. I hope someone sees why Maxwell’s worked so well and tries to recreate some of those things. Great sound, great staff, treating the bands like gold, etc. I know those things all sound super basic, but most places can’t claim that they do all three of those things all the time as Maxwell’s could.
How does this area influence what do you do?
AB: Being in the shadow of NYC, kind of gives all of us this drive to compete with our richer, better off, more popular big brother. I would say that’s the most deep-seeded influence.
What do you miss about the “old” Hudson county?
AB: With the exception of Maxwell’s closing not much, I like the direction the county is headed, to be honest. I think it’s felt far more welcoming over the last few years.
Where do you see this area in five years?
AB: Hopefully continuing in the direction it’s headed, sticking to an emphasis on local ideas, shops, music, restaurants, etc.
What brought you here?
What keeps you here?
AB: In some weird way, which I’m going to say even though I am going to sound like a hippie, some cosmic balance has always treated me well here. I don’t believe in that kind of stuff, but something clicks when I’m here. I dunno what to call it.