"Gone from the scene for several years after their last label
went toes-up, Mistle Thrush took their sweet time getting back into
their groove. The patient have inherited this album." - Splendidezine.com
"Earlier this year, Mistle Thrush's Drunk With You album yielded a mainstream radio heavy rotation single called "Small"; they've been touring throughout the East Coast constantly for the past few months in support, and the roadwork certainly shows. They present themselves as headliners and leaders of the Boston scene from the moment they take the stage until the last guitar chord fades out." - Soundcheck
Get Drunk with Mistle Thrush
''We're thick-headed and stubborn,'' says Mistle Thrush drummer Todd Demma. ''We've stuck it out. About the only [Boston] bands that are still around from when we started are Powerman 5000 and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.''
Here's another revelation: Mistle Thrush, once considered a deadly serious goth band, has lightened up and let a little fun into its life. There are more grooves and dance textures in the new sound - in fact, the group now sounds closer to Garbage, the Sneaker Pimps, and Luscious Jackson than to any goth acts.
''We're all in a different place now,'' says Demma, who started Mistle Thrush with singer Valerie Forgione (also known for her work in the Boston Rock Opera). ''Musically, we want to have fun - not in a blink-182 meathead sort of way, but in a way that makes sense to us.''
The new CD, which comes out on Los Angeles-based Ecstatic Records next month, will be marked by a release party at the Middle East Downstairs on Jan. 18. Opening up are Mistle Thrush friends the Pills, Aaron Perrino (from the Sheila Divine), Butterfield 8, and DJ Andrew Payne.
The new album, which - dare we say - has a radio-friendly sound, starts out with a song, ''Small,'' which not only pokes fun at ego-driven people, but bridges the gap from the old Mistle Thrush to the new. It combines everything from a dance beat to a Smiths-like guitar sound courtesy of the talented Scott Patalano, a force throughout. The album has several radio-ready tracks - including ''Fanfare Spark'' (with Forgione at her ethereal best, singing about a new relationship). But the standout for this listener is ''Birdmouth,'' which Demma likens to ''Massive Attack meets Black Sabbath.''
The album, which has been endorsed by WBCN program director Oedipus (let's hope his station plays it), has a national-sounding production courtesy of Andrew Schneider, a Grammy-nominated engineer for the Blue Man Group who also has produced Boston discs by Cracktorch, Scissorfight, and Milligram. He helped forge Mistle Thrush's new direction by dropping the reverb that once drenched its sound in favor of a less moody, more naked, in-your-face approach.
The basic tracks (bass and drums) were done at Q Division Studios in Somerville, then the guitars and vocals were added in band members' home studios, then the final mix was done at New Alliance Studios in Boston. The CD is Mistle Thrush's first in four years - and the notoriously fussy band is actually happy with it.
''We were displeased, really, with all our other records,'' says Demma.
''They sounded thin and light, and lacked oomph. But this time, we let
the music take its course and we're really glad we did.''
Listening to the throbbing, feedback-driven guitar that opens their latest CD, Drunk With You, one might get the impression that Bostons Mistle Thrush was heavily influenced by 80s mope-rock pioneers the Smiths. But then Valerie Forgiones ethereal, double-tracked voice takes the proceedings in an entirely different, and altogether intriguing, direction. That voice and those unexpected twists are two of the reasons critics have been singing Mistle Thrushs praises, comparing them to everyone from Sonic Youth to Kate Bush to the Doors. And while shes flattered by the comparisons, Forgione refuses to take the credit.
I wish I could say everything we do is preplanned, but it absolutely isnt, she says. For me, music comes from the inside, and it just comes out. I dont have a whole lot to do with it.
The swirling, 3-minute soundscapes that populate Drunk With You began their life in the bands rehearsal space, where Forgione, along with guitarist Scott Patalano, bassist Matthew Klain and drummer Todd Demma, bounce musical ideas off of one another until something sticks.
Its a long process, because we are one of the most democratic bands in the world, Forgione laughs. We have tape after tape of these 15-20 minute jams, and then we go back and listen and say, lets put this part with this part. Its like four cooks trying to make one pot pie.
With a voice that morphs seamlessly from a plaintive warble to a sinister snarl, not to mention a distinctly individual way with a lyric, Forgione serves as the creative and sonic glue that holds Mistle Thrush songs together. But the finished songs retain the musical push-and-pull that are the mark of a real band.
I cant imagine being in a band where someone comes in with a finished song and says okay, heres your part to play, Forgione says. Because then you dont have any individual ownership of that song; it doesnt mean as much to you because someone told you what to do. Thats not what its about for us.
Mistle Thrush came together in the early 90s and released their first 7 single in 1994.
A slew of critically acclaimed eps and compilation cuts followed, with the band releasing Silt, their first full-length release, in 1995. Their sophomore release, 1997s Super Refraction, garnered reams of critical acclaim and numerous award nominations and sent them off on a grueling tour of Spinal Tap proportions, resulting in the departure of two band members. Mistle Thrush took some time off to refuel and regroup before heading into the studio with Grammy-nominated engineer Andrew Schneider to record Drunk With You.
A recent mini-tour in support of the album found the band opening for David Jay (Love and Rockets, Bauhaus) and taking a far more measured and realistic approach to the whole touring and promotion thing.
We did 3 to 4 dates in a row, and that was great because it made sense, Forgione says. We all still have to work jobs, so this way it fits with our schedules. We save up the money we need to get out and do a chunk of shows instead of just going out and putting ourselves through hell and trying to maintain our sanity.
Indeed, as they approach the end of their first decade together, Mistle Thrush has a firm grip on the business and the music.
Weve learned a lot, and were a lot smarter about the way we do things now, Forgione says. If youre honest about the music youre writing, that music will reflect the person that you are and thats your image.