Though many of the Florida's struggling artists lament the difficulty of gaining national traction from the southernmost state, Pompano Beach's Postmarks and its lush, cinematic pop enjoyed quite a bit of success a few years back.
The Postmarks even managed to pique the interest of America's most widely read music periodicals, earning positive reviews in Rolling Stone and Spin. Soon, the group was making cameos on major stages all around the world, including a performance at the 2007 edition of Lollapalooza and an appearance on Yo Gabba Gabba! to sing about balloons.
Christopher Moll was the mastermind behind the Postmarks' sound. And while that band is currently on an indefinite hiatus, he has returned with the Lovers Key.
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It is a project, conducted in collaboration with vocalist Maco Monthervil, that lives comfortably between the sensibilities of London and Detroit circa '65 while still purveying a sound as fresh and new as it is nostalgic.
Moll and company will officially introduce the band's debut full-length effort, Here Today Gone Tomorrow, at Gramps in Wynwood this week. So we here at Crossfade took the time to speak with the songwriter and producer about his new project and the album that we think is one of the best things to come out of South Florida in years.
Crossfade: How did the Lovers Key come to be?
Christopher Moll: When we were going through the last Postmarks tour in Europe, I had a lot of stuff going through my head, and one of the things I was noticing during our sets was what type of songs people were reacting to. They might have been the ones that were a little more on the upbeat or dance-y side. I kind of had these images rolling through my mind of the dance lines that they had on American Bandstand and Soul Train, where the seas parted and the single or couple would've gone down the dance line while the entourage was clapping along on the two and four.
So, it was that. And with the Postmarks, the last album we did, Memoirs at the End of the World, was so orchestral that I felt like I had kind of taken that as far as I could and I guess with every expansion there has to be a contraction. I had in my mind that I wanted to come back to something that was maybe a little more simple and raw.
How did you and Maco meet?
I had started to look around to find a new sparring partner to work with and I had an ad on Craigslist and Maco had answered. His plea to me was like, "Look, we seem to have a lot of the same musical influences going on and I'm usually kind of let down by reaching out to musicians down here and never hearing a reply -- at least write back to me," because I don't think most people would actually take the time to do that.
I did and we got together the next night, just to meet socially. Shortly thereafter, we got together to start writing and "Who's the One You Love" and "Bright Eyes, Black Soul" came out right away!
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How would you describe the band's sound for people that are uninitiated with the Lovers Key, but perhaps are familiar with your previous work?
I had an energy level in mind. I don't see a lot of difference between the energy of '60s bands, like the early Kinks and early Who and say the Sex Pistols and Clash, which is something I tried to bring to the Lovers Key. It's kind of raw, kind of gritty, and there is a lot of transistor organ and hand claps all over it.
I think the theme that runs through most of my music is just trying to write timeless pop songs and trying to write hooks that become ear worms. I like to write things reminiscent of music that you would have heard 30 or 40 years ago. In terms of comparing my prior work to my current, it seems like a stretch on the surface, but I think songs like "Saturday Night" and "Cry My Eyes Out" are not that far removed from the Postmarks. The vocals and energy are obviously very different, but I think from a musical perspective, I'm still playing with a lot of the same colors.
Being that you felt like you had come to a proper closing statement for that chapter of Postmarks, do you feel Here Today Gone Tomorrow is the opening statement you had hoped for with the Lovers Key?
Yeah, I definitely do. I think anytime you start these things up, you have an idea of where it might go, but you have to be loose and malleable enough to kind of have some curveballs thrown at you.
I'll say meeting Maco was a bit of a curveball for me and it pushed it to a much more soulful place than I had originally intended. In my head, I always thought it would have a bit of a Motown feel, maybe a little garage-y, but once he came in and I heard the beauty and purity of his voice, it brought out something unique in my writing and I think we brought out the best in each other. The contrast of Maco's warm vocals against my fuzzy pop songs pointed the way forward for me and I'm definitely very pleased with the end result. It's that contrast, along with solid songwriting that, to me, makes it musically compelling and interesting.
How did you fall into production work? Is it ever weird for to occupy both the world of producer and artist?
It was a necessity, really. Back in the first band I was in years ago, in the '90s, we recorded at a bunch of local studios and this was back in the time period when we still actually recorded on tape and I was just really getting frustrated. The kinds of sounds that I was hearing in my head, I was not able to achieve in the studio. And a lot of it was our technique -- I get that -- but a lot of it was the people that we were working with and their lack of understanding of their gear and what we were trying to achieve.
Like a lot of us, I started out on a four track and then eventually moved to an ADAT and then eventually to some primitive, early digital systems. But I just wrestled it and kind of kept on working at it to achieve the things I heard in my head. So it was really out of necessity.
Sometimes, I think it would be great to get some outside influences in there and get a collaborative relationship going with some other producers, but that's how it happened and I'm happy with my journey. You have to challenge yourself and wear both hats, but I think when you do it with your own material, you have a lot more invested.
Introducing a new project like this with a history such as yours is surely a bit daunting. What do you hope people get from it?
I hope that the takeaway is that the Lovers Key is a strong continuation of my own craft. I hope people that have followed what I do realize the consistency in my songwriting and in my production. It's something that I'm really proud of. This is definitely in a different direction than the Postmarks, but again, it's very complimentary to that whole universe.
Anytime an album comes together after you've been chasing a sound in your head, it's exciting. To have it meet and surpass the musical blueprint I was building is extremely gratifying. Right now, Maco and I are just jazzed to be able to finally share the fruits of our labor with the world.
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Lover's Key. Friday, August 1. Gramps, 176 NW 24th St. Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and admission is free. Ages 21 and up. Call 786-752-6693 or visit grampsbar.com.