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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Soup Moat Follow Their Own Misunderstood Muse

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Though they’ve developed a small but loyal following over the last four years, Soup Moat, as local bands go, have never really gotten their due. Maybe that’s because they’re so often relegated to the opening slot live, or because their recorded output has heretofore been limited to small-batch CD-Rs or, perhaps, it’s simply that their sound, a sort of avant-garde stoner sludge with surreally silly lyrics, just isn’t for everybody. Regardless, armed with a self-deprecating sense of humor, they’ve carried on following their own peculiar muse, one which finds its fullest expression yet on the new Inspirations, a great release no matter how many people “get it.”

“Zack Pieper from Trusty Knife, after one of our first shows, came up and was like, ‘I love dumb music, man,’” remembers bassist Frank Knaebe, laughing. “And I took it as a compliment, because he was spot on, saw right through all the noise and realized we’re just some dumb guys.” That self-effacing attitude is rather refreshing in a world of carefully controlled images and oversized egos, especially since, while loud, anarchic and fun-loving, there’s nothing the slightest bit stupid about the music Soup Moat makes, far from it in fact. “I prefer to figure that we just don’t overthink anything,” says drummer Scott Emmerich, getting closer to the truth.

Not that Inspirations, with cuts about candy, nautical cat magazines and a certain local newscaster being dipped in sauce, is all that serious either. “If it makes us laugh, we’ll go with it,” says Knaebe, recalling how album opener “Dreads in Slo-Mo” came to be with the embarrassment of someone attempting to explain an inside joke. “I like the Packers, watch every game, and a lot players have dreads nowadays, and I get really stoked when they’re flying around in Slo-Mo,” he says. “So that became ‘Run and catch the football / Dreads in Slo-Mo’, this little couplet.”

“And then it just sticks, it just hangs around until it becomes a song,” adds Emmerich.

Those songs mostly come and go in the blink of an eye, with Inspirations’ 12 tracks totaling less than 20 minutes, but each is comprised of the best bits of much longer jam sessions. “It’s like a big log,” begins Emmerich. “And you’ve gotta chainsaw the bear out the log,” says Knaebe, finishing his thought. No song is longer than it needs to be to get its point across, nor is it self-consciously made shorter. “There’s a lot of editing things down, but we’re open to whatever,” says Knaebe. “If one of us were to write a great prog song that’s like nine minutes long, I’d be way into it.”

Besides containing some of the catchiest songs the band has ever written, Inspirations, out on accomplished Milwaukee tape label Organalog, is by far the best sounding Soup Moat recording to date, with every doomy riff, shouted vocal and psychedelic flourish coming through clear as a bell without sacrificing any of the energy of their performances. “It’s mostly just live-in-the-studio, just bass and drums playing at the same time, and we threw in whatever else we needed after.”

“There are some overdubs on there,” explains Knaebe. “Some chair creaks, some key jingling and some guitar solos; we’ve got Nate Riddle, Joe Peterson and Isaac Sherman from Catacombz all playing on the album.”

Ironically, with all the Catacombz axe-men contributing guest solos, it’s the local psych-rockers’ bassist, Jason Jolly, who recently joined Soup Moat as permanent guitarist, which means reworking the newly released material. “He’s snuggling into something that’s already done,” says Knaebe. “So if people come to a show, they’ll hear different versions of all these songs.” Though late to the party, he was able to contribute: “I did nothing on the album,” confesses Jolly, “but I did make the black metal-esque logo for the cover, which I thought was hilarious.” With that sense of humor, he should fit in just fine, and with Inspirations, Soup Moat should finally get the attention they deserve.