Interview

The Unexpected Genre Bending, Suavity’s Mouthpiece

If your ears could sneeze they would at the mere mention of the band name “Suavity’s Mouthpiece.” The name conjures up nothing in the way of genre and even the band members refrain from illuminating its etymology.

But while your ears might sneeze at the sound of the band’s name, when they hear the single, Taste, they’ll get the feeling that your tongue gets when eating sushi for the first time: “Hm. Weird. But I think I like it, kinda.” Suavity’s Mouthpiece is ear sushi. Is that what the name means? Probably not.

All joking aside Taste is very well put together song. It opens with a metronome click and wobbly synth track that is almost siren like. Before the synth can climax, though a piano falls right into the center of the song, pounds out a few chords, gives a quick little blues lick at the upper end of the register and the vocals kick in with a David Byrne-like cadence and a Dave Schools style bass line.

From there it gets really lounge-y. But a lounge somewhere in the constellation of Orion. The Mouthpiece also throws in some Stax soul with horns and the presence of a Booker T. inspired organ behind it all.  As the song grooves its way towards the halfway point the lounge returns to earth, then melts back into the beginning of the song with the return of that wobbly synth and slick piano.

With influences diving deep towards the roots of both punk and jazz, Suavity’s Mouthpiece has created something unexpected. Taste is a good song, catchy and just weird enough to keep the listener off balance–eagerly anticipating what will come next. The trio took some time to answer a few of my questions:

1) “Taste,” while a cohesive song is flush with multiply influences. Mr. Bungle meets Nick Cave comes to mind. Where does your musical influence begin and end?

Meredith Bigatel: Throughout my life, punk has been a big influence on me as a musician, and I would say is the reason I decided to learn to play bass in the first place. Once my brother started playing guitar, and started to form bands of his own, I was definitely influenced to improve my skills. I still pride myself on never having had a single lesson and being completely self-taught as a bassist.

Steph Cozza: I think my influences come from everything I’ve ever experienced. Growing up, my father taught me the basics of piano and got me really interested in music from a very young age. Sometimes we’d sit back and enjoy his Classical or Jazz collections, something that definitely influenced my musical taste. After growing up in that environment, I found my own way through music and picked up several other instruments along the way, mostly with friends, which is something that has really influenced my style of playing. To me, jamming out with a group of close friends is the best motivation and inspiration for doing what I do.

Justin Trafford.: It begins and ends by writing pieces that I can personally guarantee will influence both Mr. Bungle and Nick Cave.

2) There are some great dynamics and changes on “Taste,” what is the song writing process like? 

Justin: Engaging. Gradation is an inherent quality in the writing process. Neglect it, and I might as well be Jack Johnson.

3) With a song like “Taste” I would imagine that you all are coming from different musical backgrounds and interests. How did this band form?

Justin: I’m particularly fond of the in-house diversity. It’s an absolute must as far as performance is concerned, for the reasons mentioned by my companions above. In 2008, SM began as myself and Meredith. We continued for near two years trading off percussionists – who, although, were quite talented, were non-committal – until I met Cody Kraski in Greensburg. Cody is an independent singer/songwriter/producer in his own right. We became very close friends before I learned that part of his CV as a multi-instrumentalist was proficiency (albeit, untapped) as a drummer. Cody graciously agreed to fulfill the turbulent position of drum throne as of summer 2011. The icing was added to the cake in the fall of 2011, when I met Steph. I initially approached her to fulfill the position of bassist while Meredith continued her study of metalwork at Edinboro University, but her spirit dances within the keys. She began playing at the precocious age of four, and as such, the skill at her fingertips is inarguable.

4) Where on Earth did this band name come from?

Meredith: My favorite letter combination has always been “SM”. I wanted to call the band “Stinky Meerkat” or “Saucy Mama”, but that didn’t really go with the sound of our band.

Steph: One time there was this homeless dude in a tweed suit playing saxophone on a sidewalk in downtown Pittsburgh and after he was done playing this sick improv solo he looked down at his sax with this smug look on his face and was like “Damn, this mouthpiece is suave!” and then he skipped off into the street where he was hit by an 18 wheeler. We felt it necessary to honor his memory in some way.

5) In your opinion, does the songwriter have any responsibilities to her/his audience? Does SM have an audience in mind when writing and recording? 

Steph: I think it’s a performer’s job to entertain, inspire, and intrigue, but how we go about that is up to the artist.

Meredith: Entertainment. That’s mostly Justin’s job. My job is to play bass and look bored.

Justin: Independent creators have not so much ‘responsibilities’ so much as ‘courtesies’ to those who support them. And even those courtesies are minimal, and have absolutely no place behind the pen or the mic. We refuse to engage at Pittsburgh’s traditional rock venues as a favor to our supporters – who tend to be a more smartly-dressed breed and don’t quite deserve the condescension. Without hazarding a dip on quality, we keep everything as affordable as humanly possible, because we wish that that was a consideration that our favorite performers would entertain. And it’s quite easy to do, which is why we can’t fathom why so many groups in Pittsburgh consciously elect to keep sweaty, old promoters fat.


6) Describe the recording process.

Meredith: The result is worth experiencing, even if our sound isn’t typically what you would normally listen to. The live sound is so much different than the recorded sound, that I think, with as much humility as possible, that we’re worth watching, if not for the sound, for the experience of listening and watching something that can’t really be compared to anything else in the music world.

Steph: If you’ve ever carried a really heavy box down a flight of stairs, slipped, tumbled down 500 steps to the bottom while the contents of said box exploded everywhere as you went, crashing and bouncing unpredictably, and your body is struck by lightening and suddenly thrown into a back flip and you triumphantly stick the landing without a scratch, it’s kind of like that.

Justin: Physical. Heavily dependent on physics, as Steph noted. On a relative subject, I struggle with the concept of groups who lack vocalists with characteristic voices. It seems as if they have no intent to be heard. More often am I willing to overlook a sludgy musical backdrop if a voice is naturally individual; the reverse typically does not apply. The recorded versions of song vocals must impart every definitive biological misfire that occurs from the writing process. Then, any rational mind would consider it obvious that, when you wander one path in the studio, you have the freedom to follow another live – well, we won’t get into Bruno Mars’ personal shortcomings.

7) Any new projects on the horizon?

Justin: Always. “TASTE by Suavity’s Mouthpiece” is, of course, the launchpad for our first original live recording release, entitled “HEAR Suavity’s Mouthpiece,” which will be issued early Summer 2013. That’s me tying up personal loose ends – ever since I began creating music professionally, I’ve wanted to do a live album. It’s a jubilance thing, really. But, once my perverse need is satisfied, it’s back to heightened misery – which is already well in the works, foaming at the bit, I can assure you. And I beseech any curious independent filmmakers to please seek me out.

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