The talented and endearing Andy Mrotek is no stranger to making music, but the music he’s been making has been getting stranger in the most fantastic way. A total departure from His previous musical ventures, we caught up with the man himself to ask what the deal is with his intriguing new project: The Animal Upstairs..
Bella: Can you tell us what ‘The Animal Upstairs’ is and how it came about?
Andy: The Animal Upstairs is a living, growing thing. It started based in Art, a place to showcase and sell some of the paintings/photos/drawings that I had been completing over the past couple years. As of the last year and some change, it has become much more. Though it’s still art driven, the focus of it’s title has become a musical endeavor. What was a few songs and an idea, has now become a full record, a reality, and a band (almost).
Who have you been working with, musician wise?
[The] roster has changed throughout the last year, due to my recent relocation, from Brooklyn, to Jersey, to sunny California. Though, 2 members are still in the band. Them being; the lovely Sierra Shardae (keys / vocals) and the young and strapping Aaron Goodrich (drummer 1). The full roster is meant to have 6 members, 2 of them being drummers. It’s a tough order to fill, and even more difficult to fill those positions properly, with people I trust, people who are not only multi-talented, but also truly enjoy TAU.
As far as recordings are concerned, I’ve been able to work with a handful of musicians, all of which I’ve been good friends with for years. Since this past record was tracked drums-first, and required at least 2 drummers per track, I preferred to record with another drummer live at the same time, to capture that sort of feeling, opposed to overdubbing. Those drummers are Nate Navarro of Cobra Starship (a nice, straight line) and Nash Breen of Great Big Planes/Armor For Sleep (hemlock, cherry). Aside from that, Tim William assisted me on vocals, on “Upstairs” and “Dotted Lines”.
Who or what are your musical influences?
Musical influences of mine are relatively lacking, in that I’m absolutely terrible with finding new music, UNLESS it’s an artist that I already love/listen to. Arcade Fire, Death Cab, The Flaming Lips, and others are on a constant rotation. To be fair, my influence in music, when creating it or simply being moved to create it- isn’t music at all. It’s usually an evening or a conversation, or a dream… Though this isn’t a strict rule, I tend to write the “vibe” of the song around the feeling of the lyrics, and a drum track. To recap, I’m influenced by tiny meanings and rhythm.
Do you have any dream collaberations?
I’d love to work with Alicia Keys. That’s a double meaning. hahaha
Hahaha… I see what you did there.
How do you feel about the reaction to ‘Is Anybody Upstairs?’
Thus far I’ve been very pleased with the reaction to TAU, especially given it’s lack of promotion. Though I’ve acquired a following from touring the last 5 years, I hope to gain fans from other means. In the near future I will be making it my business to do just that.
Giving your album to fans on a ‘donate what you think this music is worth’ basis seems to be a bit of a trend lately. What made you decide to do that?
I think charging for one’s music is a good thing to do, but these days it seems like it could be a potentially bad thing; turning fans into thieves. I know there are still patron saints of music out there, but the [majority] of us get out music for “free”, if you know what I mean. So, seeing as I am guilty of acquiring music for free, I feel like the same should go for my own music. I chose to give the option of donation because, believe it or not, some people do actually donate. Though money is nice, the feeling that someone WANTED to donate, because they enjoy the music- that’s fucking awesome. It makes me feel like more than half of my work is done.
Is there anyway for people to own a physical copy of the album?
I did have plans to press a physical album, but due to TAU’s unsigned/unsupported status, the funding simply wasn’t there. I’m also surprised at the number of people who inquired about this. I for one, LOVE album artwork, unfolding it, reading it… before fans had such a vast amount of forums to talk to their favorite artists, that artwork was all they had to hold onto, the closest they’d get to seeing that artist’s face, without going to a concert. Gosh, I think I just convinced myself to press the next record!
Good! I’m a huge fan of album artwork too, especially when it’s good, and I’m sure yours would be awesome.
I think I read somewhere that you were tattooing? Is that a thing?
When are you going to tattoo me?
I tattooed my dear friend Steve (Bebop) twice on the last tour I was on. A pirate dagger (yup) on his thigh, which, in my opinion, came out awesome for my #1. The other was on his shoulder. “Mexican Prince”- But not like the kind that hangs with princesses, more so, the artist formerly known as Prince. Yes. Though this second piece wasn’t exactly up to my standards, it certainly was fucking hilarious, and on top that, he loved it! Not that he had a choice….
How does your visual art fit in with your music making?
Somehow, I don’t often attach my music to my art. I feel like they come from very different places in my brain. I’ve spent my entire life going to school for visual art, so there’s a lot of method in that- as far as my execution is concerned. Thinking up the concept of a piece is the closest I can relate that creative process with music. I feel like music (especially when trying to write a full song) takes a bit more out of me. I don’t have a life’s worth of experience in writing music, so it’s naturally more of a lovely challenge. Even when it comes to singing… I’m straight up nervous! Nothing really scares me like that when it comes to visual art- not yet.
Physically or musically, what are you most proud of creating?
I think my proudest moment has actually been artistically. I finished a zombie mural recently. It was the largest piece I’d made in the last 10 years, and it’s probably the ONLY piece that I wasn’t “over” by it’s completion. I am truly proud of that piece, and I still think about it every day.
Should we be holding our breath for The Animal Upstairs live shows?.. Or seeing you on stage at all any time soon?
I have full intentions to turn TAU into a full time band. Point in fact, aside from the ungodly flight, I would love to establish TAU in Australia, very early on. My experiences there always get better and better. I think that’s a rarity when returning to markets over the course of 5 years. At any rate, I’d like TAU to be in it’s full form by June this year, and hopefully touring shortly thereafter.
Do it, please. I’ve got your back. Let me know what we at Ctrlaltrock.com can do.
Tell me, what does the rest of 2011 hold for The Animal Upstairs, and you personally?
2011 is already awesome. I am officially CA based, the packers won the superbowl… what else do you NEED? But really, the plans for this year will be to finish up this new EP nobody knows about, and have it out by, let’s say, my birthday. July 4th. I’d imagine between releasing that and starting tours, the rest of the year should (hopefully) dictate itself.
New EP that nobody knows about, you say? SCOOP! We must get together and talk about that while you’re making it.
Hey, by the way, what ever happened to Q & A? I liked those guys..
Q&A was a good time. I think it faded because I stopped drinking coffee in the morning, so those other personalities didn’t really wake up until noon or so. I shouldn’t be talking about them though, my doctor says people wont get it. Moving right along…
So, valentine’s day is coming up, I don’t have anyone to send flowers to.. If you don’t either, keen? Haha.
Ahh V-day. I’d imagine everyone only has ONE good V-day, the rest are crap. V-day is good for Hallmark. I’ll draw you flowers!?
Deal! Hallmark get nothing. I look forward to it.
Thank you for thinking of me, Talk to you soon sweetie!
You can and should download the fantastic album ‘Is Anybody Upstairs?’ right now at http://theanimalupstairs.bandcamp.com/
Follow Andy on twitter for more of his shenanigans - www.twitter.com/animalupstairs