Mystic Valley Band bass player Macey Taylor said among his options after this summer’s touring is rejoining his sister, Maria, on the road. “I’m still hoping to do some more stuff with her in August,” he said. “Yeah, I miss her. I recorded on her last record (Ladyluck) and am going to go back and play with her when I can.” What a nice brother…
Column 227: Knowing Conor
Mystic Valley Band’s Macey Taylor talks Oberst.
Conor Oberst isn’t doing interviews these days, at least not with me or other small writers at small publications like The Reader.
The slight isn’t a personal thing, it’s just the way he’s handling the press for this Mystic Valley Band project. If you’ve seen One Of My Kind, the hour-long documentary about the making of the band and their first album, you know that Mystic Valley was a spur-of-the-moment attempt to break free from the way he’d been doing things for years as Bright Eyes. The results are obvious to anyone who’s followed both of bands. Mystic Valley is looser, more direct, less introspective. It’s like a long drunken weekend spent with your old high school buddies vs. Bright Eyes’ trip to the confessional where Oberst’s sins are spoken to a stranger through a mesh screen while his family stands right outside the door.
So when it came time to write something in support of the Mystic Valley Band show this Friday at Anchor Inn I was told by his publicist, “No Conor, but you can have Macey.”
Macey is Mystic Valley Band bass player Macey Taylor who also performed with Bright Eyes on the Cassadaga album and tour, and who just happens to be the brother to Oberst’s former girlfriend Maria Taylor. It was through their relationship that Macey first met Oberst.
“He was visiting my family with Maria and we were just hanging out,” Macey said from the pool in the back yard of his mother’s house in Birmingham, Alabama. “We just sat on the floor and started playing some songs with Maria.”
Macey said Bright Eye’s ’07 tour was like “being asked aboard this big, huge warship.”
When I did the Bright Eyes tour, it was such a huge body of work that they chose from and played,” he said. “The first time on tour with (Mystic Valley Band) we drew from 10 songs Conor wrote, and we only played that stuff. That’s what set it apart in a lot of ways.”
The other difference with Mystic Valley was the lack of Mike Mogis. “Obviously Mike’s presence is one of the strongest parts of Bright Eyes,” Macey said. So who fills the Mogis void? “In the studio, Andy Lemaster is a huge help, though we all kind of try to help produce. So in that sense, Andy is. But on stage, I wouldn’t say that someone is filling the void of Mogis. That’s another main difference between the bands.”
So far the Mystic Valley tours have seen mostly highs, but there have been some lows, especially in the beginning. “We had our best show and worst show back to back,” Taylor said. “We played this private thing in Los Angeles because Jason (Boesel, drummer) and Nik (Freitas, guitar) live there and set up a show for their friends at the R Bar. It was a clusterfuck, just too many people. We played late and got drunk and ended up hiding in the bar’s kitchen. The next day we played at The Troubadour and that was really our first good performance. It was still very early on in the band.”
If spontaneity defines the Mystic Valley Band, it also defines its future. Taylor said they have plans together throughout the summer, but nothing after that. “It’s casual where it wouldn’t be a big deal if we wouldn’t do anything or if we did,” he said. “It wasn’t a big deal to start it. It just happened, and that’s the attitude to have. I’d say we most likely will continue to try to do something. It depends on what’s going on. We could play here and there, but it would never be a busy, main thing. Both Taylor (Hollingsworth, guitarist) and Jason have records coming out this year.”
Then there’s the just-announced Monsters of Folk project that will reunite Oberst with Mogis along with M. Ward and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Their new album is slated for release Sept. 22 on LA label Shangri-La Music.
And what about Bright Eyes? Interestingly, Taylor said there “could be a crossover” between Bright Eyes and Mystic Valley. In fact, the grinding psychedelic headtrip and centerpiece of their current live show, “Roosevelt Room,” originally was a Bright Eyes song.
“We played it with Bright Eyes,” Taylor said. “When we recorded it for Outer South (Mystic Valley’s new album), we were interested in getting Mike (Mogis) to come down and record the guitar part on it, but he was busy and didn’t really want to. When we played it, it wasn’t that much different than how Bright Eyes did it. Mogis added a different attitude, but Tayor (Hollingsworth) goes crazy on it. It’s kind of a jammer song, where toward the end everything could fall apart.”
As our phoner came to a close, Taylor described Oberst as an everyday Joe who just happens to be a helluva songwriter. “He’s never really gone past what’s in his heart and gut,” Taylor said. “He’s stayed with the people he’s worked with, the team players — not the big music industry people, and that’s different.
“Conor exists in his own bubble, and he doesn’t play attention to a lot of this. He doesn’t listen to critics and businessmen and whatnot, and it’s the same way for the people that surround him. And that’s a good way to stay.”
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band plays this Friday, June 26, at The Anchor Inn with Tilly and the Wall, Deep Sea Diver and Michael Runion. Tickets are $20.
Tonight at O’Leaver’s it’s Fromanhole with Chicago band Bear Claw and Italy’s Three Second Kiss. The out-of-towners will be joining up with Shellac on tour after this O’Leaver’s gig. (Come on, Brendan, don’t tell me you couldn’t get Shellac to play here). $5, 9:30 p.m. Across town at The Barley St., John Klemmensen and The Party headlines a show that also features Bright Light Forever and By Sunlight. $5, 9 p.m. Finally, at The Waiting Room Black Squirrels play with Sarah Benck and the J.J. Wills Band. $5, 9 p.m.
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