Four years ago, drummer J-Ray Hart found a CD taped to his door with a note that read, “J-Ray, add drums.” The CD contained haunting instrumentals featuring piano, strings, vibraphone, and synth, all composed by Hart’s former bandmate Matt Hansen (Meander). Hansen had been shopping the material to musicians around town with little response, but he figured Hart would be someone who might finally be interested. Upon first listen, Hart himself was unsure what to do with it. The pieces seemed better suited to a film score than a typical rock format, which was his background. After letting it sit for a few days, Hart said one song in particular struck him, and he began to mess with the parts, tapping out drum patterns on his steering wheel as he drove during long work commutes. That first track cemented an approach he felt he could employ to handle the rest.
“I’d never really worked with a project like that before,” Hart said of the experience. “Normally, you get together with guys, and you collaborate. But I just had these songs. There was no one there saying, ‘Don’t play that,’ or ‘Please do this.’ But I called Matt about a month later and said, ‘OK, man. I think I’m ready to record.’ He asked which songs I wanted to do. I told him, ‘Well, all of them.’ ”
Fast-forward to present day, and those same tracks – originally the result of a songwriting challenge Hansen found on social media and attempted – are ready to be released as For Another Time, the debut album from the now full band Boozy Moods.
After Hart’s drum parts were recorded, Hansen taped a CD to the door of indie art-folk crooner Clint Niosi, a longtime friend he’d met while the two worked together on an album for singer-songwriter Christina Moreland.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to have added the vocal or lyrical content to this band,” Hansen said of wanting to include Niosi. “But what I really pressed Clint for was I really wanted him to do stuff that he was uncomfortable with. Maybe singing a bit higher or maybe [being] funny, more of” a rock vocal.
After hearing the songs, Niosi was intrigued and agreed to sing and be the lyricist. With Niosi on board, Hansen said he wanted an “outside-of-the-box guitarist,” and Niosi could think of few better than Darren Miller (Tame … Tame and Quiet, Ox Combine). The two had known each other for many years but had never worked together. After several potential bassists flaked, the task fell to Niosi to carry the bottom end in addition to the vocals.
“It’s a way different role than I’m used to,” said Niosi, who usually accompanies himself on guitar, of playing the four-stringer. “But it ended up working out. I honestly don’t like not having anything to do with my hands.”
With the lineup set, the band began rehearsing, fleshing out the songs as each member layered his parts. Hansen said as each new person added his contribution, he was blown away by the results.
“I wanted it to be as far from familiar to me as possible,” Hansen said of the songs’ evolution. “Each time someone has added something, it’s changed the dynamic of the song. The same essence is there, but adding drums, huge dramatic change, then guitar and bass. Where it really exponentially changed was at the very end, when Clint released the hellfire on everything” with his vocals.
Proper recording for the nine songs that make up For Another Time in earnest took place in March of this year at Niosi’s Orange Otter Studio, which is housed in a metal-roofed prefab building in his backyard. They tracked mostly live, adding overdubs as necessary. Niosi’s wife, violist/composer Claire Hecko (Frosty), added strings. Then the finished mix was mastered by Cloudland Recording Studios’ Britt Robisheaux (Pinkish Black, Sur Duda).
The sound of Boozy Moods ranges from dissonant piano dirges to winsome arpeggiated chordal runs, all grounded by Niosi’s resonant baritone, which reaches higher in register than he has on his solo records. There is an inescapable trace of Marc Bolan from T-Rex’s swagger that creeps in from time to time, but the cumulative milieu is equal parts David Bowie and Black Heart Procession.
“Matt tends to be more lilting and major than I typically am,” Niosi said, “so I tend to counter that with a darker lyric.”
For Another Time will be released on Saturday with a show at Panther City Vinyl with Tortuga Redfro. A video for the first single, “Beholder,” was shot just days ago. Now that the original songs are finally out, the band looks forward to playing live more frequently and writing new material for a follow-up.
“I’m really confident that the next one will be even better,” Niosi said. “I just hope it doesn’t take us another five years.”
Boozy Moods album release show
4pm Sat Tortuga Redfro at Panther City Vinyl, 1455 W Magnolia Av, Ste 113, FW. Free. 682-252-8441.