Since taking root in Athens, Ga., in 2000, Maserati has fleshed out a singular blend of psych-tinged post-rock, signed with one of the most revered labels of its ilk, Temporary Residence Ltd., and tragically lost the band's drummer and rhythmic inspiration, Jerry Fuchs. Rather than dissolving in homage to Fuchs' sudden loss, Maserati's core members — Matt Cherry (guitar), Coley Dennis (guitar), Chris McNeal (bass), and Mike Albanese (drums) — have ventured on. Maserati VII, the band's latest LP, revels in synthetic textures and throwback effects, mixing propulsive elements of disco and Krautrock tendencies. Before heading out on a short Southeastern tour, Cherry took a few moments to talk about how Maserati has coped with the loss of a fundamental member of its lineup, its processes, and how the group has moved forward.
You lost Jerry Fuchs after Inventions for the New Season, and mentioned that extra time and care was devoted to Pyramid of the Sun.
It goes without saying, but it was a rough time for all of us — especially his family, with whom we were close. For a while we thought the band was totally done. Later, we realized that Jerry would have wanted us to at least finish the record we had been working on.
He passed away in late 2009, just a few months after we first started recording Pyramid. Although most of the drums were already recorded, there were huge holes in the songs. Many of them were just pieces of ideas and not really fleshed out yet. Coley, Chris, and I took the drum tracks and started to lay down guitar, bass, and synth parts over the course of several months. We wrote three more songs to round out the record using drum machines and cut-up portions of Jerry's parts from other sessions. It was also the first time we collaborated with our friend Steve Moore (Zombi), who helped produce and do synths here and there. We wanted to get out of town to really focus on finishing the record, so we went to a studio in Austin, Texas, for a few weeks with our friend/engineer Erik Wofford. Jerry had also been wanting to work with his friend Justin Van Der Volgen (formerly of !!!), so we sent the tracks to Justin to mix with our label head Jeremy DeVine.
So, to answer your question, Pyramid was made possible by many of the people who loved Jerry coming together and collaborating with us to finish it. It was an emotional but also very cathartic process for us.
How has the altered lineup affected the group's writing and recording?
Finishing Pyramid necessitated a totally different type of writing process for us. Instead of four dudes sweating it out in a practice space, we were recording parts one at a time to pre-recorded drum tracks. A year after we finished Pyramid, we were itching to write new stuff but didn't really have a permanent drummer. I had acquired a few drum machines, so we just said "fuck it" and started demoing songs with those. Within about six months we had written almost a dozen new songs and asked our friend Mike Albanese to play live drums on it, which became Maserati VII. Mike was/is a great fit with us.
Now our songwriting process is way more efficient, and quicker than ever. It's great because we don't necessarily have to be in the same room (or the same city) to be productive. I was actually working on a bunch of new stuff while those dudes were on tour for months and when they got back we started collaborating again. We've got probably over half of another record written.
Maserati is rooted in post-rock but has developed an obsession with faster rhythms and propulsive, almost dance-rock sounds. Where does the dance element come in?
A lot of it was Jerry's influence. His drumming was always very driving and upbeat, so he steered us more in that direction. He also ran in the same circles with the DFA crowd and was never afraid to play a simple four-on-the-floor beat. We were already way into prog rock and electronic stuff for a while and later started to get into disco records or whatever.
A dance beat can sound pretty tough if put in the right context. I think about ZZ Top's Eliminator in that way, which is probably in my top five records of all time. It's easy to overlook that the rhythm section is just a drum machine and a bunch of arpeggiated synths. It's basically a dance record with a bunch of bluesy riffs on top.
You've incorporated more electronics over time, too.
It's been a bit of a learning curve for us, but we've been into that stuff for quite a while. Even as far back as like 2003 we dabbled with little bits of electronic stuff here and there, but it seemed like every time we'd go into the studio we'd pull the synths out more and more. Then on the last two records we started combining drum machines and live drums and shit started to get really fun.
With a bias, I like to think we try a lot of new sounds on most of our albums. We get bored easily, I guess. We've actually had vocals on the last three albums, including this one. With "Solar," it was feeling a bit empty and almost too sparse toward the end of finishing the record. We wanted to add something and Chris just ran with this Kraftwerk-style, Vocoded thing, which he totally nailed.