There is a new voice on the New Jersey music scene–Mokotow. One of intensely personal lyrics delivered with a hymnal-like seriousness examining the pathos that is life. This is over a soundscape that is cinematic with touches of mystery and noir. In other words, right up our alley. That is why we are stoked to premiere the new video “Running On All Fours” from the New Jersey band.
The gorgeous video is a haunting, glorious, spiritual and, in the end, joyful ode to fatherhood and the legacy that entails. With irresistible dark allure reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave the song breathes in echoes and attitude with layered harmonies, distortions and haunting melodies.
Mokotow is the latest project from the mind of Mike Mokotow. A founding member and frontman of the bombastic blues outfit Butchers of Sky Valley, his latest project has a more introspective approach. However the energy is still intact as displayed on their recent release Domino. We asked Mike some questions about his music and the video.
When did you first start writing music?
I started writing music around early high school. I was DJing for a few years and started working off of pirated software on friend’s computers to write and produce my own music. Ever since I’ve always approached songwriting from two different perspectives; from a producer’s approach of building out a recording and the opposite, which is writing carelessly in terms of music theory but focused on chasing melody and feeling. Because of that I’ve always had this practice of jumping in between these two buckets when writing different kinds of music and switching it up depending on what a song needs. I also don’t know how to play any instrument properly, so I would sit with an instrument in my hands for hours trying to squeeze out whats in my head. This record was me throwing caution to the wind and just flailing myself into my limitations because I already knew what I wanted to say and I knew how I wanted it to sound.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I probably can’t get away from stating the obvious which is my parents, as they were both musicians (Bez Atu). At home we were selective with music as they lived so much of it outside of the house. But it was always an undercurrent in our lives. They came here to the states and raised me in the tight knit Polish community here in northern Jersey where music was the entertainment for all after a hard work week. Club Wisla in Garfield was the place to be for our community and I witnessed not just the need for music in everyone’s lives but how it unified all no matter the distress of normal life.
In a broad sense I’ve always been into indie/art/alternative rock thing, but as time’s gone on I’ve found myself wanting to find more jazz, the darker and gloomier the better (i.e. Bohren & Der Club of Gore), also anything really that has grooves, rhythmic shuffles that let melodies float on and hold in a different sort of way. One great example is T-Bone Burnett’s “Earlier Baghdad (The Bounce)”. That song still to this day has something that holds onto me. I love it. I’m a fan of his production work as well. I would also say Goldfrapp’s “Felt Mountain”, Max Richter in general, the drumming grooves of Thee Oh Sees, Whitefield Brothers and that whole crew, music like that where I find elements and want to start meshing together with others, like with “Running On All Fours” which is my love of bossanova rhythms worked through a Radiohead “A Moon Shaped Pool” like haze of repeated melodies and synth pads.
What was the inspiration for the video?
Fundamentally this album’s about being remembered. It’s an exercise in creating something to explain and reveal to my son, a way to preserve parts of myself in lines and melodies. It is for him to discover later in life when he’ll be ready to make of it what he will. A diary of sorts. This video culminates the idea in a powerful way that I could not have imagined when starting to write this record. For that I cannot thank director David Gross and editor Rob Trela enough for their talent, vision and dedication.
I am forever grateful to them for how this came out. I’ve been looking to right something for some time now. To give my son something I don’t have, a song from my father. There is a mystery I’ve been grappling with since his death, about who he was, with many questions I would have asked him if I had the chance. His passing before I had that opportunity to do so has left a mystery and a pain that I live with today. And it’s that pain I don’t want my son to have to grapple with. I’m looking to create a different experience for him and my family. But the most cathartic way to finally put to rest those feelings of wanting to know my father was to become a father myself and to lay it all bare for my son to see.
What was the most difficult part of making the video?
We had shot everything in a three day weekend just this past late October. We filmed across Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and it was so, so cold. For all the scenes in the marshlands and rivers, I wore a wetsuit under my clothes and that wasn’t much help with the 30-40 degree weather. The most difficult part was the last day of shooting, as we hadn’t slept much between the three days of constant shooting from daylight to past midnight. One of the last shots was me floating under a bridge under a highway and had lost the ability to swim due to exhaustion and the current started to take me out. But I’ll keep the details of that one in my little diary ha.
We recently saw Mokotow at his Domino album release show at Mercury Lounge in New York City where is seemed half of New Jersey showed up, some in a full school bus, and he held the stage like a seasoned pro. And displayed some amazing stage moves.
You can listen to Domino on Spotify here.
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