When we first sat down to kibitz with pop giant Maybird in 2014, the band was still vacillating between The Josh Netsky Band, which it was, and Maybird, which it was becoming. The band has since eased into that transition, and has hitched its wagon to some utterly amazing pop music: a gorgeous, psychedelic ebb and flow that is succinct and epic.
Onstage, the band — Josh Netsky, guitar and lead vocals; Kurt Johnson, guitar, lap steel, and pedal steel; Overhand Sam Snyder, on guitar and keyboards; drummer Adam Netsky; and James Preston, bass, keyboards — presents its music as a sort of dramatic discussion. It's a conversation in lieu of the stock rock 'n' roll diatribes and window dressings.
Josh Netsky's reedy vocals haunt the room above a plush bed of guitar, where Snyder and Johnson practically re-define dynamics and the music's limitless quality. Fans dance in a trance induced by the band's color and bang; Maybird slays them with bursts of energy that takes everyone in the room onwards, outwards, and upwards.
With four Josh Netsky Band albums behind him, Netsky wanted to shift and then solidify the band's direction, starting with the name.
"It was the climax the whole thing was building up to," Netsky says. The music had become different, and he wanted to start fresh. "I didn't want to perform as a solo artist anymore or just make records with other people under my name. I wanted to do what we were doing, and it was happening. So we decided to go under a name we thought would represent us in a cool way and market ourselves off of it."
The music got re-tooled as well.
"I was making music from all over the place," Netsky says. "I was doing a lot of acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, electronic music, psychedelic rock — which is kinda what we're doing now. We do a little bit of everything, but what's really being showcased is psychedelic rock."
Maybird doesn't necessarily stand alone, but definitely stands out from a lot of its peers. This band's sound is unique; it's unparalleled. Maybird is different, obtuse, and oddly beautiful as it skirts the edge of weird.
"I think weird is on the edge of becoming cool," Netsky says. "Weird is the new cool. I think it's a national movement. There's just a lot of music out there that five years ago would have been considered really strange, but now is hugely popular."
The Maybird hotline has cats like musician and producer Danger Mouse calling, keen to work with the young band. Danger Mouse is well known for his work as a member of Gnarls Barkley (with CeeLo Green) and Broken Bells (with James Mercer), and for his production work on albums by The Black Keys, Norah Jones, U2, and Sparklehorse.
It was mid-August of last year and Netsky was in the middle of moving to Brooklyn when he heard word. "I was busy," Netsky says. "So I couldn't get on my computer all day. When I got on late that night, I saw I had all these messages from Danger Mouse's studio. They left me all these numbers to call."
Netsky didn't hesitate. He was all over it like a second date. "I'm a big fan of Danger Mouse, so I called right then at, like, two o'clock in the morning."
He was told by an assistant to expect a call in the next few days.
"I didn't know if it was going to be a bad call, like 'Hey, you stole a sample from something I worked on years ago,'" Netsky says. "I didn't know what the call was going to be about at all."
As it turns out, Danger Mouse was a huge Maybird fan and wanted to sign them to his new 30th Century Records, an imprint of Columbia Records. This was a more curative inquiry, as Danger Mouse wasn't offering to produce or remix the band.
"He has no hand in the sound," Netsky says. "The point is he likes it already; he likes it the way it is."
"I think he just wants to enjoy it," Kurt Johnson adds.
During an interview with NPR, Danger Mouse explained: "I'm not trying to shape the way these bands sound on the label at all. I'm looking for things that I like or that I connect with in some way that maybe other people are not, other labels are not really jumping on for whatever reason. Or maybe something that I hear first and think, you know, I could help them and put them with this producer or put them with this person. And sometimes it's just, if somebody wants to bring me songs and say, 'What do you think of these?' I can even just tell them that way. That's still a way to help them."
Apache Sun, Sam Cohen, Autolux, Nine Pound Shadow, and Waterstrider have also been signed to 30th Century Records. Maybird's first release on the label, the EP "Turning Into Water," comes out April 29.
Though the band members are busy cranking out new material in its basement studio, their eyes are on the road, to broaden Maybird's reach to future fans and give an accurate assessment of how good the music really is.
"It's a very sincere gauge," Johnson says, "if your music is touching those people or not" when the crowd isn't personally invested in it.
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