With a shiny new project springing from the loins of a fresh perspective, Rochester musician and local enigma Solomon Blaylock is poised to beguile, confound, and entertain once again. Ahura Mazda, Blaylock's new fab synth-pop collaboration with Craig Marlowe, is a dramatic departure from The Lobster Quadrille. With that band Blaylock presented a brilliant nine-piece tug-of-war between damnation and redemption in front of a Southern Gothic backdrop. Though couched in metaphor and humor, The Lobster Quadrille set out to confront real demons from Blaylock's past. The humor was in place to confront his pain. The Quadrille had established itself on the scene and seemed on the brink of even bigger and better things when Blaylock and the band all decided to vacate the pulpit at the beginning of this year.
"It was a conscious decision," says Blaylock. "We'd known for the last several years that the Lobster Quadrille was winding down. I'd gotten to where I was winding down writing stuff that would work for the Quadrille."
So the band bowed out gracefully while the party was still going. Fans and friends admonished Blaylock.
"There were a number of people who were like, 'You were close to doing something,'" Blaylock says. "I just felt we weren't going to go beyond a certain point. We weren't necessarily prepared to go beyond a certain point. It's very cool that there are Rochester fixtures; bands that have been around forever. We weren't wired for that. We weren't a bunch of super-awesome musicians and stuff."
Besides, the demons Blaylock had addressed in the music had been dealt with. "It had been 10 years working with the Quadrille with all the religion and death stuff," he says. "I came a long way dealing with that stuff over the course of 10 years. In that regard, in that area, I'm ready to shift focus. It was all stuff I needed to do and it was fun to do. But I'm more concerned with love and sex now. Religion and death, I'm OK with those things now."
It sounds like redemption in reverse. "But it feels like salvation now," Blaylock says. "It feels like I had to clear those clouds away, the anger and disappointment, and just the existential angst I was dealing with. I'm happier than I've ever been and I'm experiencing new things. I'm in a different place and I'm excited and feel very alive, and this music is definitely borne of this."
With the Lobster Quadrille kaput, Blaylock ventured out briefly as a solo artist, but called it quits. He found it rather terrifying.
"So I reached out to Craig Marlowe," he says. "And we started trading files back and forth. I've never done a fully collaborative thing like this before. It's really exciting. It's sort of thrilling to do your bit and give it to somebody and say, 'Finish it.' I had more of a strangle hold on the material in the Lobster Quadrille. A lot of the time I knew where I wanted it [a song] to be. Now I'm less concerned how it ends up being. And it's been a pleasant surprise every time so far. It's great."
The lyrics and themes currently residing on the band's six-cut, self-titled EP are different than anything Blaylock has ever done, so it's only fitting that the music do the same and get in on the sex and love.
"Craig really has a lot to do with how it's sounding right now," Blaylock says. "Basically I've been sending him songs that I've written on guitar and recorded a couple of vocal tracks for. Then he'll take it and add the keyboards and the electronics to it."
Consequently there's an organic base that still swirls in the music's structured digital realm, slightly reminiscent of music by the proto-punk duo Suicide. And this root is set to be even more prevalent in Ahura Mazda's live shows with the addition of drums and bass. According to Blaylock, this will present two distinct scenarios.
"We'll have a certain recorded sound," he says, "and a live sound that will be a little more organic."
On the surface, those who want to see and hear something akin to the Lobster Quadrille won't be getting that itch scratched with Ahura Mazda (the band name is taken from the name of the chief deity of the ancient Iranian religion Zoroastrianism, and means the creator of the world, the source of light, and the embodiment of good).
However, those who dig deeper to witness the soul and intent of this unique band's output will be entertained, even if they miss some of the fire and brimstone.
"We're still developing a live act right now," Blaylock says. "And that's something that makes me a little nervous. I mean, it's much less schticky. We're hoping the music itself will be enough to move people. A lot of it is dance music. With this, it's like, 'Here's the music, I hope you like it. It's pretty much all we've got.'"