Maserati Remains Fun, Friendly With 'Rehumanizer'
Don't worry about whether Maserati is rock band, post rock band, Krautrock band. In the end, it's just fun.
The men of Maserati are as driven by the need to create as they are by demands placed upon them by their lives outside the band. Guitarist Matt Cherry explains that the group’s recording, mixing and release cycle for its last two albums, Maserati VII and this year’s Rehumanizer were driven by his wife’s due date for a child and guitarist Coley Dennis’ relocation to Switzerland, respectively.
If Dennis’ move encouraged the band to finish Rehumanizer within a given time frame, Cherry says it never threatened the band’s existence. “We haven’t all lived in the same city for over 10 years,” he says. “Now that there’s an ocean between us there are more complications. The flight’s longer but I don’t think any of that is as big of a deal as it could be for other bands.”
Maserati had endured greater complications than this, namely the 2009 death of drummer Jerry Fuchs, but has come back stronger from each of the challenges and released material that has kept the group’s sound marching forward. “That’s always been our M.O.,” Cherry says. “We’ve never wanted to make the same record twice and sometimes that just means trying different things during the mixing, like saying, ‘Let’s mix the drums really dry.’ We’ve never done that. Let’s do it now.”
Early reviews of Rehumanizer (perhaps a nod to ZZ Top’s synth-laden Eliminator, one of Cherry’s favorite albums, which was also given a nod with the song “The Eliminator”) have pointed to the band’s continued interested in Krautrock, the brand of heavy rhythm, minimalist inspired rock that bred bands such as Neu!, Can and others and can be heard via contemporary bands such as Cave. There are times when one hears strong hints of latter-day Can across Rehumanizer but Cherry is quick to point out that that’s nothing new.
“I feel like we’ve been listening to that stuff and ripping off those artists for a while now,” he says. “I don’t feel like this one is all that different in terms of inspiration.”
Although Fuchs’ name is only mentioned in passing, it’s evident that his presence had a great impact on his bandmates. His arrival for the 2007 release Inventions For A New Season saw the band moving away from the obvious post rock leanings of its earlier work. Dance rhythms and moods taken from dance-oriented music were more pronounced than before. “We’re all nerdy record collectors,” Cherry says. “Jerry was way into that Kraut stuff and he was by far the most nerdy record collector of any of us, so of course he give us plenty of music to listen to. That stuff and dance music too, it got me to play much more rhythmically.”
The group’s use of effects and technology to further spur creativity is one of its most endearing qualities, whether the echo-y, Floydian guitar lines of “Inventions” from the aforementioned 2007 release, the almost anti-human “Who Can Find the Beast” from Pyramid, or Rehumanizer’s expectedly tech-driven “End of Man.”
“You also evolve as a musician and your playing style changes slightly,” Cherry says. “I think you start to realize what things you’re good at and what things you’re not as good at and what things other people are really good at. I’m not a lead player but it’s effortless for Coley. Every sweet ass guitar lead that’s on one of our records? He came up with it in five minutes.”
The band’s push and pull between the human and machine world are evident on the album’s diptych titular number. “One is more machine, one is more human,” he says. The piece occupies a little more than 12 minutes at the record’s end but Cherry says that it was initially longer than that. “Originally it was three parts. The idea was that it was one three-part song that was one entire side of an LP. We worked on that song for a long time and it evolved into two parts. The third part was OK but there was other stuff we didn’t want to have to leave off the album.”
The record’s opener, the sprawling 10-minute “No Cave” is the perfect introduction for the record and will no doubt make many recordhead lists for greatest first cut of all time. But it wasn’t supposed to be there. As Cherry explains it its position was an eleventh hour decision. “I was a little hesitant to open with that because I felt like we’d done that on a couple of other records. We really thought we were going to open it with a kind of ‘BOOM! You’re in it!’ moment,” he says.
But Temporary Residence label head and close friend to the band, Jeremy DeVine made a suggestion when he heard the track. “We sent him the mixed record before it was mastered with the other running order and he said, ‘Oh, no. ‘No Cave’ has to be the first. No question. Done.’ Now I listen to it and say, ‘Of course!’” Cherry adds that DeVine’s input is invaluable to the band overall. “He’s actually a really important decision maker in this band now. We’ve been working with him for about eight years now and he’s very very good at being objective.”
Cherry says that the relationship between the band and DeVine is as important as their relationship with each other, one that is apparently as strong as it’s ever been. With all members working jobs outside Maserati to keep the lights on (Cherry works for an architectural firm in Atlanta), the group continues because, in Cherry’s words, “It’s fun. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s really meticulous but we’re all best friends,” he says. “Because we don’t all live in the same city we don’t get to hang out much. So, when we hang out with each other, we really like hanging out with each other. We email like every other day but it’s like a genuine friendship, like, ‘Hey! Let’s do this! Hey! Did you hear this record? Oh, dude, you gotta hear this record!’”
And it allows Cherry an outline that is virtually all creative. “I’d love to draw stuff all day long but I draw part of the day and then deal with project issues the rest of the time,” he says of his day gig. “But I think the design process and the songwriting process are very similar. There are a lot of parallels to me. When I’m coming up for designs for a building or a space I feel like my head goes through the same patterns of inspiration and frustration, all of those things, it’s very similar to when I’m coming up with a song.”
As Maserati adds one more album to its impressive discography and takes to the road, Cherry says he and the others are aware of their legacy, though not chained to it. “I guess we were for a while in that whole post rock thing but we’ve kind of gotten away from that now, we’re not as much one of those bands,” he says, adding that although the band reaches deep into its discography for live shows, often all the way back to Inventions no one is married to playing the songs in the exact fashion they can be heard on the records.
“We’ll make alterations to some of the songs in terms of tempo or tying them together with other songs,” he says. Those changes and others offer signs that Maserati probably won’t come to a standstill any time soon. Not so long as, as Cherry puts it, being the band continues to be really, really fun.