Though losing none of the formidable gravitas of past Mouth albums, Path of Eight and “Fever Dream” in particular bear witness to a band that has always been restless and inventive. The piece brings in the deep, spacious sounds of classic progressive and space rock, then tempers them with the fearless and far-reaching sounds of post-rock or, if you prefer, post-metal. The brilliant guitar atmospheres created by Steve Brooks and John Lakes not only helps buoy the track from one place to another, it also helps redefine heaviness. The song never overstates its case or veers toward heavy rock clichés but instead channels its energies into create a full-on listening experience that leaves the listener impressed and eager to hear what will come next.
Joining Brooks and Lakes are bassist Evan Danielson, drummer Dave Mann and keyboardist/sample master Jason Watkins. Each occupies a unique space within the material, reminding us that Mouth of the Architect has always, above all else, stood apart from the masses, delivering music that was distinctly its own.
We recently spoke with Brooks about the creation of “Fever Dream” and the many delights and surprises Path of Eight has in store for fans.
Path of Eight, out October 7 via Translation Loss can be preordered now.
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Of the things I love about “Fever Dream” is the chiming/harmonics thing at the very start, then how the tune moves into the wailing lead guitar part. Was that there from the beginning or did it come at a later point in the writing process?
Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened first on this track. We approached writing for this record very differently that we have for the last few records. In the past, individuals have brought riff ideas to the table and then we structured them into songs together. I was really pushing for us to expand our instrumentation and songwriting for this new record… and it worked out. We started off with some new instruments and effects, including a lot of auxiliary percussion, slide guitar, etc… and then we just jammed. We were really going for a different feel. Trying to get more spacy and proggy and less doomy.
We pretty much did nothing but jam together for a couple of months and then went back to the practice recordings and picked out parts that we liked the most and loosely structured songs out of them. Then we moved on to vocals and that really finalized the structure and feel of the songs. Vocals played a way bigger role in this song, the song writing process, and really the feel of the whole record. It’s been a while since we’ve had a real solid lineup and felt like a band, but we did for this record. We all meshed and contributed in our own ways and I think Fever Dream is a good example of that.
I really love the role the guitar plays as we move through the song. Its sounds incredibly heavy but isn’t unnecessarily overdriven.
Yeah, that is actually a big part of this different direction as well. In the past, we had always used a ton of amps and cabs to make a crushing wall of sound and we were happy just to make the audience’s ears bleed. But this time, I sold all of my amps and cabs and bought a couple of Fender 2×12 combo amps. So right off the bat, we sounded like a different band. We also had a new guitar player, John [Lakes], and he had to put a new rig together. We talked a lot about it and basically set him up the way I prefer… loud and clean. Then we built the rest of our tones with our pedal boards.
I personally use an old Rat pedal for my distortion tone and the distortion knob stays around 15-20 percent. Just enough to break it up and add some thickness but not enough to make it too fuzzy or lose clarity. I was listening to a lot of Hendrix when I was working out my tone this time and I love how he was extremely loud but still clean and clear. I’m using the Fenders the same way I think. I push the volume on the amp to get great feedback and shit but still have the clarity to hear every note. I love the way the new Fender rig sounds but if I hit a bad note or something it’s not very forgiving. We also used Strats on half the songs on this record so that changed the tone up quite a bit from the Les Paul sound that we’ve had for a while.
The tune also builds to this really heavy, heavy part right around the four-minute mark, then moves into this almost classic prog thing that’s very loose sounding but loses none of the overall impact.
That was a part that our bass player, Evan [Danielson], brought to the table. We had the first two sections together and were jamming around and trying to get into a different movement and he just started playing it out of nowhere. I think he had worked on it before and waited for the right time to bust it out. We were all like, “Yes! Let’s do that!” So we jammed it for a while, recorded it and moved on. It is definitely still one of my favorite riffs on the record. It has this jazzy, chill feel that’s super fun to play live. I think it throws people a little when they hear it for the first time live because it just doesn’t sound like a Mouth of the Architect song, but Evan does come from a jazz background so I think we’ll start using that avenue a bit more in the future.
The writing and performances on this record are incredibly strong. Everyone wants to go in and make the record they can but what made this different from past Mouth records?
The last record we went to an actual studio with a real engineer was Quietly . We have been recording all of our own stuff since The Violence Beneath  and I think you can hear the differences on every record. We’ve been learning and acquiring new gear and mics over the years and just overall getting better at the recording process. This time, we recorded the whole thing in our practice space in one weekend.
We also recorded everything live instead of tracking everything separately. I think that really helped the performances mesh this time. We had more confidence in our playing because we felt like a full band and had been playing together a lot leading up to recording. Our drummer, Dave [Mann], had been having some health issues for the last few years and it was really affecting his playing and ability to remember song structures and that was affecting our confidence playing together. I hope he doesn’t get mad at me for sharing this but he finally made it to the doctor and found out that he has epilepsy of some sort. He was having seizures and couldn’t remember anything. It was bad news and we’re all very relieved and grateful that he’s OK and has medication to get it under control. So we were able to get back to feeling and playing like a good, confident band and I feel like that is reflected on Path of Eight.
I also have to say that the production is brilliant. Each of the instruments occupies a distinct space and the album sounds amazing on headphones. This kind of cinematic approach has been a hallmark of the band for some time. It seems like the band knows that good production and an excellent mix can really enhance a song. Do you spend a lot of time talking about that element of the record-making process?
Actually no, we really don’t talk about it much. I kind of have a template for how I place/pan each instrument in the rough editing/mixing phase and then we just turned it over to [engineer/mixer] Chris Common to work his magic. We just tried to get the cleanest, most accurate sounds we could into Pro Tools before we sent it over for mixing and mastering. Chris is a great engineer and we’re really happy with the way everything sounds on this one. It sounds different from any of the previous records and I think that has to do with everything from the actual songs to the new gear we’re using, the level of experience we have in recording and the great gear and experience that Chris brings to it. I have to say it’s the cleanest sounding record I’ve ever been involved in making and that’s fucking excellent.
We’re supposed to talk about “Fever Dream” but, having heard the whole record, I have to say that “Stretching Out” is another early favorite of mine. It fits nicely with everything else here. Do you have a track on the record, aside from “Fever Dream” that you think stands out as an example of what this record is about?
I feel like the song “Fallen Star” really encompasses what we were going for on this record. It has a lot of singing and spaciness, but at the same time gets really proggy and heavy on parts. It even has some sections that are a bit noise-rocky. We all really enjoy playing that one, even though the last part is the most difficult for me to play and sing. I’m sure we’ll get a lot of other opinions from people when we get out there playing this stuff live but that’s the one that sticks out to me as representational of the new record.
It seems that the songs on this album will sound great live. Is that something that you keep in mind during the writing process?
I don’t think we dwell on how they will sound live when we’re writing, but we do try to make sure that we can pull them off without having a lot of extra overdubbing and sampling. Sometimes we get a little crazy with a section or a song and then we have to pare it down a bit to be able actually perform it live. We’ve played these new songs live five or six times this year and have been getting great reactions so I think (and hope) that we are pulling it off well. We’ll be out doing a short Midwest/East Coast tour in October so everyone should come and see if we are for yourselves.
01. Ritual Bell
02. Fever Dream
03. The Priestess
04. Sever the Soul
05. Drown the Old
06. Stretching Out
07. Fallen Star
08. Path of Eight