Show PreviewDanica Johnson
The last couple of years this Evansville indie rock outfit, who found their name by thumbing through a dictionary in an attempt to find one that was untaken, have toured Japan, almost won a televised MTV2 contest of band to band combat and weathered the hard luck of being on a record label that chose the company name from the litigiously guarded Star Wars lexicon. Makes thumbing through the dictionary sound a bit less silly, doesn't it?
Mock Orange is guitarist/vocalist Ryan Grisham, bassist Zach Grace, drummer Heath Metzger and guitarist Joe Asher. In a recent interview with NUVO, Asher talked about the band's wild ride through the music industry.
The band was on a landing strip in Louisville after touring in Japan when they received the call informing them they had won a vote to participate in a Battle of the Bands-esque contest, the MTV2 Dew Circuit Breakout, and would fly to New York in 10 days. "We felt a bit self-conscious about it; being on a 'battle of the bands' type thing seemed a bit strange for us," Asher said.
With the possibility of a detriment to their credibility looming, the guys felt shackled to the strict indie code of ethics. But after reconciling with the opportunity as free promotion, they fearlessly signed on - without any expectations of winning. "We were all feeling pretty tough at that point ... flying to Japan and New York and playing on live television. These are the types of things that make being in this band for so long worth it." (The "so long" represents the 11 years Mock Orange has been together. The average marriage length in America is 12 years with a 50 percent first marriage divorce rate.)
The atmosphere at the MTV studios wasn't quite what they had pictured. Upon arrival, they encountered a surprising scene of congenial employees listening to and talking about bands whose videos would never be seen anywhere near the music channel's rotation schedule.
This idealistic introduction did not, however, shield them from the promotional whims that would follow. According to Asher, MTV wanted them to do things the band thought uncomfortably cheesy, but respected their objections and let them off the hook each time. "Still, you can see me visibly squirming when they are asking me about people lip syncing live [which was] kind of funny to watch." Admitting that it turned out to be a great experience, Asher also mentioned that "good things" happened as a direct result of the MTV exposure.
Mock Orange has been keeping busy with the arduous task of sifting through an abundance of current and backlogged material that's been accumulating since the release of their last record, Mind Is Not Brain.
The band was hung out to dry by record label DeadDroid when it became entangled in lawsuits filed by representatives of George Lucas citing the use of his copywritten term, "Droid."
While Mock Orange was in the studio recording the album, they heard from the head of DeadDroid that Lucas Film Co.'s legal team sent a letter saying they could no longer release records under the name. "That was pretty much the last time I heard from the label for about six or seven months; he fell off the face of the earth." The band kept moving ahead and completed the record, not knowing whether or not it would be released. "That was depressing but the recording was going so well we just kind of kept it out of our minds."
Signing with DeadDroid because of its agreeable recording budget would end up becoming a double-edged sword. "We wanted to spend a lot of time in the studio and really do something big. [So] we then had this record that we felt was far and away our best effort and it was just sitting there. When it became obvious DeadDroid wasn't going to release the CD, we started trying to find another label to buy it."
Although it sounds easy to just pick up and move on to another label when you get the urge, it's infinitely more difficult because of recouping current record label expenditures and the logistic and financial finagling necessary to resolve outstanding contracts. Because Mock Orange had spent so much on recording, it would be that much more difficult to find an enthusiastic savior. Eventually, a deal deemed satisfactory to all parties was worked out and Silverthree Recordings championed the release of Mind Is not Brain, an album aptly described as their strongest, most representative effort to date.
Stridently moving forward as their track record indicates, Mock Orange is currently making tour arrangements for Japan and Europe as the year comes to a close, hopefully with a record to follow soon thereafter.
Mock Orange is scheduled to play Jillian's downtown on Friday, July 22 as part of the Midwest Music Summit. (For more information, visit www.mockorange.net.)