September 20th, 2011 | Published in Interviews
We caught up with Daniel Blue, founder, frontman, writer and singer for the electrofolk group Motopony, shortly before their September 20, 2011 gig at Toronto’s famed Horseshoe Tavern. The result: an articulate and passionate musician speaks his mind in an exclusive Vivoscene interview.
Hi Daniel! Let start with the origin of the band’s name.
DB: I was working as a solo performer and came up with about 300 choices. My friends in music and the design community told me how important choosing the right name was and I wanted a name that would last. I’d just bought a little Honda 110 scooter and that fit in with my concern for the enivronment. I started calling the scooter my pony, but of course it has a motor, so it became Motopony. And one day it occurred to me that Motopony also described the music I was working on: a combination of the natural with the electronic.
We know you spent several years as a designer before you picked up the guitar and began writing songs. How does your design work and aesthetic influence your music?
DB: I started working with a great group of designers in this otherwise empty warehouse in Tacoma: big spaces, high ceilings. They were really talented and everyone was working collaboratively. I decided I wanted the same spirit of collaboration in my own music. And there’s also that combination of technology and nature which fuels both design and music. I also feel very strongly that the design ideas called for in fashion and the ideas that end up as songs are very similar.
Motopony has a very distinctive sound. Who were your main influences and how did that sound evolve?
DB: I grew up in a very religious atmosphere. I didn’t listen to much if any secular music, so my first influence was the church. I no longer follow any specific religion, but I still want to bring the experience of the divine into what we’re doing. Later I got into Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen: singer-songwriters who were fantastic lyricists. I mean those songs are going to live for decades to come. And then I began listening to grunge and rave, long before that music hit the top of the charts and became kind of douchey.
Who writes your distinctive guitar lines and weaves them into your electronica-based explorations of sound?
DB: I write all the songs on guitar first using those 3 E-tuned strings. Then Buddy Ross, who is a multi-instrumentalist, comes up with the hooky parts. The electronica sounds and moods and really different arrangements come out of his hip-hop days. Buddy is our band’s co-producer and he does an amazing job.
What are you hoping your audience will take away from your recordings and your performances?
DB: A sense of the divine and of the beauty that surrounds us. The conviction that music has an important role to play in communicating all of that and that I’m not just writing songs for the sake of having done it.
What part does living in the Pacific Northwest play in your music?
DB: We’re all creatures of place and we’re deeply influenced by where we live and the things around us in ways that we probably don’t even understand. We feel them though. I’ve been in some environments that are absolutely toxic to music. Artistically and creatively, living where we do (in Seattle) really inspires us; it is so beautiful and magical.
What’s next for Motopony in terms of developing your sound?
DB: I’m really getting into guiitar effects pedals and the vocoder for the textures they can add to music. We’re experimenting all the time with new stuff for our next record. And as a poet I’m always working on new lyrics.
One of the videos we posted on our review of your album was from a live performance at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. What was it like to play in that famous club?
DB: You can smell the rock and roll history as soon as you walk into that place. It was amazing to play there; the room was packed and we felt really honoured to be there. Of all the places we’ve played I’d have say that evening at The Troubadour was one of the greatest nights I’ve ever had in my life. It’s something I’ll always remember.
You’re playing another historic venue at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto tonight. We want to wish you a great show and all the best for the rest of your tour.
DB: Thank you so much and thanks for the great questions. I got to talk about stuff I’ve never been asked before. We love being on the road and performing but we’re also excited to get back to Seattle and start working on our next record.
Motopony’s debut self-titled album is available through iTunes here.
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View more images from the show here: Gallery