Modernboys Moderngirls

Modern Times for Modernboys Moderngirls

Interviewed by Jessica Hilo

 

 

Modernity, at least how its historically depicted, conjures images of steaming industrial waste pipes, city slums, and workdays that start and end in the trudging, awful dark. Toronto’s Modernboys Moderngirls, Akira Alemany’s solo project gone collective, follow the steps of its culturally vampirical predecessors by laboring over its debut album “I Might As Well Break It” under the cover and secrecy of night. “I remember it fondly,” exclaims Alemany of pilfering the recording space and equipment of a local voiceover studio, “but I also remember being really stressed out.” If the strain and stress of modernity’s plight fruited some of our greatest achievements, the painstaking rivets of “I Might As Well Break It” sets our Modernboys Moderngirls ahead by leaps and bounds.

            At its inception, MBMG’s sound was a fast, hard, and in your face blur of dance rock and soul, happily distinguished by female vocalists Allison Dee and Nicole Freedom. The band’s sound was an inspiring cocktail of immaturity and innocence- the kind of concert going expertise you wish upon your friend’s band once wind catches of their “going big.” The band was big- making stage appearances at Edgefest and Halifax Pop. Yet, in its latest revolution, sans the Sallies, MBMG hit a new stride. “We’ve had major changes over the past year,” Alemany explains, “we switched to a touring band [and lately] we’re in a different touring band that we’re really happy with.” The current band is a conglomeration of Heraclitus parts driven by the desires of Alemany himself. “It’s like Wilco” he quaffs- his singer songwriter aided by an unending tide of rotating talents- “I bring the song to them and we can be creative with it…it’s fun to work with musicians, but it’s not really a band in the sense that we get into a room and hash it out.” Morphing guitar, keys, bass, and drummer holds, or rather lack thereof, forge, for the band, a direction far from its party hominid. To our surprise, the dark clouds of modernity have dredged something shiny, new, and potent.

            “Some people try to advance music by using new instruments- the 80s coming back again, synth. We try to be modern by the way we put things together.” Part of this progression is in the band’s song and lyrical structure. Taking heavy notes in the rhythms and sounds of soul, blues, and punk and drawing inspiration from writers that lack as much a definitive foreground as the band’s personnel, MBMG has made something new out of something old. Its new focus, exemplified by “I Might As Well Break It,” is to create a stronger, tighter, and more vintage sound. “There’s a lot of variety in what we’re doing…combinations of different things that made sense. We wanted to have a record that didn’t let up.” Indeed it doesn’t, the album flows seamlessly front to back- progression that revives old sounds and the old ways of enjoying them while maintaining a new direction for the band and the genres they smelt.

            With careful calibration and the steady hand of an endearing factory overlord, in Alemany, MBMG is sure to prosper in its new skin in the year ahead. “We just got management here; we’ll be doing a couple showcases. We booked everything on our own. This version [of the band] will go out July/August…it was important to me to define what I was doing and to go out with a record I was really comfortable with and that someone was signing what they knew they were signing. I can’t speak for everyone else, but it felt right to do it this way.”

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6 thoughts on “Modernboys Moderngirls

  1. Hi Hilo,
    Your take on Modern Boys Modern Girls, and how Alemany situates himself in relation to musical Werke, reminds me of Benjamin’s angel of history, who is buffeted by the detritus of past and paradise.
    One point you didn’t mention, which I think is worth noting are Millius’ Dionysian rhythms: they have been a constant throughout the changing lineups.
    jh

  2. I would argue that the dark texture of Alemany’s musical genius belies an ethos that is in fact has rooted in the unfussy simplicity and hard-nosed pragmatism typical of the English Enlightenment rather than the Satanic mills and fetid alleys of the mid-nineteenth century urban industrial landscape. His particular brand of Meisterschaft bespeaks a modernity that is *pre*-industrial and pre-Romantic, more evocative of the businesslike, quasi-collaborative approach taken by a Richardson or a Johnson than the mythos of the tortured, solitary author associated with the later period. Given the longstanding partnership quite correctly referenced above by jh, it’s clear that Alemany’s Apollonian vision has always been grounded in Millius’ sublime rhythmic Bacchanals.

  3. I would argue that the dark texture of Alemany’s musical genius belies an ethos that is in fact rooted in the unfussy simplicity and hard-nosed pragmatism typical of the English Enlightenment rather than the Satanic mills and fetid alleys of the mid-nineteenth century urban industrial landscape. His particular brand of Meisterschaft bespeaks a modernity that is *pre*-industrial and pre-Romantic, more evocative of the businesslike, quasi-collaborative approach taken by a Richardson or a Johnson than the mythos of the tortured, solitary author associated with the later period. Given the longstanding partnership quite correctly referenced above by jh, it’s clear that Alemany’s Apollonian vision has always been grounded in Millius’ sublime rhythmic Bacchanals.

  4. While heino’s comment is suggestive, and I can certainly see how enlightenment values inform Alemany’s collaborative approach (I’m reminded of Adam Smith’s moral pin factory and Hilo’s “endearing factory overlord”), it is in the bricolage of the (post)modern moment that this occurs.

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