Mass Gothic

A strong identity is essential to an artist’s recognition by listeners — it fosters narrative continuity from project to project, and gives each album a well-defined world view before anyone hears even a single note. But cultivating a distinct musical self doesn’t always prove valuable for a musician. Identity leads to expectation, which can result in creative stagnation, and a number of artists are swallowed by their persona before they ever feel empowered by it.

By the end of 2014, it seemed Noel Heroux found himself under the ocean of his own creation — and subsequently decided to end his experimental pop-rock project Hooray for Earth, which had released six projects since 2005, including two full-length LPs that garnered the band a devoted fan following.

Following the curtains closing on his former band, however, Heroux signed to Sub Pop and prepared a new batch of home recordings that would go on to become his self-titled debut album as Mass Gothic. With this new moniker he allowed himself to “return to the beginning,” which meant jotting down all the noise in his head onto a four-track and releasing what he found to the world.

The result is an affirmation that his vital songwriting voice did not burn out completely. If Hooray for Earth was left-of-center for listeners, Mass Gothic is equally difficult to pin down. The album is built as much on lethargic blocks of distortion as it is on soothing synthesizers, but holds a number of unexpectedly distinct musical styles — most notably “Every Night You’ve Got To Save Me” and its backdrop of female doo-wop vocals and handclapping drums. That song’s jubilant energy provides a stark contrast to the record’s lead single “Nice Night” and its doomed sludge, but both are absolutely essential highlights of the record.

Heroux’s debut as Mass Gothic is remarkable not only for its varied and layered songwriting, but for sparking a new fire in a musician whose flame seemed to be dwindling. The record is confessional, but never overbearing; and it shines both when it tries to present an outward enthusiasm, as well as when it folds within itself in hiding. Despite all the emotional havoc that marked the end of Hooray for Earth, Mass Gothic’s simple beginnings seem to indicate a long life ahead. Be a part of the band’s early chapters by going to their San Francisco debut this Valentine’s Day at The Rickshaw Stop — and read below to find out how you could win tickets courtesy of The Bay Bridged.

To enter for a chance to win tickets to Mass Gothic at The Rickshaw Stop, email with ‘Mass Gothic’ in the subject line and your full name in the body of the email. A winner will be selected at random and notified via email.

Mass Gothic, Mazed, Screature
Rickshaw Stop
February 14, 2016
8 PM, $10