A piece of art starts with an idea. That idea turns into a concept as the artist begins using his or her craft to create a message. And that’s exactly what the four like-minded guys in Mock Suns have done on their new album, Santander / All that I Knew. They’re self-releasing the record tomorrow, and celebrating next month with a show at Kung Fu Necktie on May 24th.
The album is an ambitious, twelve song effort divided into two movements and is done justice best by listening to the whole album from start to finish. Which seems to be Mock Suns style – approaching everything as if with the mindset of all-or-nothing – whether musically or visually through their videos.
According to singer, guitarist and songwriter, Greg Puglese, Santander / All that I Knew was written in the succession that its songs are sequenced. It proves his intention behind it being a complete album with a single concept.
“The underlying idea is sort of about chasing this dream but you never get a hold of it,” Puglese says. “As if it’s your life goal and it’s always there and you can never fully get a hold of it. As your life goes on it’s always there taunting you.”
Even though Puglese is the primary songwriter and concept laid out cleanly, the rest of the band has their own idea behind the message of the album. Bassist Steve DiRomualdo says it’s about feeling a “lack of fulfillment in your day-to-day. Or it’s like you don’t know what you’re looking for, whether it’s the love of your life, a person, or maybe you just want to be somewhere else.”
Guitarist Tom Magliaro sees it in a similar way, saying the album is about romanticizing a place so much in one’s mind and that finding out upon arrival, that it’s not quite what was expected.
The album references multiple modes of transportation, from planes to trains, and “The Bend,” seem to be about a pensive bike ride, functioning as a perfectly placed intermission-like segue track. However, it may not be an actual bike ride, as Mock Suns seem to think of most things they produce rather deeply. Santander is a real city in northern Spain, but is never actually referenced on the album. Matt Giordano, drummer in the band’s live setting, says Santander is a metaphor for trying to get to that place. Puglese agrees, but says the album’s first four songs are “about the dream state of traveling to that place” of solace and it’s never actually about physically being there.
Metaphorical or not, the album clearly has two distinct sections. As it starts with “Past the Wing,” a song in three that twinkles and flutters along an expanse of vocal tracks, right into the sparse “Just Like in the Pictures,” before the band sticks their head into the clouds, during the skipping title track. At the beginning of its second half, All that I Knew, “Years Since Nightfall,” and “Rarely Present,” bring eerily reversed vocal tracks and jagged drum beats that immediately reveal the next movement of the album before the standout psych-pop bounce of “Last Time.”
This is when the album falls into the “headphones album” category. The extra layers of tracks, particularly in Puglese’s singing, aren’t easily audible without a finely tuned ear, at least a couple passes through the album. Mock Suns recorded it by themselves and reached out to Bill Moriarty at Waking Studio to assist with mixing, which may help bring out some of those layers underneath.
“All of our albums we’ve done were self-recorded,” Puglese says. “This time we really wanted to get someone professional, but a lot of his role was just mixing. But since we were working with him, when he was mixing it he still gave some suggestions that we applied for some added textures.”
But the album also features some non-musical sound bites that come as nice surprises throughout.
“Greg did a lot of subtle textural things that seemed minute but are in there,” DiRomualdo says. “And we all had a lot of fun adding things like on the song, ‘As It Is; As It Was,’ with the sound of the bottles. We had a lot of fun throwing those around. And we were at the beach over the summer, Greg and I, trying to get some beach sounds. We were sitting on the beach looking like idiots with a little Tascam phone mic.”
That explains the waves on “Last Time,” placed appropriately after “Sunburnt and Drunk.” Although getting clips of waves is minor in comparison to other sounds Puglese has gone out of his way to get.
“I was in the airport walk around trying to record intercom announcements and stuff,” he says. “I thought I was going to get flagged and in trouble for looking like was trying to set off a bomb or something.”
A designer by trade and Tyler School of Art graduate, Puglese isn’t afraid to go out of his way to get his craft exactly as he intends. But that goes beyond writing, recording and performing with Mock Suns and into the band’s video production. Puglese truly revels in making their videos with his bandmates, calling this band a “blue sky project,” with genuine intimate emphasis.
But putting such an effort into making their videos presents its own dangers and expenses as well. When making their most recent video for “Last Time,” a video that features a reflective 1920s high diver climbing high into the sky recalling all those he’s met along his journey, Puglese accidentally cracked the windshield of his car with 4×4 piece of lumber when moving materials.
“There’s always something that goes wrong with the videos,” Magliaro says. “First it took us a long time to figure out how to get the conveyor belt to move and then it was the pool.”
He means the conveyor belt found in the video for 2013’s “Brilliant Colors,” off of Here Nor There Remixes where the band built a makeshift room in the basement of DiRomualdo’s parents’ house. They eventually just had friends move the belt by hand.
Back to the problem with the pool Magliaro mentioned. His friend had let them use a warehouse space to shoot the video for “Last Time,” but warned them to not bother the computers he had stored there.
“We got this giant pool from Amazon for only sixty bucks,” Puglese says. “And apparently you have to watch it as it fills. It filled completely and nearly ran over and we had to bail it out, like actually bail it.”
Luckily for Magliaro’s friend, no computers got ruined.
“We’re good friends,” he says. “But I don’t know if we’re such good friends that he’d let me ruin like hundreds of his computers for his business.”
The band was able to shoot the “Last Time” video, green screen and all in a single weekend. Mock Suns’ creativity seems boundless on screen and on record and Puglese speaks for the group collectively when he saying, “I couldn’t even tell you where the ideas come from. It’s just so much fun.”