As the snow and ice start to sock us in for the remainder of the season, it’s time to start turning our attention towards indoor activities; reading, watching movies, and listening to records (after all the skiing and sledding of course). I can’t think of a better album to listen to while daydreaming and watching snowflakes lazily drift past the window than Misty Mouth’s self-titled album.
The Pendleton rock band’s debut features a stark and crisp sound that compliments the winter quite nicely. Misty Mouth recalls the dynamics of Seattle emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate and the soaring, high pitched vocals of their singer Jeremy Enigk, features a drippy guitar style prevalent in contemporary indie rock bands like Real Estate, and boasts melodies that hearken back to the FM-radio friendly alternative pop-rock of the 1990s.
Misty Mouth is the latest musical manifestation of Rian Beach, a lifelong on-again, off-again Pendleton resident. Throughout his nearly two decades of musical performance, Rian has fronted and founded a series of bands: Marathon Monkey, Regards for Chalk, Henry Duster, and Hoptow, to name a few. (Full disclosure: I was a member of a few of these past projects.) Beach has a tendency to resurrect songs written for prior bands for whatever his current project may be, so there is a line of continuity running through his work — each band feels like a spiritual successor to the previous.
That said, even though some of the songs may be old gems, they are given new life by the collective arrangements forged by the band of the moment.
The genesis of Misty Mouth lay in the casual jam sessions that Beach and drummer Greg Schulberg started a little over three years ago. The two met years prior over their mutual love of long distance running. The jam sessions between the two included a revolving door of supporting musicians who couldn’t commit to a long-term musical project. They eventually settled on two fellow Pendleton musicians who were significantly younger; bassist and vocalist Adam Lange and guitarist Addison Schulberg (cousin of Greg).
Addison had spent his teenage years attending underground house concerts produced by Beach. Meanwhile, Lange had a career performing in the backing band for contemporary Christian recording artist Holly Starr where he played guitar and keyboards.
In addition to providing atmospheric lead guitar lines, Addison brought a working knowledge of audio recording and engineering to Misty Mouth. When the band had amassed enough songs worthy of compiling into a full length record, they looked to Addison.
The band opted to record themselves because as Addison puts it, “we knew because of our respective busy schedules — and in many cases opposite schedules — that we wouldn’t be able to take enough time off to record in a studio in Portland. We all had pretty good faith that my recordings skills were adequate. We originally thought it would be a three month endeavor.”
Those three months ballooned into a 15 month recording process. The band collectively assembled a private recording studio, Zimm Sound, which was always in the process of being modified or upgraded. Ever the advocate for the pursuit of perfect sound, Addison meticulously tracked each instrument individually, ensuring that not a single note was out of tempo. Though painstaking, this approach allowed Misty Mouth maximum flexibility for the mixing process.
Although the album will receive a traditional release in CD format, Greg Schulberg, a math and computer science instructor at Blue Mountain Community College, put his software development background to good use by designing the band’s website to feature a free streaming player of the album.
A 3D dodecahedron on the front page (geometric shapes are a recurring motif with Misty Mouth) can be manipulated by a user. When one of the twelve sides is selected, the player will stream a corresponding track from the album.
Now that Misty Mouth is on the cusp of releasing their debut recording they find themselves in a somewhat compromising scenario — being separately spread out across a 200 mile stretch of I-84. Earlier this year Beach relocated to the Columbia Gorge to pursue a job opportunity with the Wasco County Circuit Court. In the fall, Lange enrolled in classes at Eastern Oregon University with the goal of obtaining his bachelor’s degree in music with an emphasis on jazz saxophone and guitar performance. Both Addison and Greg Schulberg remain in Pendleton.
In spite of the long distance separation, the band still finds time to convene in Pendleton for semi-regular rehearsals and performances. Upon the album’s release the band is looking forward to performing shows from Portland to Boise. Misty Mouth has penciled in the second weekend of February for a pair of shows commemorating the album’s release. The snow and ice will hopefully not have subsided by then, in order for all to fully appreciate their wintry sounds.
Misty Mouth’s debut album is freely available for streaming at MistyMouth.com.
James Dean Kindle is the East Oregonian’s entertainment columnist, the executive director of the Oregon East Symphony and a Pendleton musician. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.