Metavari Band Interview: Black as Midnight on a Moonless Night

Oftentimes, a complete change in sound and a long delay between full-length albums marks the death knell of a band, or at least a rebirth. After a long brainstorming session — during which the band lost a guitarist, put out an EP without that guitarist, and gained another in time for the latest record — Metavari has returned, and the Metavari you hear on Moonless is not the Metavari you heard six years ago, during the release of Be One of Us and Hear No Noise. This time around, the quartet from Fort Wayne, Indiana, seems to have found its niche in the instrumental world, eschewing the grand sonic explosions commonly associated with post-rock in favor of analog and electronic sounds and samples.

Metavari Press Photo

In 2010, Metavari hit the road and made some field recordings, which translated into a 20-minute-long track called Studies Volume 1: Loosen the Bands. A successful Kickstarter followed a couple years later, which raised nearly $6,000 to help finance a new album “about the things that hold us up and the things that don’t” — but then all seemed to go dark on the Metavari front. This darkness, though, was in fact a reawakening. As founding member Nate Utesch explains, a major reason for the delay included changes in the band, though luckily, all members agreed that it was time to set foot on a different path.

“We thought we would have that record down by the end of the same year, in December,” Utesch says. “A year into it, we kind of realized that it was sounding different, but we were [still] hanging onto a lot of things because we felt obligated.”

An evolution collectively took place. Metavari had almost six songs fully completed, which Utesch describes as a “reasonable, healthy progression from Be One of Us.” Yet in the end, none of the three members were feeling the vibe of what Metavari was producing, so they tossed the material in the dumpster and started anew.

“We just started over, and it became day one of what is now Moonless,” explains Utesch.

Moonless is as much Metavari as it isn’t Metavari. The album opens with “Heavy Love”, and the ’80s tones of what the band was searching for shine through. At times, the album sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack of a Michael Mann film, aiming to bring a contemporary take on a retro sound. That Metavari evolved into a sound heavily favored over twenty years ago is no accident. They share a number of influences couched heavily in past decades, including Michael Mann, old Tangerine Dream soundtracks, and David Lynch — especially his cult hit series, Twin Peaks.


Metavari – “Oh Diane” Music Video Premiere – Twin Peaks Tribute


“We are really big fans of how David Lynch incorporates movies, soundtracks and mood,” Utesch explains. “We really wanted to have one track, or moments in the album, that paid homage a little bit.”

“Theme From Moonless”, the fourth track on the album, opens with a saxophone blaring into the abyss, more at home in the confines of a smoky lounge than on an independently-produced album.

The album title is a direct ode to Agent Cooper’s love of coffee in Twin Peaks, lifted from how he likes his coffee — black as midnight on a moonless night.

Metavari – Moonless Full Album Stream

“[It is us] paying homage to [Twin Peaks soundtracker] Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch, with that sax and the weird jazz feeling,” says Utesch. “There are other moments that we drew inspiration from the mood and the darkness of [Lynch’s] films rather than exactly lifting a bass line or something like that.”

Metavari’s love of Twin Peaks also translated into an opportunity to appear on a compilation of artists writing original songs inspired by the television show. The band, which often visits thrift stores and finds old, abandoned relics to cut and warp into contemporary samples, used the opportunity to enter a whole new field of its own. Utesch had originally wanted to have some clips of the character Laura Palmer reading from her diary, but when they couldn’t find any that sounded decent, they took matters into their own hands.

“I own Laura’s diary — the one they published that David Lynch’s daughter wrote — so we just found some weird excerpts and had my wife read it really dramatically,” Utesch explains. “We just messed with it to make it sound like a crappy tape recording and ended up sampling that. In moments like that, we are like, ‘Why don’t we do this more often?’ So many times we have an idea for a sample but we can’t find what we are looking for. We should just make our own samples for the hell of it.”

Doing things just for the hell of it is the new Metavari way. The band has built a degree of momentum that it hasn’t had in years, and still has plenty of new material planned for the works. An ambient companion piece to Moonless still needs to be completed for their Kickstarter backers, which will take 15-to-20-second snippets from the record and draw them out in three minutes, to find new life in repetition, ambiance, and drone.

“How we want to go about this is thinking about those crazy loops and repetitions in old Steve Reich records. Somebody came across [William Basinski’s] The Disintegration Loops, which get crazier and crazier. I don’t know if that is what it will be, but that kind of a thing. Lots of repetition but trying to come up with texture or atmosphere using that repetition,” describes Utesch.

In a way, the album will be the next installment of Studies for the new Metavari. There is no guarantee that transitioning yet again with an ambient album will prove successful, but Metavari is embarking on a new path that doesn’t hold too much familiarity for the band either. All that they know, according to Utesch, is that everyone is finally ready to be active again and to give it their best go.

Related Article: Metavari Band Interview: Studies (w/ SXSW Video Series) (2010)


Peter Woodburn
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