Motion Turns It On‘s latest album hits stores this Tuesday, 2.16.10. The band–guitarist Bill Kenny, keyboardist Andres Londono, and drummer Steve Smith–recently moved from Houston to Austin, where it hopes to continue to capitalize on its prog-influenced instrumental rock.
The songs on Kaleidoscopic Equinox (released via Chocolate Lab Records) build on the intricacies of jazz, the noodling of 70s-era progressive rock, and the walls-of-noise crescendos of modern instrumental indie rock for which the band is known. While Motion Turns It On’s influences may have seemed apparent on its earlier releases, with Kaleidoscopic Equinox the band breaks past any preconceptions of how it should sound. It’s an album from an unrestrained band unafraid of experimentation.
On the cusp of the release of its new album, Motion Turns It On guitarist Bill Kenny recently answered a few questions for Houston Calling.
Houston Calling: Are you happy with how the new album has been received by the critics so far? I have a read some positive reviews online. Are you anxious to see how the fans react to the new music?
Bill Kenny: Yeah, we’re pretty happy with the response so far. The new record is definitely different than what we’ve put out so far, but we’ve been experimenting with the material for a while. It’s been interesting to watch it evolve into the final product. We’re probably more anxious to see how people react to the unrecorded material we’ll be toying with for the next month.
HC: How did the band approach the recording of this album as opposed to albums in the past–anything different this time (other than the live album, obviously)?
BK: This was the first one we did 100 percent on our own aside from mastering. Having the home studio was definitely a new approach and new environment to record in. Having the freedom and the time certainly resulted in a little more freedom with experimentation as far as the recording process goes.
HC: You guys are one of the few area bands that spend a lot of time touring outside of the state. Is it important to the band to maintain a presence outside of Texas?
BK: That’s probably subjective on a band-by-band basis. We really enjoy going to new places, and being a touring band is a great vessel to really experience what other places have to offer. Especially on a DIY level. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun and meeting people we would never have had the pleasure of knowing had we not decided to leave town. It’s up to the band if they want to put in the work, but to us, it’s worth it.
HC: What would you recommend to bands trying to start booking shows outside of the Houston area?
BK: Start early.
HC: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
BK: Ah, describe. Well personally, I always use the “space crack” reference. Intense, but at the same time [it] has moments of peace. Short ones anyhow.
HC: What are some of the things MTIO is doing to spread the word about the new album?
BK: Having someone putting out the album is a big help. That and going on the road whenever we get the chance. The music that sticks to us has almost always been by word of mouth, which I think has always been the case, unless it’s some big shit that gets written up all over the place.
HC: I get a solid jazz influence on the new album as well as the prog-rock that seemed a heavier influence in your earlier work. Do you agree? How do they play a big part of the music you make?
BK: This record definitely has more of Andres’ influence going into the compositions than mine. Rima was written just before he joined, and the live album has songs we wrote together but in a skeleton kind of form. This record has a multitude of influences we’ve been letting in over time. We spent a healthy amount of time putting it together. As far as the impact on the music, I’m sure they do. I think they have to. But sometimes the influence doesn’t always come out as obviously in the music, just the ideas and translation.
HC: Also, is the title Kaleidoscopic Equinox a nod to Yes by any chance? Sure sounds like it could have been one of their old song titles…
BK: Not at all. YES’ song titles and outfits are probably our least favorite part of that band. We get that a lot of that from people as far as the prog references, but most of the time, it’s stuff we haven’t heard of. The title had more to do with the sound of the record after we finished it. It seemed to describe it perfectly to us.
HC: What are some of your favorite Houston-area bands?
BK: Definitely into the Houston bands again. We’re happy to have been there during the transition and see all the productivity turn up again. But off the cuff, gotta say MUHAMMADALi, Caddywhompus, Female Demand, Golden Cities, Giant Princess, and Something Fierce. Oh, and the ListenListen record is incredible. They did a really fantastic job on that one.
HC: What are some of the music you have been listening to lately? Anything to recommend?
BK: Everything all the time. Big fans of Oneida, the new Flaming Lips record, and the constant pushing of the weirdness with the numerous Zach Hill projects.
HC: What’s next for Motion Turns It On? Will you be touring more? Continuing to work on new stuff?
BK: Always looking at or booking a tour. Trying to get a short one going for March, then going to SXSW. We’ve just relocated to Austin, and will be setting up our new studio there. We plan to record as much new and eclectic material as possible this year, once we’re settled in of course. Very excited about the upcoming year. We always get amped at the idea of doing something different. That’s the best part of being in this band.
Special thanks to Motion Turns It On’s Bill Kenny for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to pick up a copy of Kaleidoscopic Equinox at the show, at local record stores, or on Amazon.com.