Categorized | Arts & Culture

Best You\’ve Never Heard: Mason Proper

[mason]Grab a few techno beats, mix in some percussion and eccentric guitars, add some strong, melodic vocals and you\’ve got Mason Proper. Without an official recording studio, this band is making records in kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms. Hailing from Michigan, the men of Mason Proper thrive on packing their bags, hitting the road and performing for audiences of all sizes. A musician\’s life should be about the music and Mason Proper is one of those bands that savor every melodious moment, even in the john.
\”What I like most is probably the fact that they\’re a local band, and not a lot of local bands can become really, really big,\” microbiology freshman Catherine Lee-Mills said. Mason Proper is on their way.
A Proper Story
Jonathan Visgr, Matt Thomson and Brian Konicek originally called themselves Honesty in the Auto Industry. Later they would add bassist and vocalist Zac Fineberg and drummer Jesse Parsons, and change the name of the group to Mason Proper. Front man Jon Visgr collaborated with hip hop artist Jawnrah to produce the first sounds of the band on the Sunday Sampler EP, released in 2003 (it was not released on a label.) Visgr, Thomson and Konicek started making music together experimentally in high school, but it would soon blossom into something much bigger.
\”It was very much that Cinderella story of a group selling their album right out of the trunk of their car kind of thing,\” Thompson said of the band\’s beginnings.
The debut album There Is A Moth In Your Chest (Dovecote Records) was initially released last year exclusively in Michigan. But the band went back and remixed the entire project, with help from mixing engineer John O\’Mahoney, and brought a whole new edge to the record. The final product was released on March 13 and is now available in several states around the country.
Several songs on There Is A Moth In Your Chest stand out for their eccentric chords and lyrical outlandishness. \”My My (Bad Fruit)\” is one such track, and \”Miss Marylou Carreau\” isn\’t far behind. While these two songs feature swifter melodies, tracks such as \”Chemical Dress Eliza\” and \”Blue Lips Eternal Inquiry\” are slower and easier on the vocals.
Most of the electrical and mechanical tunes found in the songs are Thomson\’s work. Parsons takes care of the precise percussion, and the steady, firm bass is attributed to Fineberg. Vocals and guitars are taken care of by Jon Visgr and Brian Konicek, and each member\’s style and instrument contributes in a unique way to the overall sound.
Dovecote Records, the label that released There Is A Moth In Your Chest, isn\’t a big organization, but it earns praise from Mason Proper. \”I\’ve been quoted lately as declaring it probably – maybe overdramatically – the best record label ever,\” Visgr said about Dovecote. \”I feel like we get treated like gold.\”
Interestingly enough, the band did not record their debut album in a studio because of the amount of time spent on it. In fact, most of their recording is at home. \”We couldn\’t really put out the same music that we put out if we were under the gun because we like to experiment kind of endlessly,\” Visgr said.
\”If we\’d done them in the studio, it would\’ve cost as much as some bands spend to make their whole album. We\’d spend months on one song and that would\’ve been unrealistic in a studio,\” Visgr said.
Let\’s take it on the road
Studio work may not be on their schedule in the near future, but touring is. They have several shows coming up in the Midwest and eastern parts of the country, including neighbor Lansing, New York and Kentucky. They will also be doing shows north of the border in Canada. \”Touring is why you do it,\” Visgr said. \”Traveling around, just a different city every night is the greatest thing in the world. When bad things happen we pretty much just laugh at it.\”
Whether welcome or not, eccentric people can show up when a band is on the road. \”In Kentucky, there was this woman with an old pink shirt on, she had to be 50 or 60, with just the longest black hair you could imagine. She had the classic, sheer red lipstick that went far beyond her lips and these big, heavy sunglasses,\” Thomson said.
And what\’s the best thing about traveling with a band?
\”The first thing I want to do whenever I get to a city is go out meandering, just to see places that I\’ll probably never get to see again in my life,\” Thomson said.[thomson]
Besides The Beatles…
When the band isn\’t on tour, they\’re writing music. David Lynch, Lewis Carroll, Modest Mouse and The Pixies are just a few names that the men of MP can turn to for inspiration. If it\’s noisy and is made of pop and rock beats, Mason Proper is all over it. Bringing extreme noise to a digestible context is what MP does best, and the challenge is the fun part of the job.
The band members may be inspired by legends, but MP fans have idols of their own. With traditional sounds and original vibes, listeners can\’t help but tap their feet to the songs. \”Their songs are just traditional,\” Lee-Mills said. \”They\’re not always catchy the first time you listen to them, but they have an artistic quality to them. They just vibe on originality.\”
\”Not a lot of people know about them, which is another appeal,\” Lee-Mills said. \”They\’re not as mainstream, and sometimes artists are hesitant to go outside of targeted social groups.\”
Music is what the members of Mason Proper are all about, and not much else comes into the picture. \”We all pretty much make music in our spare time – it\’s really become an over-the-top obsession,\” Visgr said.
And as a result, they see a lot of each other. \”A few years ago we moved down to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area and met up with Zac Fineberg, who\’s the bassist,\” said Visgr. \”We lived literally together non-stop for about three years.\”
Noise man Thomson went to school before he played for Mason Proper for writing to be a novelist (he\’s currently working on a book.) Visgr was considering videogame/film production in the pre-band stage, and drummer Parsons went to school for communication and film production. No matter what they do on the side or where they draw their inspiration from, Mason Proper is only at the tip of the iceberg of their career.
\”There\’s always something right below the surface that we can offer if you just look hard enough, it\’s there for you to find,\” Thomson said.
The band will be performing at the International Center on April 27, and is free for all students.

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