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Interview: Motopony discuss the Seattle scene

Daniel Blue and Buddy Ross. Photo by Suzi Pratt.

Motopony is quickly becoming one of Seattle’s most buzzed-about bands, even though devoted fans have known about their existence since their album was self-released in 2009.  What began as a creative outlet for frontman Daniel Blue’s poetry has expanded into a full-fledged band led by Blue and producer Buddy Ross (aka Josiah Sherman).

The music of Motopony is folk-based but, thanks to Ross’s hip-hop background, has achieved the ability to incorporate the sounds of a variety of genres including funk, soul, and rock.  Motopony recently celebrated the official release of their first self-titled album with a full show at the Tractor Tavern, which brought out hordes of fans who sang and danced along with Blue.

Prior to the show, Blue and Ross sat down for an interview backstage, discussing the influence of Seattle on their music, and what they hope the future has in store for Motopony.

Suzi Pratt: What is it about Seattle that you love?  How has being in Seattle influenced you?

Daniel Blue: You only have to drive like an hour to get to the woods… I love to flyfish, it’s a good way to clear my head.  If I only lived in a giant urban sprawl, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to create as well.  I was really influenced by the idea of Seattle as a cultural engine.  I grew up listening to Sonic Youth and Nirvana, so it influences my idea about music here. Although, you do have to get away and go find yourself.  I went as far south as New Mexico and as far east as Kentucky.  I came back to Seattle to take care of my mom when she got sick, and I’m still here because it… seems to be working.

I spent like 7 years in Tacoma.  There were a lot of artists out there going for the cheap rent thing, so we banded together, played all the time, and somehow managed to get by.  Buddy and I actually met (or re-met) at a dinner in Tacoma.  I would commute up to Seattle, riding the bus with my guitar.

Buddy Ross: We conspired about and actually wrote the album via online communication.  Dan would come up to Seattle and record the vocals and guitar.  A lot of people do the drums first, but we did those after.

SP: How was it conspiring about the album virtually rather than in person?

BR: I kind of need to be alone to get in my bubble, so it was good for me to have no one around sometimes.

DB: It forced me to think about music differently.  Trying to write about music was really weird, like describing what I liked and didn’t like about the sounds in emails and chats, but it fostered a good amount of communication between us.

SP: When’s the newest record coming out?

DB: We probably have two albums worth of songs we’d love to record.  We have a pretty big tour in the fall, but I assume we’ll be taking a break in the winter and hopefully push something new out soon.  We just released the record, but really it was out for a while.  We’re ready for some new stuff.

SP: What’s your take on the Seattle music scene?

DB: I am really starting to make some solid friends here, and feel like I’m a part of something special.  At first, I got upset with the state of folk in Seattle.  I saw a few open mics and probably judged a little harshly, but lately I’ve been meeting  and getting close to more and more local musicians. Like there’s a boy named Allen Stone who sings like Ella Fitzgerald, I swear to god.  Also, Kris Orlowski, we’ve been hanging out lately.  Now, I’ll drop in on someone’s show, and inevitably someone will put a guitar in my hands and say, “you’re one of us, get on stage!” People talk about the “Seattle freeze,” and you sorta have to be here for a while and chip away at people’s cold shoulders.  It’s just taken us a while to get adjusted.

BR: For a long time, I felt like an outcast. People would come to our shows, but we could never get in with the bigger bands and open for them.   When I tried to do the hip-hop scene, I was in this thing called the Big Tune by Red Bull, and I beat this one guy out of the blue.  After that, [the rappers] all hated me and no rappers wanted to work with me, but it was cool because I learned how to do hip hop, and that affects what I do today.

DB: When we met, he was threatening to move to New York.

BR: The whole reason I moved here [to Seattle] was to get something going, and now I have.  I’d only move to New York if I still had a place here.

SP: How would you like to see Seattle change?

DB: It’d be great if the 60’s happened again and everyone was always out, open, and free.  I want to see that cultural sweep happen again.  It seems like people are waking up a bit, like Lady Gaga didn’t win album of the year.  So it’s definitely possible.

BR: We’ve seen interesting things in Portland.   It’s smaller and warmer, and people are more likely to approach you.  If I could change one thing about Seattle, it would be to thaw out.  People here can be so cold.

SP: What’s your ultimate vision of success?

BR: I wanna buy a house someday.  I look at people like Danger Mouse who get to collaborate with a bunch of cool people;  I’d love to be able to do that.

DB: I’d love to be bigger than U2, but still play our own instruments.  Actually, nah, that would be pretty lame.  I’d love to own like an old church or castle and host artist residencies on a regular basis and just be constantly surrounded by creative talent.  I’d have that be sustainable while I go out and tour.  I always want to feel great about what we’re doing.

Motopony will be embarking on a U.S. tour in June and will next be playing in Seattle at the Bumbershoot Music Festival.  See the band’s full list of tour dates here.