For the interesting and eclectic Mind The Journey, music is an obvious passion project aimed at honest and personal song writing. Not your everyday sound, their album Color In The Gray Machine is a thought provoking and very aware album, and if you have an open musical mind, this should be an album you dive in to.
RYAN: Not every band sounds like they put thought into their band names or album names, but with your music there is no doubt that there is some message behind these names. Can you tell us a bit about the story behind the name and the album title choice?
Spencer Sabo: Mind The Journey was actually coined when my roommate and I were trying to brainstorm some trippy sounding band names. This was before I had even released the EP or any singles, so I didn’t have a singular vision for the name, just that it had to inspire psychedelic vibes. I eventually decided that the music would be more than just singular songs; everything would have a sort of cinematic touch. Each song would be a different style and sound that would submerge you in a unique universe when listened to as a whole. Mind The Journey seemed perfect. To me, the journey is life, it’s the adventures you go on and the freedom you have as a human. I suppose the band name is really just saying to take it all in, don’t take it for granted. Maybe it’s not the supreme psychedelic name I wanted, but it’s special to me.
Color In The Gray Machine is directly based off the concept of the album. It’s about human nature, coming of age, and the disillusionment that follows naivety. It came about when a friend and I were listening to the then untitled album, and seemed all too fitting.
RYAN: Your work is in many ways very tricky in its delivery. Every song has layers on layers of sounds and ticks and vocals. Can you take us through a bit of your song writing process?
Spencer Sabo: My songwriting process varies a lot. Usually it starts with a baseline idea: A vocal melody I randomly think up or a series of chords I find when messing around on my synth. From then, I’ll keep adding on instruments until I have a sound that works for me. Usually that whole process is just to make one part of a song. Based on the sound, I’ll either form a verse/chorus with similar sounds, or start a completely new bit in the same key. A lot of my songs are sequenced in parts, working as a “journey” rather than the traditional verse-chorus songwriting. Once I have the instrumentation down, I’ll record an impromptu vocal part to search for melodies. Then I’ll write lyrics, re-record, tamper with the whole song and endlessly mix. Sometimes I’ll make an entire song and be unhappy with everything except for one synth tone, so I’ll delete the track and use that tone as a new song foundation. It’s a messy process honestly, but the feeling I get when I start to see it come together is unlike any other. The writing/recording process can consume all of my time for days and days on end. There have been times when I have to force myself to leave my room.
Making sure every song is layered up was a stylistic choice I make with Mind The Journey songs. I love having very intricate and complex soundscapes with the music. This way, a listener can have multiple playbacks of each song, noticing different elements every time. It’s just personally more immersive. Also, by making songs more layered, it allows me to create an interesting juxtaposition when I have a more stripped down section or song, like with Boats.
RYAN: The album Color In The Gray Machine sounds very spiritually and socially aware. How would you explain this album to anyone that has not heard it yet?
Spencer Sabo: Color In The Gray Machine is an album that entirely takes place within someone’s dream. It’s the journey of discovering who you are and coming to terms with some of the harsher realities of the world. Of course, most of this is done through either metaphors or sonic imagery. There’s a point in the album when the character becomes lucid, and is able to see the world for how it truly is. The songs before lucidity were naive and absolute, but afterwards are hesitant and conflicted. CITGM is ultimately about those struggles, fighting the urge to conform, and sadly failing. It’s something I think a lot of people go through at some point, and I wanted to capture the essence of it.
RYAN: I felt that I could hear a few specific musical influences in your music. Was there anyone you felt inspired by throughout the creation of these songs?
Spencer Sabo: I wouldn’t say I went into any of the songs on the album with specific influences in mind. But it’s just the nature of songwriting that the music I listen to on the side will seep into my art. There are moments on CITGM where I listen back and think, ‘wow this sounds like this band’ and other moments where I can’t really point to any artists for influence. I tried to vary the music styles a lot on the album and even within the songs. Because of this, I can usually point out one track, a synth for example, and say ‘This synth The Flaming Lips might use’. But then there are so many other layers with different influenced instruments…I think that’s what gives Mind The Journey an original flare.
Generally though, I’d say I’m influenced by music like: Tame Impala, The Bee Gees, MGMT, Rush, Neon Indian, Ariel Pink. There’s an endless amount more too.
RYAN: So far in your musical journey, what are some of your personal highlights along the way?
Spencer Sabo: I’m still just coming up in the musical scene, so I haven’t had an insane amount of personal highlights. I was very proud of some of the press my original EP got back in 2014, as well as the couple shows I was able to play in NYC last year as well. I’m really more excited about what the future has in store, in terms of playing more shows, promoting this album, and working on future projects.
RYAN: Do you have any advice to give anyone looking to create their own album?
Spencer Sabo: Sure! I’d suggest them to record it themselves. We live in a day and age where it’s important to know both sides of the songwriting and recording process, otherwise you’ll be left in the dust. Investing in recording gear and learning how to master it is just wiser than putting that money into a one time recording studio gig.
I’d also suggest, when you’re first starting out, to record anything and everything. Most of it won’t be good at first, but you’ll be honing a craft. Once you’ve decided to record an official ‘album’ or EP, make sure that you have something interesting to say, and a unique way of saying it. Finding your own sound is not only redeeming, but an important step to becoming an original songwriter.
RYAN: At this point is the band a full time gig, or are you juggling other careers as well?
Spencer Sabo: I’m technically juggling my music with other things at this point, but I have a lot of time in my schedule to focus on music. I’m actually finishing up the last couple years of college, which allows for a lot of room to record and play live shows. Of course I’d love to be doing music full time though, I’m just taking baby steps.
RYAN: We have moved quickly into the digital streaming realm and away from the physical product. Is there one medium that you prefer over the other and why?
Spencer Sabo: It’s all relative. If it’s a new electronic based record I’ll definitely be listening with headphones or speakers digitally, since that was the format it was created it. However, for older music, more analog based instruments like guitar, or albums that were recorded and mixed on tape I’ll try to listen on vinyl, since it produces a more natural sound that the instruments can shine in. However, I haven’t listened to vinyl in a while now. It’s really about costs for me at this point, collecting records is just an expensive hobby.
RYAN: How long did this album take to finish?
Spencer Sabo: The album took about 3 months to record, and another solid 4 months to mix, record last minute things, and tinker. Of course, there are a couple songs on the album that I started years and years ago, but the majority was made within that first time span.
RYAN: If you could collaborate with any musician on a future project, who would you choose to work with?
Spencer Sabo: It would be awesome to collaborate with Ariel Pink on something. I love his crazy music style and personality that he throws into each of his songs. He also seems to be an unpredictable person, so working with him might keep me on my feet and force me to create things I didn’t even know were possible!
RYAN: Lastly, and thank you for your time. Is there any news for 2016 that you would like to tell your fans about?
Spencer Sabo: 2016 is gonna be a big year for Mind The Journey. Of course, it’s kicking off with the release of Color In The Gray Machine. But following that, in early February, will be a northeast American tour, starting with shows in Philadelphia, and moving to Boston, New York City, and Burlington, so keep your eyes peeled!
by Ryan Donnelly