MMOTHS: A Self-Proclaimed ‘Freak’ Finds the Light — And the Dark
On his debut LP, the 22-year-old Irish producer takes inspiration from Kevin Shields' transcendent noise
Jack Colleran, a.k.a. MMOTHS, refers to himself as a “freak” twice in our interview — and uses the word “weird” 19 times, according to a cursory control + F search of our transcript — to describe the process behind his forthcoming debut full-length, the opalescent Luneworks, out March 8. First, the classically piano-trained, Ableton-schooled Irish producer is concerned that electronic experimentalist Lee Bannon, who remixed his new song “Deu,” will think he is one. (“I was talking about him in an interview yesterday,” Colleran says, “so he’s going to think I’m a freak.”) Colleran also admits he may have behaved strangely while recording his synth-driven sleights-of-hand, which he did over the course of a month between the hours of 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. in a random Los Angeles apartment about a year and a half ago. “I was reading [Haruki] Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. That’s kind of all I did,” he explains. “It was super weird, and I was a freak for that time.”
To someone outside of the introspective 22-year-old’s head, Colleran does not appear to be a “freak.” He’s talking from his parents’ house in Newbridge, Ireland and apologizing for the “s**ty” Internet that’s spotty throughout our Skype call. Colleran — who’s explained in past interviews that his extra-lettered alias comes from “motts,” a school-age slang term for “girlfriends” — tells me he wanted to play the piano before his fifth birthday, even though he had never actually seen one. “I must have seen it on TV or something, and begged my mom,” he recalls. “I was obviously awful, because I was four years old.” After quitting at age 13 and experimenting with the bass guitar and other instruments in school, Colleran eventually returned to the sounds that had defined his childhood once he discovered sampling via Ableton. “Classical training just didn’t suit me at that age,” he says, explaining the difference between mandatory lessons and coming around to refinement at his own pace. “Now, I find myself referencing it in stuff I’m doing now. When I got older and discovered it for myself, it had a huge impact in me.”
Colleran’s gratuitous self-consciousness (he also apologizes several times for “not making any sense”) belies an assured debut. Luneworks follows 2012’s introspective EP1 and 2013’s atmospheric Diaries EP, which announced MMOTHS as a noteworthy up-and-comer by virtue of his quietly arresting productions. His compositions feel like beds for weary ears, consisting of subtle keyboard meanderings and his own haunting murmurs, with occasional guest vocals from indie dreamers Superhumanoids and Keep Shelly in Athens. After a solo American tour pegged to Diaries, Colleran struggled to find a label that would give him total creative freedom. “Everyone had ideas — ‘You should totally do this, and this, and this’ — and we were very sure of what we wanted to do from the get-go,” he says, declining to go into further detail, but adding it was “reassuring” that OYAE, an imprint of Paris/London label Because Music, didn’t want him to change a thing.
When asked, he initially says he uses “we” for MMOTHS — which is, for all intents and purposes, a solo project — because “I sound like a dick if I say ‘me’ all the time.” Really, it’s to acknowledge the close, constantly-on-the-phone relationship he has with managers Jimmy Mock and Henoch Moore of Gene’s Liquor, the collective and label behind many of Los Angeles’ most exciting beat-based releases, who have supported MMOTHS “since day one.” He wrote much of Luneworks in L.A. partially to be close to them, but also to escape some personal relationship matters. “Dublin was becoming very claustrophobic, and I knew that I’d be able to get space [in L.A.] to finish the record there,” he says.
As such, an expansive sense of pathos infuses the record: Opener “You” sets the tone with a background buzzsaw sputtering through Colleran’s unintelligible wails, while the crackling pianos of “Verbena” — which he recorded back in Ireland by sending audio signals through a grand piano — recall bits of Radiohead’s earliest electronic experiments. Throughout, his beatific falsetto throws a halo around the ever-present noise simmering in the back of the mix, a nod to the real inspiration for Luneworks: My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. “He’s a genius,” says Colleran. “I don’t like delving deep into artists that I like — I just listen to their output — but he’s one of the few people I’ve researched and looked at everything he’s done.”
Rougher around the edges yet more sophisticated than MMOTHS’ earlier EPs, Luneworks’ arrangements are simultaneously vulnerable and removed; in other words — if one were to read into the relationship context Colleran steers away from making explicit — they carry themselves like someone who’s been hurt. But with or without that backstory, the album holds its own as a bittersweet exploration of polarities. “The geometric meaning behind ‘lune’ is how the light and dark parts of the moon interact,” Colleran says, explaining his fitting choice of title. “It’s about the pair of them.”