Band in real life

Montgomery Moth’s new release, Go Crazy, goes hard on the rock and light on the image. Ian Gormely deals with it

Montgomery Moth The band’s straight hard-rock sound stays fresh. photo Aaron Fraser

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"You should print the phrase "big, big titties' in there."

Mike Bartlett says this between mouthfuls of muffin, intending it to be his parting words. Bartlett and his bandmate Brent Geikie are sitting in Second Cup on Spring Garden Road for an interview to hype the group's Montgomery Moth show for their new record, Go Crazy, Saturday night at Gus' Pub. When asked why he wants it in the story, Bartlett deadpans, "It'll piss some people off."

In a period in music where everything about a commercially successful band seems calculated—its sound, image, which company its songs are licensed to—the pair are refreshingly down to earth. Today, many bands are more conscious of press image than ability to write and perform. But if Geikie and Bartlett are the least bit media savvy, they don't show it.

Geikie's heavy metal-length red hair, matched by an equally lengthy goatee, would even tip off your grandmother to the fact he's in a band. It's difficult to imagine him in any other line of work. A military-surplus jacket, adorned with several rock-band buttons on the lapel, covers his stocky frame. Bartlett's short brown hair and goatee, baggy shirt, worn jeans and beat-up Doc Martens-style shoes allow him to blend in with the clientele, though neither look seems particularly pre-meditated.

Montgomery Moth was formed four years ago by Geikie and vocalist Jeremy Donovan here in Halifax. The band started life as a three-piece and Geikie says they wanted "to be a rock band without sounding overly aggressive." Drummer Bartlett and second guitarist Brad Luknowsky joined two years later. "When we added Mike and Brad everything got way tighter and heavier," says Geikie.

The band was heavily influenced by The Pixies, he says, but never set out to mimic the legendary band. Instead, they've tried to incorporate their love of The Ramones, Guided by Voices and Ween into one sound. To say Montgomery Moth sounds like the 1990s is an understatement. Their straight hard-rock sound is so far removed from any of the subgenre-tedium that dominates today's music scene that they sound like the freshest thing going. Without a hint of any retro-kitsch, it's like the last decade of music never happened.

"Yeah, seriously, man," says Bartlett. "We're caught in a fucking time warp."

The band has been flying particularly low under the radar for the past year. Donovan, an animator, moved back to his native New Brunswick to take a job at Fatkat Animation Studios in 2006. "We don't really operate as a band," concedes Bartlett.

Over this period, Montgomery Moth tries to play a show every three or four months, getting together the day before the gig to rehearse. Fresh ideas are tossed back and forth over the internet, but Bartlett admits that from a songwriting standpoint, the situation is frustrating. "We've had some but it's kind of like would come and say, "OK, I have this riff,'" he explains. "We'll go over it and build a song around it, but then he'd have to go so he leaves us to play with it."

Geikie, Bartlett and Luknowsky each play in other bands, helping to excise the creative dearth that hangs over Montgomery Moth. Luknowsky plays with new wave rockers Hotshotrobot, Bartlett with old-school country band, The Whiskey Kisses, and Geikie in Dead Red, who are opening for Montgomery Moth on Saturday night. It's the band's only gig on the horizon, but Geikie and Bartlett say Donovan is expected to return to Halifax sometime next year, at which point the pair hope Montgomery will become a "real" band again.

But what can we say about the band until then?

"You can talk about how cool we are," says Bartlett.

Would he like to elaborate?

"No," he says, "It's better left to the imagination." He then reaches for his sunglasses and puts them on. "The sun's not out. I don't even care."

He crosses his arms against his chest and looks away from the table. "Whatever, man. Deal with me."

Montgomery Moth w/Dead Red, AV, Doug Mason and the Certified Legends, Money Over Bitches, Saturday November 17 at Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola, 10pm, $5.

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