Localized – Wake Up Nebula, OK Ikumi and The Moth & The Flame

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Photo: Michael Schwartz

It’s going to be an unforgettable night of local music at the Urban Lounge on March 9. Localized, this month, features Provo darlings and indie art rockers The Moth & The Flame, and the mellow electro samplings of OK Ikumi. Get there early to catch the ethereal soundscapes of electro-pop band Wake Up Nebula for only $5.

The Moth & The Flame
Mark Garbett – Keys/Vocals
Nate Pyfer – Programming
Brandon Robbins – Vocals/Guitar
Andrew Tolman – Drums

From dreamy acoustic lullabies to crashing cymbals and dramatic yelps, The Moth & The Flame contain a wide berth of emotion in their debut, self-titled album, all fused together with the deep grumbling of Brandon Robbins’ sultry voice. When I met with the four-piece, I was only expecting the two founding members, Robbins and Mark Garbett. Andrew Tolman and Nate Pyfer were added to the lineup only a few months ago, but it was a pleasant surprise, as the bandmates were only too happy to share the spotlight and were equally as enthusiastic about the band’s music.

Velour, one of Provo’s most illustrious music venues, gets the birthing credit for The Moth & The Flame two years ago. Bandmates in Robbins’ brother’s local band, Somber Party, Robbins and Garbett started writing their own material in Garbett’s tiny basement. Corey Fox, Velour’s owner, booked the two for a last-minute set one night in Nov. 2010, also calling on Pyfer to fill in on the sound board. “These guys get up and had really terrible equipment, and sound guys are really bad about judging bands by their gear, so I’m thinking, ‘Oh, these guys are gonna be a joke,’” says Pyfer. Even with Robbins mumbling through the unfinished songs, Pyfer heard the potential in the band that night and immediately offered up his talents to produce TM&TF’s first album. The duo officially became a trio about two months ago, when Pyfer was absorbed into the ranks to take care of all the programming and “weird sounds.” Tolman joined the group soon after as the drummer (Aaron Anderson of Fictionist drummed on the album), directed to TM&TF by Fox after leaving his latest musical venture, Magic Dragons. The new additions double the band’s talent, and allow for a more full-bodied live show. “We’re all committed to making sure the album is very well represented,” says Pyfer. “If it’s on the record, I want to find a way to do it live.”

Describing their music, Robbins says, is always difficult. After throwing around a few different terms, the band members agree that “art rock” accurately encompasses their sound—“Moth rock,” jokes Garbett. “It’s kind of like The National meets Radiohead,” says Tolman. “That’s the picture that I’ve always gotten.” Robbins describes his musical inspiration for the record as a “melting pot” of influences that range from the obvious—Radiohead and Beck—to the more subtle Pearl Jam and Sparklehorse.

The term “art rock” doesn’t just describe their music. The band is selling their debut album exclusively in physical form—no digital tracks available for purchase, though you can stream it from their Soundcloud—stating on their website, “We’ve decided that the only way we want to present this album, for the time being, is in its physical form because of how important the art is to the album. The art was not an afterthought, but rather an integral part of the process, and we consider it to be the opening track of the album.” Robbins and Garbett were struck by the photograph on the cover—a man held up by crutches in a desert landscape—the work of New York collaborative photography duo Kahn & Selesnick, before they even started the recording process. The song “How We Woke Up” was actually inspired by the artwork, Robbins says. The band also collaborated with a few artist friends for their CD-release party back in November, creating anthropomorphic giants and placing them as temporary art installations around Provo prior to the show. The giants, including a creature 20-feet tall, were then placed at the front of Velour to greet people as they walked inside. “As a band, we’re focused on the visuals very heavily,” says Garbett. “For me, it’s also a statement that we’re art rock.”

The Moth & The Flame have seen some decent success and popularity in Utah and the surrounding areas, along with a healthy dose of love from music blogs around the world. They set out on their first West Coast tour this March, which they anticipate will go well. “Everyone’s decided to do what we need to do to make a career in music, and that’s what we’re going to work for, and go about it the best way we know how,” says Tolman.

If for any reason their bright musical futures fail them, they’ve got a Plan B: “Professional basketball players [on the Velour Girls basketball team],” says Pyfer. Catch The Moth & The Flame before they slam dunk at Localized on March 9 at Urban Lounge.