Macula Dog Is the Cross Between Devo and 'Pee-wee’s Playhouse' You’ve Been Searching For
One of the best cassettes of 2015 comes from two guys with demented puppets on their shoulders.
Materializing from the intergalactic zone of Queens, New York, Macula Dog produce a bonkers electronic music that floats through star clusters and old Radio Shacks.
Two guys sit opposite each other, one with an electronic drum kit, the other with a large assortment of synths and samplers. Both have damaged-looking alien puppets sitting on their shoulders. They create the kind of music you imagine the Devo-loving shift manager at a cryogenics warehouse would play late at night.
Both Macula Dog’s music and videos, created by Ben Mendelewicz, are the kind of stuff you’d expect to see on a late night 80s public access television program: A weird amalgam of Pee-wee's Playhouse and The Residents' Vileness Flats.
The flagship act on the amazing HAORD label, (check the excellent 2014 Haord’s Buncha compilation), the Macuala Dog cassette sold out its initial run, but Wharf Cat Records affiliate Ramp Local! have another batch on the way.
Listen to a track from the tape and read our interview with Mathews below.
NOISEY: You guys are involved in Haord Records but how did Macula Dog come about?
Mark Mathews: Yes we're involved, Haord started before Macula Dog. And so Bruce and I had our separate bands. Together, we wanted to play in a dynamic live band, so instead of working separately on grid music, we grouped up. We had fun playing to sequences or backing tracks, but the thing we wanted with Macula Dog was to be a non-quantized, live electronic band. It leads to varying live performances and an unreasonably high amount of mistakes. And it's not that someone can't put on a great performance with a sequencer set-up, but it's just not what we originally wanted to do with M-Dog. Breaking free from our previous "sky is the limit" approaches to creating. But as we do this for longer, that idea will evolve. So who knows.
Were you surprised by the reaction to the tape? How did Ramp Local get involved?
Because we first put out the Haord's Buncha compilation, we were able to create a context for the world of music we exist in (our world doesn't drop off where Buncha ends, but it does help build a contemporary context). And Macula Dog fit nicely into that context. People are more willing to believe your story if others corroborate it. And the people like it more than I thought they would. Trip from Ramp Local!/Wharf Cat approached us at a show we played. And then we found his instagram page and he listed our band's name is his bio which we liked. He agreed to co-re-release the Macula Dog Haord tape. And we're working on an LP for Wharf Cat now, thank god.
Is “Purchase Power Station” in relation to an upstate New York power station, or someone who actually bought a power station?
That title is a combination of purchasing power and power station. It's a pretty simple song. There's a lot of water references, and electricity. It's about the basics: Industry, warp-speed consumerism, etc. We would love to visit Purchase's power station though.
Bands like Coneheads and Toyota have recently been mining the punky Devo sound, but you come from a more avant-garde, Residents style.
Those influences are definitely in here, but as much as influence and our tastes, I think a lot of the sound comes from formal aspects. None of us know how to play instruments very well, and we use a lot of equipment that definitely sets itself in a time. And a lot of that equipment is cheap or actual garbage we've salvaged and tends to sound old. We live in New York and don't want to pay for a practice space so electronic instruments are a must. In all honesty, we wish we could sound like Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Macula Dog cassette is available now through Ramp Local!