Thee Water MoccaSins

Artists on Trial: Thee Water MoccaSins

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)

Thee Water MoccaSins are one of the most well-known, yet most elusive bands in Kansas City. While frontman Billy Smith is now making his mark in New York, the other members of the group (Steven Tulipana, Wade Williamson and John Berusch) remain busy with a host of other projects. This week, we get a rare chance to sit down and talk with the group and find out a little more.

The Deli: Gun to your head: One sentence to describe your music. What is it?

Thee Water MoccaSins: We call it Psychedelic Electronic Fractal Pop. It is music that was made with a sense of urgency with an overall goal of keeping all things casual. Not only musically but internally as a band member. Easy Breezy.

The Deli: Let's talk about your latest release or upcoming shows. What can we expect?

TWM: We have a show coming up on Thursday, August 23 at The Riot Room with Be/Non and Olivetti Letter.

The Deli: What does "supporting local music" mean to you?

TWM: The members of our band have spent most of our lives creating, participating and nurturing the local music scene by being booking agents, club owners, studio producers, haunted house builders, back patters and bartenders. All vital cogs in the local music machine. We take great pride in how the local music community represents itself.

The Deli: Who are your favorite "local" musicians right now?

TWM: We like bands that like are more exploratory in the live setting. Expo '70, Be/Non, Ad Astra Arkestra, Gemini Revolution, Surroundher, Conquerors, Soft Reeds.

The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?

TWM: Digging bands like Tame Impala, Django Django, Tinarwen, Caetano Veloso.

The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?

TWM: Queen with Einstürzende Neubauten, Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine & The Residents.

The Deli: Would you rather spend the rest of your life on stage or in the recording studio?

TWM: Each one has a personal satisfaction. In the studio you get that instant song playback that gives you chills when the mix is perfect. I love to push the boundaries of what the studio can offer. It always helps when the producer/engineer is willing and able to help us experiment with sounds and non-traditional ideas when tracking songs. Chris Cosgrove really helped guide this record. And so far we have all been lucky with working with great producers and engineers. Thee Water MoccaSins could easily maintain and flourish within the settings of only a studio. Live: We love to play these songs live. We get to open the songs up a bit more like how we originally wrote them. Feeding off each other and being able to reach a psychic level of playing is about the highest mental plateau that humans can reach. And we push to open a communal bliss between us and the audience when we play live by adding an intense light show and percussive audience participation during some numbers. It is our attempt to say that All Are Welcome here.

The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting there and why?

TWM: Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Mark Mothersbaugh. Wise Man, Protector, Lover, Human Dissent.

The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found? You can download or listen to our full record. It sounds a bit silly when you just stream it due to some songs being strung together. Just buy it.

The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for The Deli audience?

TWM: We would like to thank everyone for their continual support. Support your locals. Never bite the hand that feeds you. Please be good to each other. Start Now.

Thee Water MoccaSins will be bringing their psychedelic electronic fractal pop to blow away The Riot Room this Thursday, August 23 with special guests Be/Non and Olivetti Letter. Since they rarely play live shows, this is your chance to see them. Prepare to be impressed.

--Zach Hodson

Zach is a lifetime Kansas City resident who plays multiple instruments and sings in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black and Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to many other Kansas City music, art, and comedy projects.  He is very fond of edamame, treats his cat Wiley better than he treats himself, and doesn't want to see pictures of your newborn child (seriously, it looks like a potato).

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Album review: Thee Water MoccaSins - … from the Rivers of Missouri and the Banks of Fear

If I didn’t know that this band was a supergroup of KC stalwarts, I wouldn’t have any idea exactly who or what Thee Water MoccaSins is. I can only assume they like to keep it this way. There are no members listed on their “official” places on the web, there are no pictures that aren’t foggy, off centered, or purposefully blurred.  They are truly as abstract as they try to appear.  It is purposeful mystery, in that emo-adorable kind of way.  They give you no choice but to not focus on who they are, but more importantly what they do.

The band describes itself as “electro-psych fractal pop”.  Hmm.  Electro.  Psych.  Fractal.  Pop.  Sounds … heady.  And with the “Description” field on their Facebook being a link to the philosophy of randomness, their hometown being a link to “The Tree of Life Web Project”, and their own admission from their website that the whole thing was started “as a lark”, I find myself struggling to determine whether these are a group of earth-loving, deeper-than-thou intellectuals or if they’re just fucking with me.

Don’t worry, I really do understand it, but do I believe it?  I think I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and go with the grand idea they propose.  After all, it’s a glass nearly full kind of day.

But like I said before, it’s not how they present it, it’s how they do it.  And Thee Water MoccaSins does it well. …from the Rivers of Missouri and the Banks of Fear is a solid album clearly made by people that know how to make records.  The songs share just enough structure and whimsy to keep both camps happy. The rocking parts keep the tattooed hipsters interested while the sometimes-bordering-cheesy 80’s synths give hope to that guy in the back of the bar still hoping Ric Ocasek has another Candy-O in him.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this album is its ability to be blatantly influenced throughout, yet end up a cohesive and unique-sounding record in the end. Thee Water MoccaSins spin specific elements from all eras of rock history into something that walks on its own feet.

The opening track, “In the City”, sounds like The Who sharing a brown liquor drink (no ice, please) with a methed-out bumpkin as sung by Robert Smith.  It is clear this band understands the importance of having a solid and rocking album opener and they have most certainly achieved it.

Often the tracks space out into structured musical strains that test the limits of the fairly simple electronic elements beneath.  The songwriting stays fairly formulaic throughout, “Holy Roller” being the exception. This track eventually breaks the mold a bit, and features a more playful back and forth between the instrumentation and vocals.  It sounds much more purposeful than the occasional random chaos in other songs.

“Diablo Diablo” is the standout track for me. It starts akin to the others, but ends up being the best usage of vocals on the album, both for melody and effect. Also being lyrically the most accessible of these songs, it’s the one I find myself humming hours after listening.

All in all, Thee Water MoccaSins has made a very solid record.  Regardless of whether you appreciate the existentialism and verisimilitude, these electronic-tinged rock grooves will keep your ears pleased.

-Zach Hodson

Zach is a lifetime Kansas City resident who plays multiple instruments and sings in Dolls on Fire, as well as contributing to many other Kansas City music, art, and comedy projects.  He is very fond of edamame, treats his cat Wiley better than he treats himself, and doesn't want to see pictures of your newborn child (seriously, it looks like a potato).