Tom Fec of Black Moth Super Rainbow has always been a musical chameleon, but then, his music is like the field recordings at a sanitarium—if there were an early-’70s dance party going on—with period synthesizers and other instruments.
“It just came out of wanting to hear things I wasn’t hearing,” Fec says, who also performs under the names Allegheny White Fish, Satanstompingcaterpillars and Tobacco. “It took a while to find the right instruments to make the musical colors I wanted to make.”
It isn’t surprising that he cites musical changeling Beck—who contributed vocals on two tracks from Fec’s 2010 solo release Maniac Meat—as an influence, “especially that first album on four-track (Mellow Gold),” Fec says. “I always liked people who broke down what something was supposed to be. Also Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, some of his totally bizarre stuff like ‘Now I Got Worry.’ ”
The first Black Moth Super Rainbow album, Falling Through a Field, was released 10 years ago on Fec’s own 70s Gymnastics Recording Co. The Pittsburgh-based musical collective centered around Fec’s musical meanderings released its most recent set, Cobra Juicy, in October 2012 on the band’s own Rad Cult label.
Although Fec’s instrumentation might sound vintage, his method of releasing albums on his own imprints would have been unimaginable several decades ago, and his idiosyncratic musical style is largely by benefit of that creative control.
“All the previous Black Moth Super Rainbow albums were written to be albums,” Fec says. Working on an album to be called Psychic Love Damage, he wasn’t happy with the songs and scrapped the project. When he was hired to work on a remix project, he thought it would be interesting to write a bunch of pop songs for a change. The result, coming together little by little, was Cobra Juicy, which is poppier than anything he’s ever done.
An indie success story, Cobra Juicy was financed through a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $125,000 and was also a chance to connect with fans directly. “I don’t know if I’d do it again, it was so intense,” Fec says. Gifts for backers included a version of the album on “splatter vinyl.”
He’s finishing up a new Tobacco record, and he says, “The Tobacco project is the stuff that really gets me going, the really weird stuff. I’m trying to create a really heavy trash record. It doesn’t sound anything like Black Moth Super Rainbow. It’s not punk, but thrashy, and trashy.” With bandmates carrying monikers like The Seven Fields of Aphelion, Iffernaut, Ryan Graveface and Bullsmear, the bizarro factor is relative—it’s just different flavors of oddball. The video for the song “Windshield Smasher” is a perfect example of the way Fec can use the pop-song format to make subversive statements, a rare ability in the current musical climate. Not that what Black Moth Super Rainbow is doing is incredibly profound, but the band is able to disgust while it entertains, in the tradition of Devo, Zappa, Ween and few others.
“There’s no one forcing me to make music, so I make it for myself, and I curate the way it’s released,” Fec says. “BMSR is all the stuff that might have a chance to turn people off. The stuff that’s not right for BMSR, that’s Tobacco. I’m just entertaining myself—no one should like it, and it’s insane when someone does.” Re-interpreting with a band the album he recorded by himself, he finds “things surprise me that aren’t on the record—there’s a different energy—like a twin brother that’s not identical.”
BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW
w/The Hood Internet, Oscillator Bug
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Saturday, May 18. 9 p.m.,