Since their self-titled debut album Motopony have progressed though steady releases. Each album has evolved to offer a deepening canon of folk-informed (sometimes psychedelic) rock that arrives as a balm. The brainchild of singer/songwriter Daniel Blue, this is project that functions only at a level of honesty and heart. Style is preserved over fashion. True, other artists echo their heroes and bring contemporary twists to more traditional sounds, but what Blue and his band achieve is a kind of vulnerability that’s borne of compulsion, not decision. Blue brings bravery around his lyrics that few of his ‘genre-contemporaries’ attempt. This is the kind of courage required when standing up at a community meeting to announce “My name is … and my situation is this…” This stuff is personal/universal/personal.
Blue stands in the landscape and draws a line as a call to action. Does he feel politically charged because of some spiritual calling, or is his spiritual pursuit inspired by the political awareness? Add to this his self-effacing wit, and an unapologetic analysis of his own ideas (a student of process) and you arrive at good quality.
Ahead of a new album, which we’re promised will arrive in a season or two, Motopony are pursuing a spot on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Motopony should absolutely win a slot on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series. There are other, worthy contenders for the esteemed stage, but Motopony are a band born for this kind of platform. Pared down – elemental performances are where they shine.
True story: Years ago I saw Motopony play a gig in support of their debut album. I remember Daniel Blue became about 10 feet tall when occupying his place in front of the microphone. After the show a guy was crying on the pavement outside the venue. I don’t like seeing people crying. I asked “What’s up, sir?” The crying guy looked me in the eye. “It was just too beautiful.” he said. We embraced in the way strangers embrace. We left a trace element of beauty on the pavement, evidence of something true happening between performer and observer.
Anyway, we recently spoke with Daniel Blue with the hope of just getting to the point of all of this.
Please explain why you’re making art.
I don’t really think I had a choice in the matter of making art or not. For me its always been a do or die/go crazy. I didn’t fit into a lot of the boxes set up for young people. My family wasn’t wealthy, I wasn’t very popular and barely graduated high school. As people were choosing careers I remember being horrified at the thought of having to “grow up” and shelve my imagination. I ran for a while after I turned 18 and it really only took me a year to decide I wouldn’t survive if I was just working to put money in someone else’s pocket.
The last “job” I had was in Oregon at a ski resort as a prep cook. One stormy day I got lost in the woods after accidentally riding off the back side of the mountain. I really could have died out there, I was way way WAAAAAY off the map. “Something” came and led me out. As I followed that presence, it showed me myself and my desires and let me believe that I was capable and that I would have help if I left the beaten path and chased my bliss. There was a moment where I literally fell over from exhaustion, humbled myself and asked for help and then was filled with a supernatural power. I stood back up and started marching again…and I began to sing.
I know this is a crazy story, but its true. I sang so loud I could hear my voice echoing off the mountain. I sang my gratitude and I sang my hope in the force that was beyond my human limitations. I hiked back up into the storm and then the sun went down. I turned on my feelers and walked forward blind. Trusting absolutely that I wouldn’t fall in to a crevasse or walk off a cliff or into a tree well. Hours later I saw the lights of the snow groomers who had heard I was lost.
My art career has been almost a complete mirror of that experience, marching slowly up a mountain through knee deep snow dragging a snowboard and singing like my life depended on it. I quit my job shortly after and started calling myself a “graphic designer”. From there I moved into fashion and poetry. It took me years to just go ahead and call myself an “artist”, and years again to drum up the courage to try being a musician. I’ve never had an aversion to work, I wasn’t lazy…in fact I’ve always been insanely driven. I knew “working for myself” and “working to be an artist” wasn’t going to be the easier of my choice of paths. I just knew that it was the only path I was willing to walk.
Why is NPR important to you?
NPR is important to me because they prioritize intelligent discourse over profitable entertainment. In a world of the cheap dirty propagandized (from both sides) pornography of things you can listen to…Ira Glass will be there holding up a golden flag of hope for anyone thinking with both sides of their brain.
What’s the backstory?
The backstory is a story that’s behind the story. We keep it in the back.
What are you afraid of?
I am afraid of Fear. And Lust. And Success, because it seems to breed fear and lust. Don’t worry. I face my fears.
In life, what is the most confusing thing?
In life the most confusing thing is how consistently we choose fear and hate over love and understanding. We all do, even the most loving (if only sometimes)…and it confuses me. Its so much more pleasant to love.
Describe the atmosphere of the last hotel room you were in.
The last hotel I stayed in was with 4 other “water protectors” in Bismarck ND. We were on our way to Standing Rock and got in a little too late to set up camp. It was familial, warm, hopeful and set off with a sense of anxiety for the situation and what we might be called upon to do in the name of love.
Describe the last time you surprised yourself.
The last time I surprised myself I sent my step father a message that described my stance on a lot of the “current issues” that are being dragged about the news feeds. I outed myself as a mirror opposite of most of his lifelong ideals. I made a boundary about “talking about these things” and told him I was making that boundary because I loved him and I wanted to be able to act in love toward him. It was surprising because it wasn’t confrontational or scary or spiteful. I think I was most surprised at the lack of spite. I really do want to act in love toward that man.
What do you know now that you didn’t know twelve months ago?
12 months ago I didn’t know why it was taking my album so long to be ready. After the election season its perfectly obvious that these songs were written for such a time as this.
Without naming the title or author – please describe your favorite book.
Its a family history, and a cliche of a favorite book. But I couldn’t get through it without weeping every other page. It took me a long time to finish because I couldn’t read through my watery eyes. It follows several generations and branches of a family that uproots from the middle of the continent and finds a home in a fertile valley on the west coast. Everyone dies. Not in the book. Just, you know its a fact of life.
Favorite city – favorite memory from that city?
Seattle. When our Judge told our President he was off base. Actually that whole week was really pretty heartening and righteous.
Finish this sentence: “I love it when…
I love it.”
Take as many words as you need to describe the most vivid dream you remember.
Listen to our song, “Wait For Me” it covers it perfectly.
If you weren’t an artist in what other way would you express yourself?
This question is a contradiction in my opinion. Any being in expression is an artist to me.
HURRY – LISTEN – MOTOPONY
KEEP AN EYE ON MOTOPONY
image credit: patrick gookin