In Pound for the Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with local music community members about what "gear" they use to create their signature "tones" in our community.
Scattered Melodies drummer and co-songwriter Josh Montag is locally grown talent, coming to us straight from Gilbert. His musical journey begins on violin way back in the fifth grade, however, that love affair did not last long, as he was done with that in less than one year and made the move to drums, never looking back. His first gig was playing drum kit in his elementary school band to the tune of "Proud Mary." He began taking lessons soon after this, being in and out of drum kit lessons all the way until he graduated high school. While in high school, he started his life of playing in bands as well, a part of his life that still sticks with him today.
After high school, Montag wasn't really sure what direction he wanted to take. Right after high school was over, he dabbled in film school over at Scottsdale Community College. However, he says that he felt like he never really jived with anyone there, so he decided to part ways and move into the music business program over at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. After completing his studies, he got to work and started The Morning After in 2009 with Scattered Melodies bassist Jake Johnston. That band played some great shows during their two-and-a-half-year stint, but ultimately Montag and Johnston decided it was time take a turn and try an entirely new direction. And Scattered Melodies was birthed in 2012.
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At this point in his career, Montag truly feels he was forced to be more creative than he had ever been before. He no longer had the luxury of having a lead singer, or even a lead player other than Johnston. And this is where it gets really cool for the band, as the duo morphed from a rhythm section into songwriters and producers. He began playing keys more, and they constantly had to find vocalists, with Haley Green (formerly of Ruca) being their first vocal collaborator. Now they have worked with over 40 vocalists in the Valley, and they are about to release their latest full-length studio album, Patterns, next Friday, September 28, at Valley Bar, and it is definitely going to be a party you do not want to miss. And the band also recently released their own brewed concoction called "You Bad Juicy Pale Ale." With all the happenings taking place, New Times was able to catch up with Montag to discuss his gear, his band's new album, and the upcoming release show.
Phoenix New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Josh Montag: I’d say the secret weapon of my sound is the technique I’ve crafted over the past 18 years of drumming. Depending on my approach to a particular song, my drum tone is either a hard-hitting sound with lots of energy or other times a more controlled/lighter attack to the drums. I like to hop back and forth to keep things interesting.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
With drums being my main instrument, I almost feel obligated to list something in that realm, but honestly my favorite piece of gear right now is my JD-XI Roland keyboard. This keyboard is all over our new record; I probably played it on at least eight of the songs. It’s just filled with so many cool sounds and ways you can manipulate them, plus it has a vocoder mic attached to it. We definitely used that on some of Killa Maus’ vocals.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Well, when I traveled Europe back in 2008 with my Uncle Mike, I bought this sweet darbuka hand drum in Greece, and also a pair of bagpipes while we were in Scotland. So both of those have a special place in my collection. Another special item for me is my eight-track recorder. This is mostly because of the bond we’ve built after spending hours upon hours together. I use it to record all of my demos, and as for our latest record goes, there were plenty of late nights spent with that bad boy.
Just listened to your latest single off of Patterns called “Blackhole” featuring Killa Maus. Great song and great video. Love the funky grooves and the drums sound super-smooth. You had mentioned during our phone conversation that your new album features two major themes: the light and the dark. You said this was the first track on the dark half of the record. Can you expand upon why you chose these themes for your upcoming release?
First of all thank you for the kind words. I’ve had this concept idea for a record for quite some time now. I’ve always been fascinated with how music subconsciously becomes a soundtrack to different life experiences. In this case, side A is filled with songs for a sunny day and side B is songs for a rainy day. Personally, when it’s a rainy day in Phoenix (which is so rare), I gravitate towards certain albums that I feel enhance my surroundings. Same goes for sunny days. So in a nutshell, I tried to capture the feelings I have on those specific days and put them into music, which became Patterns.
On the phone, you stated that after The Morning After broke up, that you were forced to be creative and try new things and methods as a songwriter. What were some of the ways you were forced to be creative that have shaped the Scattered Melodies sound today?
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Starting Scattered Melodies really forced me to become a better songwriter, which I am so thankful for. I was used to writing music in a group setting as a band, but now there was only a rhythm section writing together, and often times where I was writing by myself. So between what I knew on the drums and keyboard, I was eventually coming up with full songs by myself and that felt really good. Fast-forward to our new record, Patterns, where I had the opportunity to write most of the songs on here, which I definitely would not have been able to do when we first started six years ago.
Scattered Melodies release Patterns next Friday, September 28, at Valley Bar. Any words you wish to share with readers about your band’s upcoming show?
We have a very special show planned for everyone that features a group of my most favorite people to play music with. We plan to get the audience movin’ and groovin’ and we want them to leave feeling really good. Our past release shows have been more of a variety show in the sense of changing performers for each song, so this time around we have a set core of features for the whole show along with a couple surprises. Our goal is to have the show flow like the Salt River after a healthy winter. Hope to see you there; Hyperbella kicks things off at 7:30 p.m. and we take the stage at 8:45 p.m.