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Tokyo Morose to release long awaited 'Sequence of Steps'

Preview of Grand Rapids band Tokyo Morose record release at Founders Brewing Co.
Underwriting support from:

Tokyo Morose this weekend at Founders wsg Ghost Heart and Lazy Genius

Where:  Founders Brewing Co. (235 Grandville Ave SW)

When: Saturday, November 3rd, 9:30 pm

WSG: Ghost Heart and Lazy Genius

Cover: $5 door, $10 album

/Tim Warren

/Tim Warren

A lot has changed in the four years since Grand Rapids band Tokyo Morose released their last album none more so than the sound of the band itself.

The group has transformed itself from a ramshackle pop outfit with folk leanings into a sophisticated electronic beat driven machine. This transformation is fueled by vintage synths bought at Gary Numan’s garage sale and with guitars that are instagrams of Paul Maroon of the Walkmen arm-wrestling Alex Scully from Beach House for the Edge’s Memory Man delay pedal.

The band is releasing their new album 'Sequence of Steps' this Saturday, November 3rd at Founders Brewing Co. (235 Grandville Ave SW) at 8:00 pm. The band plans to have musical guests from GR bands such as Alexis and Ghost Heart join them onstage for a few songs, but the band insists that it will largely be their own show. 

The album is a cohesive collection that is part 1980s hey-day New Wave as well as the more recent electronic experiments of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Songs like “Mirror, Mirror”, “Best Catch” and “Spoke Too Soon” are like lost Human League tracks, propelled by singer Erin Lenau’s voice.

“Valley Rain, Mountain Snow” has a more dramatic and slo-mo windswept dynamic; as if Siouxsie Sioux were fronting a very stoned U2.  The record relies on vibe and it is clear the band took time to ensure the songs flowed well from one to another. “The track sequencing was really important to us,” says guitarist Tim Warren. 

The band describes the album as being their “first real record” and that they are an “entirely different band” than the previous release. Sonically the aggressive and minor tones of the songs seem to mirror the lyrical content. “The lyrics came from a real depressing time.  They came from a place of being sad and at the same time it was getting better as a result,” Lenau says.

While the theme of “Jubilation from sadness” Lenau describes may be evident in the lyrics, multi-instrumentalist Trevor Edmonds adds “her songs blend a lot of different things going on at any given time she's writing. She's quite good at masking things so you can read a lot into them.”

Tokyo Morose started recording the album in Edmonds basement, working out what Warren describes as “musical sketches.” When it came time to get serious about finishing the album, the band enlisted the help of local producer Matt Ten Clay of Amber Lit Audio. “We needed somebody to push us to finish this. We were much more focused recording with Matt,” Lenau says. 

“In our case, he was a good fourth or fifth set of ears. We certainly took full advantage of the studio as an instrument by trying different things with layering that we'd be unable to do feasibly in a live setting. Reverse acoustic piano sounds, side channeling the pulse of a bass drum hit to give a bass synth track a rhythmic pulse, you know, little touches here and there that come out after repeat listens,” Edmonds adds.

Going to the ‘Dark Side’

Surprisingly the band was listening to a lot of “un-new wavey” music during the making of 'Sequence of Steps' from 60s orchestral pop legends Love, the feral and primal power trio Blue Cheer, the sinister grandeur of early Black Sabbath to the newer sounds of Tame Impala. “They are far and away my favorite contemporary group. I'd have to think long and hard to file a complaint related to one of their records,” Edmonds says.

Warren describes how he had gotten “deeply, deeply´ into Pink Floyd” over the course of the last three years, especially the album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. It also helped that Edmonds and Ten Clay were also huge fans of the Alan Parsons produced album that towers like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyessey over much that has come after it.

The iconic album cover artwork of ‘DSOTM’ was also an influence on ‘Sequence of Steps’. “We wanted to have something physical with photographs and artwork, a total package” Warren says.  The artwork for ‘Sequence of Steps’ was put together by Edmonds who is also a graphic designer. Both Warren and Lenau are very pleased with how the cover art turned out.  “It’s just a cool picture. It’s very striking,” Lenau says. 

The cover which features a brightly lit figure wearing one of Lenau’s scarves, set against a stark black background, seems to embody that jubilation and darkness that Lenau spoke about, albeit in an accidental way as the band insists the cover was not planned to be a statement about the music. Both Lenau and Warren giddily agree that the imagery just “visually works so well.”

The second track on the album "Every Night", is measured and deliberate in its slow build. Tokyo Morose is a band that is not afraid to take it's time. One hopes the band can continue to build on its unlikely evolution. 'Sequence of Steps' is another step in the right direction of a band maturing and reaching toward a sound someday only they will be able to lay claim to.

Warren says the band’s name ‘Tokyo Morose’ really matches their sound. It does encapsulate that bright and bustling light with the darker edges of depression. It is precisely these type of paradoxes and contradictions that make Tokyo Morose difficult to define and creates a tension in their music that makes them one of the more unique bands in the Grand Rapids musical landscape.  

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