Mainstay of Black Moth Super Rainbow's live outfit, Maux Boyle released her debut solo outing Periphery in early 2010. She took some time out of touring with that band's founder, Tobacco, to talk to us about teaching online college courses, the benefits of Pittsburgh, and losing her id and ego (but not her mind) to the sway of her first album.
Have you ever played in a hardcore band?
Black Moth Super Rainbow is the first band I’ve ever been in. It’s funny how things work out – I didn’t have a goal of playing in a band or being on stage, but sometimes things come to you… fate, circumstance, coincidence… whatever it is, you have to be open to it.
Will you be touring in support of this album? And would we expect Tobacco or other guests to tour with you?
How did you originally meet Tobacco?
By chance, through a series of random coincidences and good timing. I probably really shouldn’t know him at all.
This is your solo album, but do you still feel a need to keep up the Black Moth tradition of hiding your identity?
In a way. It’s not about me, it’s about music. It seems like people often want to know everything about the life of who is making the music, but to me, my life is irrelevant to this. Even in writing the songs, it’s not about what I want, it’s not about my vision – it’s just not about me.
What kind of contribution do you have on the Black Moth recordings? I ask because your solo work is a greater departure than I expected.
BMSR has always been Tobacco’s creation, and the rest of us mostly just help to bring those songs to life in a live setting. I do appear here or there on the albums, and if you listen closely, you might recognize a few things that I borrowed from myself.
I was very surprised to hear such an ambient record. What attracts you to this type of sound?
The style of the record isn’t intentional, it’s just how it is. I
don’t write with a certain idea in mind – I try to become invisible and
let the instrument speak instead. I think the songs are more like a
translation of something intangible that happens to come across with an
ambient feel, rather than consciously writing in a certain style or for
a specific audience. I like to give up control and see what comes
How detailed are you with your production. Are they countless layers within your songs that we should be aware of?
A lot of the music is almost accidental – I hate metronomes and I
rarely loop anything. So I usually play straight through… What you’re
hearing in a song is usually one long take for the main part and then
everything on top of that is also essentially recorded ‘live’. I’ll add
more layers by playing through the entire duration of the song, rather
than recording a small section and looping it throughout. So sometimes
everything might sound like it’s about to fall apart or sound like it
has an unsteady type of breath. It makes putting the songs together and
editing them much more difficult – nothing is exact – but it’s the way
I like to work. I leave certain aspects to chance.
Do you feel any kinds of constraints working in a band versus alone?
For me to feel inspired, I need to be in a certain state of mind. I like to be alone, in a place where I can clear my mind completely and almost become invisible. I have to shut off that constant voice inside and just become silent so that I can listen to whatever it is that I’m translating into song. Finding that place where I can forget that I exist is a lot harder when working with other people. There’s a certain pressure that can be stifling to me.
It seems as though working alone is much more common these days. Do you think it's for better or worse? I tend to think the forcing of creative ideas together could have tremendous affects that people just can't do working alone. But with the ease of recording/producing, culturally it seems to be shifting the opposite way. Your thoughts?
I think it depends entirely on the person or group of people involved. Some things just don’t work – some ideas just don’t mesh, no matter how hard you want to force it. I hear it in music all the time…the tedium of playing notes just for the sake of playing notes. On the other hand, I agree that being submerged in other ideas can create something beyond what you alone would be able to think of or accomplish.
Are you also a teacher by day?
I teach online college courses so I’m able to keep my job while I’m out on the road.
Do you still live in Pennsylvania? Any desire to go someplace bigger, more urban?
Yep, I’m still here in western PA. I never run out of places to explore here. Pittsburgh has the most insane roads – there’s no grid system here and the roads twist around or end in really unpredictable ways. And I’m obsessed with getting lost, studying maps and finding hidden hilltops with secret views, so this is a great area to explore. I tend to get claustrophobic and panicky in large groups of people, so I definitely have no interest in bigger, more urban places. I could go more rural, for sure, but I love to eat and I’m terrible at cooking, so I’ll need to learn how to cook a Thai yellow curry tofu bowl first.
Musician dead or alive you wish you could collaborate with?
Sandy Denny would be one of my top choices for sure.
This is not to imply you do drugs, but which drug do you think would be best to accompany your album?
A roomful of cats with a big bag of catnip.