Moss Jaw Plays Thursday Grand Rapids Show, Reflects on New ‘Embody’ Album

Moss Jaw’s Kayley Kerastas performs at Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival in September.

Moss Jaw will invite Grand Rapids fans into their dark, dreamy post-rock world tomorrow night.

The Kalamazoo quartet will perform a Thursday night set at Grand Rapids’ The Snake Shack, a house-based venue that showcases art and music for local and touring bands.

“We plan to play some of the more popular tunes, such as ‘Like a Bug,’ ‘Dry Remains’ and ‘Twigs and Stems’ as a way to plug our recent release and also balance it out with new sonic growth,” said Kayley Kerastas, Moss Jaw’s vocalist and guitarist.

“The venue we’re playing at is a local Grand Rapids house that will provide an accessible way into the music scene, and thus hopefully spread the word of our music further out from Kalamazoo.”

With the recent release of their stellar full-length debut album, “Embody,” Moss Jaw is well-positioned to grow their burgeoning audience statewide and throughout the Midwest.

Their 11-track “Embody” album takes listeners on a dreamlike sonic journey through life-changing relationships, self-evolutions and deep cognitive perspectives cloaked in natural thematic elements.  These personal reflections are musically told through enchanting metaphors about trees, insects and other terrestrial terrain.

Embody

Embody album

The opening and first single from “Embody,” the highly emotional “I Said Goodbye Before You Even Left,” allows Kerastas to internally process the end of a difficult familial relationship. This beautiful, introspective track opens with light cymbal touches cascading into spare synths, vibrant guitars and soothing vocals.

Originally featured on their three-track “Western Studio Sessions” debut EP from 2017, “I Said Goodbye Before You Even Left,” was rerecorded with a fresh, artistic approach for “Embody.”

“It’s definitely a brighter song, and actually, it’s lyrically very sad. I wanted to write more sad, dark things on guitar, and I’ve moved on, so it does have an emotional sense of growth,” Kerastas said. “It’s kinda tough putting stuff out there and making it very vulnerable and intimate, but it’s also something that I think is really healthy, too.”

Along with bandmates Russ Wagner (guitars, keys and vocals), Max Murray (bass, keys and baritone guitar) and Evan Asher (drums), Kerastas recorded, mixed and mastered “Embody” with Mike Schuur at Kalamazoo’s Sun Spot Recording, a studio surrounded in an inspirational, nature-like setting.

They focused on creating compositionally dynamic, organic soundscapes to mesh with their highly personal, abstract and experimental approach. Think hints of Explosions in the Sky, Modest Mouse, Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie and Animal Collective mixed together.

“Embody” also serves as the next logical musical evolution for Moss Jaw since forming in 2017 and releasing their raw, but wonderful debut EP. The band has experienced significant artistic growth since their early days of performing gigs at “Rancho Unicorno,” their former college house located in Kalamazoo’s Vine neighborhood near Western Michigan University.

“It means a lot if anyone takes the time to listen to some songs, but listening through the record speaks volumes as well,” said Kerastas, who graduated from WMU in April. “It shows there are folks out there interested in our chronological composition and the intentional dynamic fluctuations that we incorporated into this sonic, yet emotional experience that we put tons of effort into.”

Moss Jaw’s Kayley Kerastas, Russ Wagner. Max Murray and Evan Asher

Another standout track – “What is Your Composition?”– features bright guitar strums and pounding drums intersecting with hazy overlays and Kerastas’ quiet, emotional vocals. The band is also planning to release their first video soon for the song.

“It’s a story, and it has a lot of movement in the song, even though it kind of has a lot of darker notes, but it’s a lot more ambient and dreamier,” Kerastas said. “We can feel a lot more growth in that song, so it will be really nice showing people another song of ours that will hopefully impact others.”

Moss Jaw continues to demonstrate their majestic lyrical and musical prowess on the album’s hypnotic closer, “Dry Remains,” which includes dark punchy drums combined with delicate, yet angry guitar strums. The song reflects on a life that’s long gone and remains vividly entrenched in listeners’ memories before they awake from their dreamlike state.

“We kept shelving it and taking it out. I was just apprehensive because I wanted it to go somewhere, and I wasn’t confident in my playing to take it there, but it turned out way better than I thought it would,” Kerastas said.

“It’s just about accepting death. I love how dark it is lyrically, but I really admire the tonalities that come through it. We experimented more with these changes and dynamics, and this sense of haunting clarity that holds the entire pace of the tune.”

Bled Fest and Summer Shows

Moss Jaw also will share these new “Embody” tracks May 25 during a 12:50 p.m. set at the final Bled Fest in Howell. For the band, it’s a surreal feeling to play the festival after experiencing it from the crowd in years past.

“We really lucked out with getting on the bill and are beyond grateful,” Kerastas said. “If there’s a chance that anyone comes to see us play, then we hope they take away a new band to listen to because we feel that we will be performing in front of quite a few new faces.”

As for the rest of the summer, Moss Jaw has booked some additional shows, including South Haven’s Rhythm on the River Fest in July and Kalamazoo’s Already Dead Fest in August. They also will continue to write new material and determine when to record their second album.

“We have received a lovely response from the release (of ‘Embody’) that was especially accompanied by friends who helped spread the word,” Kerastas said. “We feel that our sonic direction is pushing us to challenge ourselves as musicians, writers and bandmates into novel territory that we’re finding comfort in.”

Show details:

Moss Jaw, Peach Lavender, Bedroom Ceilings and Sam Kenny

7 p.m. Thursday

The Snake Shack in Grand Rapids

Message the venue for address

Suggested donation $5-$7

 

Bled Fest – Moss Jaw set

12:50 p.m. Saturday, May 25

Hartland Performing Arts Center, 9525 E. Highland Road in Howell

General admission tickets: $35

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