Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
NYC electronic music duo The Mast want to take listeners to their Pleasure Island. They want to wrap people up in a melodic tapestry of angelic vocals and ambience altering production, transporting anyone in need of a break from reality.
Singer Haleh Gafori hopes Pleasure Island, which was released in January, “Embraces people, and makes people dance, and feel good,” adding, “I think the beats, and the warmth of the production, hopefully is inviting.”
The warmth of Pleasure Island’s electronic sound is a nearly wholesale change from The Mast’s previous release, Wild Poppy, which was an album that focused on percussion and guitar. Gafori, and producer Matt Kilmer, originally started working together in that style of music after meeting at a party on a New York City pier on the Hudson River. Both were in different bands at the time, and both were working with percussion.
After collaborating on predominantly acoustic based music, Gafori remembers Kilmer started sending her electronic tracks, which he’d been creating for years, but had never passed along. “It was just so gratifying to feel the bass through the speakers,” Gafori recalls, “and be able to control our sound in that way, which you really can’t do with acoustic instruments as well, so we just kind of went for it, and decided to go electronic.”
While the duo decided to go electronic, their acoustic background gave them a unique perspective, which is something they utilize for their new sound. Gafori explains that even as an electronic act, she and Kilmer, “Try to keep some of the improvisational elements in it. I do vocal improv here and there. We try to keep some of that going because we love the spontaneity of instruments.”
The Mast’s unique vibe is being heard in full for the first time on Pleasure Island, which is an album that covers a wide range of sounds, and emotions. There’s the ethereal “Emerald,” which Gafori describes as being about “clearing the mind, and focus,” adding, “that seems, for me, to create a pleasure island inside of myself.”
On a more active note, there’s “Nuclear Dragon,” which was inspired by a sculpture outside of the UN. Gafori explains, “It’s a sculpture of a dragon that’s made out of nuclear missiles that Russia and America gave up after the Cold War. The dragon is being slayed by a saint.”
Gafori continued, saying, “I was just walking around there one day and looking at those sculptures, and thinking about how we are far, especially nowadays, when you can make a gun on a 3D printer, we’re really far from realizing those dreams, but those dreams are humongous, they’re giant, and they’re real, and they’re inside people’s hearts, and there they are, sitting there as sculptures.”
Seeing how affected they are by visuals, it should come as no surprise that The Mast look to find as many ways as possible to marry unique visuals with their music. Their video for “UpUpUp” features dancer and choreographer Pandora Marie covered in a white, chalky, makeup, moving to the music, while their video for “So Right” has a baby doing the DJing.
The Mast’s live shows are equally as visually appealing, as Gafori feels it’s important to have a visual element to their performances, saying, “It just makes it more enveloping, it commands more senses, and it gets people more hypnotized.”
It’s that state of hypnosis that inspires Gafori and Kilmer most, as she notes, “What I like is when it feels like we are one big creature, kind of throbbing, meaning the audience, the whole room, and we’re like cresting, and going in a wave, and moving together.”
When the crowd becomes that singular entity, rather than hundreds of individuals, Gafori feels it creates a separation from the rest of the world. “My favorite shows do that,” she explains, “they create a bubble that you get to be in for an hour and a half.”
The Mast like to provide that bubble, that break from reality. It can last all the way until the lights come on at the venue, at which point fans are sent back out into the world, but it’s a world where they’ve felt the warm embrace of the music, and although each individual’s reality has to be returned to, for a little while they were all part of that musical bubble, as they found their way to The Mast’s Pleasure Island.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.