See Brooklyn band MOTHXR in their exclusive photoshoot + interview for FAULT Online


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FAULT sat down to chat with Brooklyn band MOTHXR, the down-to-earth members of which are Jimmy Giannopoulos, Simon Oscroft, Penn Badgley, and Darren Will. Having released their alluringly enigmatic debut album Centerfold in February, MOTHXR continually illustrate that they make music for music’s sake. We discuss secret projects, making money, and how record labels are like Jeff Goldblum’s character in The Fly.

FAULT: You’ve been a band for a while now, how did you guys meet?

Penn: I mean how can anyone meet? We all met at various times in Williamsburg. Darren and Jimmy met seven years ago or something like that. Jimmy and I met about four years ago, or maybe five? That would’ve been around the time that I met Darren as well. About a year or so after that was the time that Simon was passing through I believe.
Simon: Yeah, 2012. That’s when I lived there.
P: Yeah, he lived in LA when we were recording, and that’s actually again how it all happened. He lived down the block from where we were recording, so it all kind of made sense.


FAULT: I heard that you rented a house in LA to record your debut album, how was that experience? How long had you been waiting to release those songs?

P: Again, it was a practical thing, I was going to be there anyway. I’d just finished a film and then I went to go visit my parents in the Northwest. Jimmy and Darren were going to be there finishing a tour – they were playing in a band called Rathborne and supporting Albert Hammond Jr. Their last show was in San Diego, and so they showed up at like four in the morning with their van right outside this little room that I’d rented and that was that. Some of it we’ve been sitting on for those first eight days, and some of it was recorded over time. The music itself I think came out in that first blast so defined and so well imagined. We’ve been spending the last year and a half really getting the live show to represent it well.
S: So that when it did come out we would be ready to play it.

FAULT: Did you record everything in those 8 days?

P: Well, no. Basically, the first day we recorded one song, and we were like ‘okay this is happening.’ Second day, same thing. Third day, same thing. So the first five days produced that body, damn near half an album, but it wasn’t all finished. We had the bulk of the work there, so the last three days of those eight were I think just spent fine tuning and probably trying to enjoy ourselves a little bit. We spaced the rest out over some time in New York and Chicago.

FAULT: Where did the album artwork come from?

S: The true story of it, which I always forget, is that Jimmy made it as a tour poster, or a poster for some show.
P: It was a show that we played in Canada I think.
S: Yeah I think so, and then a couple months later we were trying to think of artwork and we weren’t getting anywhere.
P: We all had pretty opposing ideas.
S: The label dug back through our Instagram and were like ‘what’s that?’
P: Yeah, Matilda at Kitsuné, she’s rad, she’s the person there who reached out to us. She’s a young, creative woman, really smart and savvy. She was just like, ‘This is an incredible image that you guys had before, so what do you think of this?’
Jimmy: Yeah, I mean, we put out so much content on social media like Instagram individually, and the label pays attention. We’re constantly putting it out, so when it came time to think of ideas, they were like, ‘Out of all the things you’ve done, this really stuck out.’ We looked back and didn’t even remember doing it, but we thought it looked pretty cool. We trust this specific girl at Kitsuné, she has a good aesthetic. So we tried it and it worked. She’s actually very, very rare. She’s one of the only people that we actually artistically respect. We work with a lot of people, that doesn’t mean we don’t respect them, some people are really smart business wise, but some people get it. Like, I respect my parents but I wouldn’t ask them-
P: You wouldn’t ask them what they thought of the Kanye album.


FAULT: You tweeted on Sunday, “We’re looking 4 female dancers in hip hop/grime all shapes & colors 2 be in no-budget 1-take vid 1 hour tops.” When will we get to see what that’s about?

J: Well, that’s for something that we’re not going to disclose yet. That’s for a project we’re still putting together. We don’t know when yet, but at some point in the future we’ll unveil it.
P: It’s exciting though.

FAULT: Last night was your final show with The Neighbourhood, how was the tour? Was that your first time touring Europe?

P: Properly like that, yeah. It was great, they’re good guys, we got to play for a lot of kids who are just really passionate. They were really excited to hear us because they were really excited to hear The Neighbourhood, they were excited to just get out of the house probably.

FAULT: Everyone was really into the hand gestures you had them do.

P: They were! The first time I did that I was like, holy shit this is so easy I can’t believe it.
J: We’re not used to playing in front of a lot of people like that. None of us are. I think, from my understanding at least, I’m not speaking on behalf of him, but I think Penn’s kind of just like, ‘What do I do here? How do I get them involved?’
P: Totally. I’m just like, ‘Put your hands up!’
J: They don’t know our music, so he’s just trying different things. When people know your lyrics and stuff like that, you don’t really have to do much because they’re participating. Our job there is to support, we have to get them pumped for The Neighbourhood. That’s what we’re there for. We’re not being egotistical, we’re not trying to blow anyone away with our own music, we just want to get everyone hyped.


FAULT: Whilst supporting The Neighbourhood in London, you also played a headline show at Birthdays. Is it’s better to play to a crowd that’s there specifically for you?

P: Well, yes and no. Okay so, our record release show where we played to a sold out a sold out Baby’s All Right which is two or three hundred people. It’s in Brooklyn in our neighborhood, so it was packed with people who knew our stuff. It was actually a really fun, rowdy show, but playing these shows with The Neighbourhood has been more amped than probably 80% of our shows. I think it’s just because of the crowd, we normally draw a bit of an older and more diverse crowd who aren’t as ready to dance because they’re not teenagers.
S: Yeah, we didn’t really change the way we played either. We played the same as we always do.
P: Exactly, it’s just that they reacted differently.
S: Honestly though, I’d be happy to play to The Neighbourhood’s crowd for the rest of this band’s career. It was really cool.
J: Yeah, anybody would be extremely lucky to be able to tour like that. What you saw last night, that’s the one percent. That’s not us, we didn’t earn that. We’re just there as spectators.
Darren: They’ve also built it up pretty slowly. Jesse (Rutherford) was saying that every time they play London they just amp it up a little more.
P: We play these fun little venues; we tend to sell them out which is great.
J: They also have a very loyal fan base, which is different from us.

FAULT: Do you think that the success of an album directly correlates to the size of venues a band plays on tour?

S: I heard that LCD Soundsystem’s last album has sold like, fucking nothing, and they’re playing arenas. There’s a weird thing now that it doesn’t mean shit anymore, if you can develop your fan base then you’re winning.
J: No one sells records anymore! It’s all free on Spotify, that’s what we do.
P: I mean, I don’t care, money isn’t the issue.
S: I would pay $50,000 to have 100 million listens. I would pay to have that exposure; I don’t give a fuck about getting money from it.


FAULT: Speaking of money, I read in another interview that you guys weren’t making any money from this. Care to comment?

P: Just for the record, that was blown way out of proportion. It was a very oddly contextualized quote, at that point I was like ‘This band isn’t making any money right now, that’s not why we’re doing it’ and the headline of the interview was that our band makes no money. That was a very odd thing, and then Huffington Post picked it up. I mean, that’s one of the many things going on with this band. We’re at a point where you don’t make money yet, you just don’t.
D: It’s like a small business, you get money in from some shows and then you spend it on other shows.
P: Yeah, you put money and energy and time in, and eventually you break even and start getting some of it back. This is not a debt endeavor; this isn’t a money pit.
S: Let’s just say we make shit loads of money.
J: You know what you can put in the interview? One of our friend’s bands said once that they don’t make any money, that nobody hands them any money to play shows or something like that. So then they wanted to play a festival, and the promoters read that and said, ‘let’s not give them a lot of money because they said they do stuff for cheap.’
P: Yeah, so please say we’re making money now.
J: No, you don’t have to say that, but say we make what we make, it’s private, whatever, it is what it is. If a festival comes to us and offers us a festival slot, the more we don’t give a fuck about the festival, the more money they’re going to have to pay us to play it. If Coachella said we could headline, we would do it for free. They’d never have us, that’s ridiculous, but if a festival comes up to us and asks us to play and we like the festival, we’ll negotiate something. If someone asks us to play and it doesn’t make sense for us, we won’t do it.
P: The boring reality of it is that it doesn’t even make sense to be talking about money at this stage. I mean, who the fuck has even heard of us?
J: If we were doing this for the money we’d be making a different kind of music.
P: Yeah, I would have my shirt off, for one thing.
J: If you start to see his shirt come off and the music starts changing, then we’re in it for the money.
P: The second you hear rhyming couplets and I’m in better shape and the sides of my hair are tighter-
J: And if the rest of us are replaced with beautiful girls, that’s when you’ll know.


FAULT: Previously you had been self releasing all of your stuff, now you’re with Kitsuné Records and Washington Square Music. Why did you switch?

P: Both labels expressed at the beginning that they didn’t want to change what we were doing. They saw what we were doing and wanted to enable it. Obviously that becomes a difficult and convoluted promise over time with labels and contacts and stuff, but they didn’t want to change anything. They want to support what we’re doing and, in turn, invest in it, encourage us, and enable us. That’s great, rather than all of these labels who are like ‘yeah… but no.’ and have so many ideas. It’s like The Fly. Jeff Goldblum wanted to literally deconstruct his entire existence molecule by molecule and put it back together, and he thought it would be the same thing. Well, look how wrong he was. That’s what businesses want to do with art, they’re like ‘This is amazing! How about we take it completely apart and put it back together, but just slightly differently so that we’re more comfortable with it, and then just bet that it will be the same thing. It might even be better!’ So at first, Jeff Goldblum is doing backflips, but then he turns into a vomiting fly, murderous and full of rage.
J: On top of it, it can be done in such a bad way when collaborating, because at first everyone’s cool with each other-
P: You can’t control whether or not there’s a fly inside the chamber, you never know!
J: You sign contracts, and this is the problem for younger bands, we’re old enough to know better. They say you’re going to do exactly what we want you to do, and then you’re stuck. Don’t get me wrong, we would have signed to anybody the first day we got in the studio, but only if the contract said you can make the music you want. The contracts always say though, they wait for you to get a certain amount of buzz and see if it works, and then they say they want to take it and they want to change it and make it more successful.
P: They want to put a fly in the chamber, that’s what they all want to do! It’s a law of physics, you cannot do it!

FAULT: What are you up to next?

P: We’ll put out an album next year, we’ll tour more, we’ll play some festivals, we have a lot of videos to release.
S: We’ll be back in the UK at the end of summer, I think. We have a special project we’re working on, too.
P: We’ll just keep making what we want to make. I mean, that should be everyone’s answer, and it more or less is because even if labels are forcing them to do stuff they’re still going to make something. So yeah, we’re just going to keep making stuff as long as we’re willing and able.


FAULT: What is your fault?

S: That’s assuming we only have one fault each.
P: My greatest fault? Well my greatest fault is one that I can’t name, because my biggest fault is one that I’m not aware of. That’s fucking brilliant! Maybe you can put that in, maybe arrogance is my fault.
D: My biggest fault is that I’ve been wearing these pants for three weeks.
P: It’s my fault I got toothpaste on this black sweater. That’s embarrassing.


You can follow MOTHXR on Facebook and Twitter.


Photography: Jack Alexander

Grooming: Shamirah Sairally using Bumble & Bumble and Dr Paw Paw

Words: Courtney Farrell

Special thanks: Tooting Tram & Social