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Massenger interview with Sasha Green and Seth Pettersen

© Neal Casal

Sounding as much at home today as they would have during the heyday of the 80’s psychedelic resurgence, resident California surf-psych rockers Massenger, perfectly straddle the line between surf and pop rock with a deliciously hard psychedelic bite.  Drenched in reverb and tasteful lo-fi production, on the heels of the release of their debut self-titled album and just home from a recent tour there’s growing speculation as to what the band might be up to next.  I was as curious as anyone else as to what the answer might be to that question, given the endless possibilities and burgeoning opportunities opening up for the band.  Thankfully lead singer Sasha Green and cofounding member Seth Pettersen agreed to share their past and present with me as well as their plans for the future.  If you haven’t already heard about Massenger do yourself a favor and check out their Bandcamp page where you can stream or buy their album in whatever format your little heart might desire, from digital or CD to tapes and LPs!  So click the link, stream the album while you read, and if you aren’t convinced by the time you’re done make sure to check your pulse cause this stuff is killer!

What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this your original lineup?

Sasha:  The line up is Sasha Green-Vocals, Seth Pettersen-bass/vocals, Bryan Russell-guitar and Michael Gleeson on drums.

Are any of you in any other bands at this point?  Have you released any material with any other bands?

Sasha:  Seth Pettersen has a self-titled solo-project which released Natural Machine in 2012.  Bryan Russell joined Ventura based indie-rock band The Spires two years ago and they have a release in the works.  Michael Gleeson joined La Sera in October 2012.  I believe they are working on new material.

Where is the band located?

Sasha:  Located in Ventura, California.

How would you describe the local scene?  Are you very involved with the local music scene?

Sasha:  The local scene is diverse, incestuous, harboring some real talent and a bit of a black hole.  I’m involved in the sense that I go to shows and try to set up a good show when we play.

How did you all meet?  When and why did you decide to form Massenger?

Sasha:  I moved to Ventura, California in 2004 and met Michael Gleeson around 2006 through friends working at Salzer’s Records.  Then we were roommates.  It’s a small town and most friends that I have made have grown up here.  In short, it’s like a domino effect.  You make friends, meet their friends and now I’ve got a lot of friends.  I met Seth and Bryan that way.  Everyone plays music in this town.  It’s a side note to our friendships.
Massenger formed after I came up with a song one day while driving home from work.  Seth was already jammin’ when I walked in the door and I started to sing into the mic, “Power to the People”.  I had the melodies and lyrics and Seth recorded all the instruments.  I’m a late bloomer.  I had never really written my own songs before.  The proverbial “flood gates” had opened.  I wrote lyrics and had melodies to four more songs.  Seth and I worked them out and had recorded a five-song demo by the next month. 
I emailed it to Mike and said he didn’t even need to respond to my email.  He did and said he loved it.  Bryan was his roommate at the time, heard what we were up to and so we all started jamming the songs together in late 2011.

What does the name Massenger refer to or mean?

© Bryan Russell

Sasha:  The name is a Spanglish/mispronunciation of the 80’s anime cartoon and toy robot, Mazinga-Z.  I was super into the cartoon in Panama as a kid.  My mom got me another anime robot toy and I called it “Massenger”.  He’s the robot pictured on the back cover of our album.  His actual name is, General Daimos.  I like how people get all confused by the name but we also kinda shot ourselves in the foot; it’s really hard to Google us haha!

General Daimos aka Massenger

There are a lot of sounds that come bubbling out of your music.  Can you talk about who some of your personal musical influences are?  What about the band as a whole?

Sasha:  So many influences.  As a kid I loved The Cure, Tina Turner, Siouxsie and the Banshees, AC/DC.  My family had eclectic taste.  In Panama in the 80’s dance-hall reggae was king.  Yet, the Beastie Boys, Duran Duran and other U.S. acts made an impression too.  I like all kinds of music, from the Pixies and Black Sabbath to Herbie Hancock, Pink Floyd and Devo, so much great stuff out there.  As a whole, I think we all have some similar influences when it comes to Massenger’s sound.  Bryan loves 60’s Garage and Motown.  It seems like Fugazi, The Evens and Minor Threat always have a place.  I definitely dig Motown as well.  There’s some surf and psychedelic elements that come naturally when you surf and reside in a weird little beach town.  People have related Massenger’s sound to X, The B-52’s and The Avengers.  Yet these bands aren’t in my mind when writing songs and coming up with melodies.  For me, it’s just a gut feeling.

Seth:  Everybody loves Nirvana.

Can you tell us about Massenger’s songwriting process?  Is there a lot of exploratory jamming or does someone come in with a more finished idea and present it to the group?

Sasha:  We all write songs and riffs but I write 90% of our lyrics and melodies.  Our debut album was primarily Seth and I.  We had songs mostly ready to go.  Michael and Bryan definitely added their signatures to the songs with their instruments and styles though.  Bryan wrote Red-Handed and Tall Boy.  It’s looking like our next record will be more of a community effort.  We’ve got half an album’s worth of songs complete and more songs in the works.


Do you all enjoy getting into the studio?  Some bands love to record and it drives others up the nuts!

Sasha:  The band says that the recording of the Massenger album was the easiest they had ever experienced.  We tracked the entire album live, in one day.  Our engineer, Joel Jerome is by far one of the best people to record with that they’ve encountered.  For me, it was tiring and fun.

Seth:  I love getting the end result, but often times recording can be a tedious, exhausting effort.  We tried to avoid that with this recording, we just wanted to have fun while we were recording it.

You released your debut self-titled album, Massenger, on cassette tape in December of 2012 on Burger Records and recently you teamed with Rocketship Records to release it on CD in April and then 12” vinyl in May.  Can you talk a little about the recording of Massenger?  Who recorded it?  Where was it recorded?  What kind of equipment was used?

Sasha:  Actually, we released the CD version ourselves before we knew for sure that the album was going have an LP release.  We recorded the album in south Los Angeles with Joel Jerome (of Dios and Babies On Acid fame).  We used minimal equipment and it was recorded digitally.  I sang through the same model microphone that Michael Jackson was known to use, according to Joel.  The occasional sound of helicopters, Lakers games on the radio and fragrant smoke filled the air.  We knocked out the tracks pretty quickly and tried not to pick everything apart too much.  The guys in the band are all talented musicians who have been playing music since they were young teenagers.  You can’t go wrong with the pros.


The album was originally available as a CD-R as a self-release, can you talk about how that CD-R was distributed?

Sasha:  The CD-R was sold at shows or given away to certain friends and promoters in our town.


While all of the Massenger releases have been limited, the tape to 250, the CD to 200 and the 12” to 400, you’ve managed to release the album on every viable format at this point (the album is also available digitally at http://massenger.bandcamp.com).  Most bands have a preferred medium or will do a CD combination release with another format but I can’t recall the last band who combine the all, why all three?  Why limited releases?  Do you have a preferred medium for listening to music?

Sasha:  Personally, I’m not that picky.  I love to listen to records and Seth has a lot of records.  Mostly thrift store finds.  Bryan has some sweet records, too.  Our friends in the community are definitely into collecting vinyl.  It’s more enjoyable to throw a record on I feel.  I prefer the sound quality and I feel like I’m inside the music or paying more attention when listening to vinyl.  It’s like meditation.  I was listening to cassettes and making mix tapes up until the mid-2000s and I still have them all.  Burger Records has really lit a fire under our butts about getting back into cassette tapes.  Seth and I love finding tapes at the thrift stores and buying tapes when Burger has sales.  Cassettes have a raw, unique sound all their own like vinyl does.  CDs are just universally easy to get your music out there.  Truth be told, money is tight.  The reason for all three releases is based purely on what we were able to do with the album at that time.  The digital release came first because our friends really wanted to be able to listen to the demo.  When we recorded the full-length version as Massenger, we uploaded that and made CD-Rs for shows.  But when talk of our first tour came up we decided to place an order for actual CDs because we really didn’t have time to make all the CD-Rs and covers.  Meanwhile, Rocketship Records wanted to release it on LP but we wouldn’t get the records in time for the tour.  So it’s all just been based on necessity and demand, we needed to have something for the people who want to take us home with them.


The album has obviously been well received are there any further releases planned for this year?

Sasha:  Thanks.  There is talk of a 7” release but we are touring Europe for three weeks in August so no recording until we get back.  We’ve got some material we are going to demo next month.

You have been touring rather extensively since the release of Massenger last year.  What do you have planned as far as touring goes so far for 2013?

Sasha:  Europe in August!  Germany, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Austria and more!  Hopefully, the East Coast in early 2014!

Five Star Bar LA
© Betsy Winchell

Who are some of your favorite acts that you’ve shared a bill with?

Sasha:  The Bugs, Tweak Bird, Guantanamo Baywatch, Babies On Acid, Char-Man, The Flytraps, The Fucking Wrath, No Sé and Catholic Spit.

Is there a funny or interesting story from on the road that you’d like to share with our readers?

Mike

Sasha:  Well, we had a record shop show at The Works Records in Eureka, California.  The bassist of the band we played with had two wolf dogs that got into a little fight with each other during our set, right in front of us.  It was radical.  Tour was awesome.  So much fun was had that it’s all a blur!

Seth

I love having a digital copy of the album to listen to wherever I want but you cannot replace the physical release of an album with disposable music like that for me, the artwork and album are physical extensions of the music for me.  Do you have any such connection with physical format releases?

Sasha:  Hell yeah.  I can remember staring at album art extensively as a child.  I still do.  It’s the story behind the music and accent to the album’s identity; eye-candy for your ears.  Tune in and trip out.

Digital music distribution has brought a lot of strife to the music industry but it’s also exposed many of us who wouldn’t otherwise be able to hear it, to a whole new world of music.  How do you feel about digital music?

Sasha:  Hmm…  Well, the fact is that I personally wouldn’t have been able to hear a lot of music if it wasn’t for their digital accessibility.  There’s so much more music out there now as opposed to ten years ago; albeit, not all great.  A happy median will be perfected in time, I hope.  Living in Panama, in the 90’s I depended on friends bringing music back from the states so I could record their CDs onto tape.  Nowadays I can just check out bands on a site.  So I can’t bag on the digital side.

The Livery - Ventura
© Albert Munoz aka Donut

Traditionally rock has kind of been a man’s game, with women often not being taken seriously or thought of somehow as inferior musicians, but it seems like this is really changing.  There are more and more women at the forefront of the music scene.  Have you ever had any problems in any of these regards?  Do you feel like being a female, or having a female member in the band, is even an issue?

Sasha:  Who are the dicks that feel this way?  Those guys are douche bags.  I haven’t had any problems within the scene regarding sexism personally.  It’s not an issue for me but I acknowledge that women seem to have to be better than average with their instruments or craft to be taken seriously.  A girl can be a mediocre drummer if she’s cute.  A girl can do anything if she’s “hot”.  Whatever, I like a cute drummer girl as much as the next person.  Talent speaks for itself no matter what sex you are.  I don’t sing to be taken seriously.  I love to perform because it makes me feel good inside and I love to play music with my friends.

© Bob Muschitz (Bobby Zoom)

I ask everyone I talk to this question to try and keep up with all the amazing music out there.  Who should our readers be listening to from your local scene or area that they might not have heard of?

Sasha:  I love this question.  Seth Pettersen’s latest album, Natural Machine (http://www.sethpettersen.com), The Spires (http://thespires.bandcamp.com), Catholic Spit and No Sé  (http://www.noxse.bandcamp.com).

What about nationally and internationally?

Sasha:  Internationally:  Goat and Dungen.  Nationally:  Guantanamo Baywatch, Cherry Glazerr, La Luz and Night Demon.

© Neal Casal

Is there anything that I missed or you’d like to talk about? 


Sasha:  Nope.  Thanks for the interview!


















DISCOGRAPHY
(2011)  Massenger – Massenger – CD-R – Self-Released (Packaged in paper bags with paper logo attached)
(2012)  Massenger – Massenger – Cassette Tape, digital – Burger Records (Limited to 250 hand numbered copies)
2013)  Massenger – Massenger – CD – Self-Released (limited to 200 copies)
(2013)  Massenger – Massenger – 12” – Rocketship Records (12” limited to 400 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013

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