Mother Falcon… Elegantly Rebellious

Mother Falcon photo 2

So there are a handful of legitimately good acts who will be performing at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware this weekend. But, if you’re looking for something a little bit more intimate and a little less taking-place-in-Delaware, Austin’s Mother Falcon will be taking the stage upstairs at World Café Live this Saturday, June 22nd, for what I’m guessing will be a fun, weird, and charming experience.  Mother Falcon are a 20+-piece indie rock group that boasts cellos, violins, saxophones, and an accordion… On top of that, on their current tour they are playing two sets: one of original material and one of Radiohead’s OK Computer (I must admit, I’m quite intrigued to hear a band I really like, Mother Falcon, re-imagining the work of a band I really dislike, Radiohead.)

Mother Falcon photo 1This May Mother Falcon released their sophomore LP, You Knew.  The sound of Mother Falcon is a bit hard to pin down (partially because I don’t really want to).  It’s a bit like an elegant take on youthful rebellion… like The Airborne Toxic Event’s better-behaved little brother… Or Freelance Whales’ less-“quirky” big brother… They’re really good at maintaining an eloquent poeticism about them, but without ever seeming lame…  I recently got a chance to chat with vocalist/accordionist/pianist Tamir Kalifa about the current state of Mother Falcon.  He tells me that the band, who are still quite young, are excited to finally, for the first time, be able to concentrate almost solely on their music: “Three of us just graduated college and I kind of felt like a little kid, like totally stoked to just be able to concentrate on making music. Honestly, we want to write another album.  We were just excited to have the time to work on music and not wake up and turn in a paper, or go to work, or whatever.”  Mother Falcon are also, apparently, excited to challenge a few original assessments of the band: “When we started we were mostly under 18 or under 21 and we were just seen as really talented youngsters.”  Kalifa tells me that they’re anxious to prove that they’re a lot more than just novel, young prodigies.

What most interested me about the dynamic of Mother Falcon is just how exactly they manage to all work together and what that process looks like.  Kalifa clarifies, “Well, first and foremost, we’re all extremely good friends.” (Some are even family.)  But he says that there’s no formal method for putting together songs and that the biggest rule is simply not raining on each others’ “creative” parades.

“When we’re writing, it starts with a chord progression or a melody or something and then it just grows from the input of all of the members.  There’s never a time when one person dictates what someone else does.  Everyone contributes.  I think we’re just influenced by each other and each other’s creative capacity.”

Although having strings and horns in an “indie rock” outfit doesn’t seem so strange, that is after all, a relatively recent phenomena.  When chatting with Kalifa, he admits that bands of recent years, like the Arcade Fire, have proven to be really inspiring, in terms of being able to incorporate classical musicianship in a modern sound: “It’s really inspiring to see bands playing instruments you don’t often see in clubs.  It’s inspiring to see that you can play indie rock with a violin.”  More than that, the band are actually passing this sentiment along to the next generation of musicians… literally.

“We actually run a summer camp that serves as an alternative to those rigid classical camps that many of us went to.  We’re trying to give back.  We try to encourage students to push themselves and be creative and play things other than what we were given in orchestra class. We just really want to help and encourage kids.  That’s a big part of our goal. Hopefully we’re inspiring young people to be bold and creative and take risks.”

I’m interested to hear Kalifa tell me that the band actually really enjoys reading critiques the band gets, whether from proper “critics” or semi-pro and non-pro bloggers and micro-bloggers.

“We’re incessantly checking up on everything online.  It’s kind of cool to be able to read the opinions of people we don’t know, whether it be good or bad.  It’s really a cool thing to be monitoring the process in real-time.  We’re really self-conscious and I think we’re all really sensitive, but we take it all as being valid and it allows us to be better musicians and better performers.”

There are, however, certain write-ups that the band enjoys more than others: “The thing NPR wrote up about us made us all wet our pants.”

Although a number of bands have recently done quite cool tours playing entire albums front-to-back, I was curious about what led Mother Falcon to decide to play Radiohead’s third effort in its entirety. Kalifa tells me that the band is constantly trying to play something different for each of their local shows in Austin and that at one point they just said, “Why don’t we play a full album?”  Originally they had considered Kid A, but thought OK Computer would be a more fun and accessible option.

“We took all these creative liberties with the songs.  Four or five of us did the arrangements and then a week before we first performed it everyone came in and added their input.  The whole show just brought us together.  It was a milestone we’d reached in terms of tightness, a new bonding experience.”

And as far as what can be expected of the live experience, he tells me, “You’re gonna see a lot of really excited 20-somethings, because this is our first tour.  We’re just utterly elated. You’ll also see a lot of people wearing black and kind of looking like a cult, so… if you can get past that…”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.