The English band Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi (pronounced moe-hoe-bish-o-pea) has been together for four years and has released a few EPs that have really started to pick up some speed since the band was signed to the well-known indie label V2 at the beginning of this year. The trio, Mike Carter, bass and vocals; Martin Bimrose, guitar and lead vocals; and Rich Arnold, drums and vocals, has been compared to Beck, Sonic Youth, Pavement and the Flaming Lips. They’re known for their use of electronic xylophones, ancient keyboards and disintegrating guitars that produce rich, multi-layered, unique and catchy tunes.
Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi is now recording their highly anticipated first full-length album at Water Music (Ninth and Madison streets in Hoboken) with producer Don Fleming (Sonic Youth, Hole and the Screaming Trees) to be released in March of 2001. The band is staying in town for a few weeks while they finish up recording, but they recently took a break to do their debut American performance at Maxwell’s this past Wednesday. The Current caught up with Carter to find out a little bit about these popular Mo-Ho-Bish Brits before the show.
Louise Thach: So the whole story behind Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi is that it’s a bird.
Mike Carter: Yeah, it’s an extinct Hawaiian bird. Martin came to America when he was 19, and he bought a T-shirt which had birds on it, all linked to baseball teams out here, so he wanted to call the band after some sort of bird, and he managed to find the name in Reader’s Digest. We didn’t have a good name at the time, so we decided to go for it and it stuck. Lots of people ask why we call ourselves that, and it’s like ‘Why not?’ It’s kind of awkward, but once people kind of get the gist of it, then they tend to remember it. It kind of works. It hasn’t done any harm so far.
LT: But it’s hard to pronounce.
MC: Yeah, but it’s kind of more of a visual thing as well. We did [the hyphens] ourselves. The original spelling is like two words, and we just put it together and we thought we’d space it out and try to help people. We’ve had all sorts of pronunciations of it, like Martin with his northern accent.
LT: What are you recording in Hoboken?
MC: We’re doing an album. Basically, we got signed to V2 earlier this year, so we’re working with Don Fleming, and we’ve been here for two weeks now.
LT: How did you hear about Water Music?
MC: Well, Don had done some stuff here before. Basically, he wanted us to come out rather than him come out to England, and that was all right. Me and Rich haven’t been to New York before, so it was kind of a good opportunity to come out here. And things are going all right at the moment.
LT: Do you like the studio?
MC: Yeah, it’s really good. We started off in the big room, so we recorded all the drum tracks and bass and some of the guitars, and now we have to move into the smaller rooms ’cause one of the other bands is in there for a bit. But then we go back in again to do some mixing later on.
LT: What is this album going to be called?
MC: I don’t know at the moment. We’re writing down a big list as time goes by, like ‘Win the Prawn,’ but nothing’s definite yet. But hopefully something will come up.
LT: So do you guys hang out in that part of town?
MC: Well, the last few days I’ve been going to Manhattan quite a bit, like yesterday I went there and took flyers to all the shops. Martin was doing some vocals and Rich was a bit hung over, so he didn’t want go in, so I went in on my own. But it was good. I had a big list of places to go to.
LT: Why are you handing out your own flyers? Doesn’t your label do that for you?
MC: No, we wanted to do it ourselves really. It was a good opportunity to have a look around as well. Someone said that yesterday, in one of the shops, ‘Aren’t there people who can do this for you?’ We’re playing this week, so we have to do it now, rather than wait around.
LT: So are you doing an American tour now?
MC: I’d love to say that we were. We’d love to play a few gigs here, but I guess we’re running out of time.
LT: So Maxwell’s is your first American show ever?
MC: Yeah, this is our first performance here. We’ve been playing over the summer back at home. We did a 30-day kind of tour in all the clubs there. We played the Reading and Leeds Festivals too.
LT: You have a big following in England.
MC: Yeah, it’s going all right. Steve Lamacq – he does the evening session on Radio 1 – kind of got into [us] a while ago, and then everything followed on since then, like NME [a popular British music magazine] writing about us.
LT: I read that you guys had a problem with NME though.
MC: No, we got some good reviews. I don’t know what you’ve read. There was one review of another band by Johnny Cigarettes that made reference to us, and it was kind of nasty. Rich was wearing a T-shirt that had ‘Gay Fad’ instead of ‘Gay Dad,’ and they just called us useless indie pricks in their review. But we’ve got some really good reviews lately. We’ve always gotten on pretty well with them.
LT: So I heard about your live act. What exactly do you guys do?
MC: We tend to dress up a bit. There’s make-up involved and different outfits and wigs. We swap around as well. Martin tends to be mostly the lead singer, but then he plays drums for a bit and Rich comes forward. It’s good. We try and put on a bit of a show, you know, rather than just get up there and play. We like to talk to the crowd and get some feedback.
LT: What kind of make-up do you guys wear?
MC: Well, Martin tends to have kind of a panda eye sort of thing going on with purple glitter. We wear visors and clothes and t-shirts that we make ourselves. We look a bit of a mess. There’s no rules, you know. I guess the best thing is to come along and see. But we didn’t bring any of it with us, so we have to go shopping I think.
LT: But we don’t sell glitter in America.
MC: You don’t? Oh, no. I guess we have to think of something else. You don’t really?
LT: We do.
MC: Yeah, I was going to say.