Noel Heroux and Jessica Zambri, active in the NYC scene since the mid aughts, released music separately through Hooray for Earth (Noel’s first breakout project, disbanded in 2014) and Zambri (the electronic band Jessica still plays in with sister Cristi Jo) and became the two creative forces behind Mass Gothic. The two musicians share an interest for dark atmospheres and edgy arrangements. They found themselves involved in a romantic relationship that soon developed in an involved artistic collaboration, which fully bloomed in Mass Gothic’s sophomore album, entitled “I’ve Tortured You Long Enough,” released earlier this year through Sub Pop records.
We asked Noel to share some thoughts about the creative experience and the gear behind it.
The new album sees Jessica join you as creative/songwriting force, how did you develop the idea that an “equal power” collaboration was in the cards?
Jess influenced the first MG album via proximity, we were always together while I was recording. Then with Sup Goth she ended up finishing a lot of the vocals, writing and recording. Around that point we realized we were making a band together. Natural progression when two people spend 24/7 in each others company.
How did this new balance that impact the creative process? Are there defined “roles” in the band?
I don’t have a great answer as to how becoming a duo/band impacted the creative process. We were just two cooks in the kitchen goading each other on to cook crazy plates and try to make sense of it. Other than our general instrument designations there are no roles.
Overall, the new album sounds less electronic and more guitar (and bass!) based than the debut, what influenced this sonic direction?
We toured a great deal playing these songs so when it came time to record we played it as it is live, so you’re hearing that. Cristi Jo (Zambri) handles a couple samplers full of sounds/parts we recorded earlier, much of it in demos. I think most often its either Josh’s (Ascalon, co-producer) MS20, ARP2600 or it’s vocal samples of our own.
What guitar pedals were particularly inspiring while working on the new record?
The DBA Echo Dream 2 is on, literally, all of the time. I put it in my setup a few years ago to replace a Memory Boy, which I used to run almooost all the time. When I hooked in the Echo Dream it just did so much work that I ended up unable to turn it off, or else my sound would basically die. That’s what happens with hugely bold sounding pedals, they ask to crash on your couch for a week but before you know it oops they’re on the lease now.
What other pedals do you use a lot?
The BOSS PS5 has also ended up becoming a permanent fixture, it started because my guitars are tuned too low to reach the occasional high note, so I throw the pitch up and octave or two with that. Jess and I like this DOD metal pedal for bass and guitar, the footswitch is awful tho so we just record it. Finally, I was gifted a Death By Audio prototype by Travis Johnson, it’s housed inside an Apocalypse but its actually the first prototype Exit Index, a signal sensitive tremolo/fuzz. I’ve started using that extensively for solo guitar shows with mega low tuning, treated correctly it becomes quite scary.
What other like-minded local acts do you guys like to play with these days?