m_o_d_e_s or “modes” is an anagram of “demos” and was originally supposed to be just that: a bundle of orphan, rough-cut outtakes. Instead, Marten Roork (aka Tomemitsu) decided to run with them, reshaping the tracks until they had some noticeable cohesion. And with the help of mother nature and a number of random occurrences, he was able to do just that. What’s left in its wake is a timeless 8-track album that shape-shifts and transforms with each and every listen.
Want to see him live? He’ll be performing alongside Steffaloo, The Polaroid Bear, Fell Runner at Lot 1 Cafe in Los Angeles on May 23rd.
Stream m_o_d_e_s, and read Tomemitsu’s breakdown of said release below:
About two years ago I moved to Echo Park in Los Angeles and started playing in a band called Basement Babies and another, now defunct, band called Free Camp. I had also been doing cello drones with my friend Tim aka Tenstairs in a project called EagleScouts. All the while I had been writing some solo stuff on the side for myself and would give songs to my close friends for their thoughts. My buddy Andy, who used to play guitar for Basement Babies, was always really enthusiastic about me doing something with the songs. I had sent him “Thinkin’ Bout the Word” and he told me he made out with a hot girl to it, that was really funny and cool.
In the spring of 2011 I wrote “In Dreams” one day after coming home from work, feeling pretty melancholy about a recent failed relationship and exasperated from LA traffic. I laid down a very simple beat and recorded some guitar over it. I remember making an effort to keep the music simple—I mean it’s only 3 chords, so that when I wrote the lyrics they would have more freedom to roam. They ended up being pretty personal. I guess many of my songs are, but this had much more readable lyrical content than songs that I had written previously. I wanted the lyrics to be something that stuck in your head, so I tried just repeating one line like thirty times and changing the lyrical responses. It was a really fun and fruitful exercise.
That coming summer I came across the post for the Portals Summer Mixtape and decided to give submitting a shot. After the very positive feedback I received from Tripp (Portals) I became more confident with the idea of releasing my solo work. I wrote a few more songs that were like weird keyboardy pop songs and at the same time was also making weird beats because I also love house music. I had chosen the name “modes” because it is an anagram of “demos” and I thought that would be neat to have all these different ideas grouped together, but I was wrong haha. Originally I had intended for ‘m_o_d_e_s’ to be kind of like a sampler of the things I was doing, but after careful consideration I decided to go back and make something more cohesive where the songs had similar elements rather than many different styles mushed together.
To achieve this cohesion I listened back to “In Dreams” and tried to think about the things that really clicked for me when writing that song. Aside from being purposefully simple and catchy, one thing that I was proud of from that session was the amount of ambient and environmental sounds that you can hear on the recording. I was reading a biography on Brian Eno at the time (on some faraway beach) and was really into the idea of using random processes to come about with answers to my problems.
I became enamored with this method of recording with the doors and windows open, hoping to pick up any outsider sound. I would do things like turn up the input volume on my Macbook to the the max and whisper the words into the mic, or go outdoors and sit on my stoop to record guitar parts. Just a lot of counter-intuitive things and people would say “that’s a no-no” if you were trying to record correctly. It was a blast and really liberating actually. Doing things like that gave me inspiration every time I would sit down to record. There was this element of chance during recording that made every take exciting. Like, oh I can hit record and all these other elements besides my music will have their place, even if I have no control over those elements. One instance of this is when you hear the sound of an airplane in “In Dreams,” and I’m singing, “I only want to feel the flight before the fall.” Things like that are magical and give me goosebumps. You can’t plan that.