LA two-piece Moby Rich turn melancholy song craft into bold, pop hooks and visuals. Their debut single, Yoko Ono, is a euphoric-by-way-of-ethereal burst of joy; a love song (or at least their version) about finding someone to match your strange. The pair -- Maxwell Joseph and Connor Pledger -- relocated to LA in 2015 from Indianapolis and Atlanta respectively in search of, well, anything. Connor initially made the move after a music mogul stumbled across a cover he uploaded on YouTube and invited him to Hollywood to join a “folk boyband” he was putting together.
Quickly realizing that was a bad idea, Connor began to do the rounds as a pop songwriter. “I’m living out here and I’m writing for pop artists and thinking something’s going to happen, then a year goes by and I’m getting terrible depression. I don’t know what the fuck to do with myself,” he describes. “I’ve moved out here, I’m songwriting, nothing’s happening, I have nowhere to stay. So I decide I need to do something, I need to get out of this funk.”
In a moment of synergy, Connor began attending open mic nights around the town in which Maxwell was living. “I found this one particular night and the first time I went there was the time I met Maxwell,” he describes. “We had a mutual friend who it transpired knew him from Indianapolis. So we meet and the first reaction we had was, ‘Yeah that doesn’t look like a guy I want to hang out with’.”
“I think there was a little bit of facade on both of us,” agrees Maxwell, who’d been attending the nights in the hope of finding somebody -- anybody -- to hang out with. “A lot of people go through that when they move to a town like LA. You just put on a very cold aesthetic. But it didn’t take long for us to warm up.”
The two began writing together and, as Maxwell puts it, realized “semi quickly, that we had this identifiable sound between the two of us.” “The funny thing is, the music that we actually like, doesn’t sound like the music we used to make,” continues Connor. “And one of the cool things about this project is that it’s the first project I would actually, honestly buy and listen to. Before I don’t think I would have bought my own music.”
The majority of the pair’s tracks are written on acoustic guitar, the thinking being that if a song sounds good acoustic, it probably sounds good full stop. “Sometimes when you strip all the production from a song, you aren't left with much,” says Connor. “We want to be able to play everything from just a guitar, all the way up to a full band show.” While either one of them can bring the genesis of an idea, what’s important is that they always both vibe on it. “If we don’t, there’s probably nothing to it,” Connor simply states.
The pair sing every song in unison, (a sort of whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-parts attitude) which speaks volumes of their close, almost twin-like, friendship. “Where my vocal lacks, his vocal picks up the slack and vice versa,” says Connor. “Almost like a yin and yang of vocal qualities.”
Their writing process has always been a collaborative one. “I think we know when to take and give and it just speaks to how we balance each other out,” states Maxwell. “There’s a trust in the process that we have developed over writing together for a long period of time.” Maxwell admits that while he may a bit more simplistic than Connor’s “theatrical and grandiose” musical tendencies, it’s this balance that makes Moby Rich the most exciting project either of them have worked on.
“We did all the vocals for this project, even up to today, on an iPhone 5,” explains Connor. “We took those vocals and pan them hard left and right. We used old Fruity Loop plugins to create some of the sounds we have. We created samples of random noises we found while creating the project and used those with the iPhone to create sounds that would be absolutely original (i.e. a guitar solo performed by my refrigerator). So between the accidental sounds we made, and the absolutely deliberate sounds we wanted, it created the sound we have now.”
The first insight into their unique sound comes in the shape of Yoko Ono, a melancholy pop banger that combines the euphoria of early MGMT with the laidback beat making of N.E.R.D. “Yoko Ono was the last song to be written for our EP,” Maxwell explains. “I’d made a little track and sent it to Connor and we just started writing to it. We had a moment when we were doing the chorus where I was like, ‘wow, this is really good’. And usually you don’t have moments like that.”
While neither can remember who came up with the “be my Yoko Ono muse” lyric, Connor describes how the song is basically “about finding the person that matches your weirdness. Whatever you attract in life, you want that other person to be your match. And you look at John and Yoko and you know the rest of the world didn’t matter. The whole planet could have exploded and gone off into space and they’d still have been in love forever.”
The video – directed by L.A. filmmaker Scottie Cameron – depicts the pajama-ed pair in motorized beds, driving through the streets of Los Angeles with sheets billowing in the air. You can read it as a reference to John and Yoko’s famous “bed-ins” of 1969, or even the two of them living out their dreams. Really though, you get the impression it was just a good excuse to goof around. “We wanted something that shows our personalities,” Maxwell admits, of the perfect foil to the bands occasionally moody synthetics. “Something that’s a bit ridiculous.”
“Humor, plain and simple, is what allows us to cope with life,” Connor continues. “We don't enjoy writing bubblegum pop or songs about how everything is perfect. It's not. So, why write about a world that doesn't exist?” This level of honesty allows the duo to say what they want in a way that helps friends and fans cope with the realities of life. “Obviously, there is a lot of bullshit going on in the world right now. The way we often connect with people on that is through our lyrics but we also want to tap into the joy that music can bring.”
The chance for that will come with an EP later this year. Maxwell describes how the band wants to use it to tour, to travel, to have fun. They want to connect with a fan base and say, as Connor describes, “‘this is how I feel’ within this weird gesture of creating a song.”
“We try to let people know, in the music, that we don’t know everything. We’re not here to give answers,” Maxwell says, as Connor picks up the theme. “We just want to say, hey, we feel the same way you do. I think that’s where the beauty lies.”