I’m not sure what year it was, probably somewhere around 2005 or 2006, but I finally caught wind of a band of youngsters making music in the suburbs of Washington DC known as Mass Movement of the Moth. By the time I had seen them for the first time, they already had a pretty enthusiastic following in the city and from what I learned had even been on a few tours. They still hadn’t released a full length, but I picked up their self released EP, Finally! and was pretty hooked.
For me, Mass Movement of the Moth dually filled spaces in my sonic life left by the demise of Frodus and The Dismemberment Plan. They were loud and bombastic on the one end. On the other, they were funky and laid down an amazing groove. They had the type of energy you expect out of kids at 19 and 20 just growing into the fact that they are undeniable music wizards. They were onto something, they knew they liked what they were doing, and felt the energy of the audience feeding into them. It was truly an amazing sight to see especially considering they existed in a time when once again, the established acts of DC’s post-punk scene were either distant memories or gone entirely. Mass Movement of the Moth was part of a youth centered movement, who while playing with in the context of an immediate past, had very little to do with it. They made music outside of what their fore bearers did, to a new generation of kids finding DIY and Punk Rock culture.
Within just a few months of each other, Mass Movement of the Moth released a split CD with Richmond, VA’s grunge revivalists Catalyst entitled Two-Thousand and Six Six Six and a fantastic debut album, Outerspace on DC’s Exotic Fever Records. The split with Catalyst captured a very loud, aggressive Mass Movement of the Moth, replete with dual vocals between Bassist Christian Brady and Keyboardist Adam Lake. The breakdowns were spooky, littered with girtty riffage from guitarist Ashly Arnwine and the unruly talented Joey Doubek delivering thunderous drums. Their songs on the split felt like a desert murder mystery show produced in the 70’s. Mass Movement spared no expense in being both aggressive and far out, adding odd time changes, space orgy keyboards and an over all unsettling, but highly pleasant grove. On “Lightening”, the band gets down right beautiful, with some nice, waverly movements.
Outerspace saw the band at top form. It’s hard to believe that this band of talent only released one album and that they were able to convey so much in that album. Recorded by Jeff Kane, no stranger himself to the suburban wastelands similar to the ones Mass Movement of the Moth came from, Outerspace is filled with a desire to break out and break free from the monotony of houses filled with spies and spooks. It’s a transgressive, futuristic cry from America’s youth, smart enough to know that where they are from and what makes up their suburban neighborhoods is totally fucked, but far too young to do anything in opposition to it. That is, other than shouting at the top of their lungs. Outerspace collects the songs from Mass Movement of the Moth when I got to know them. The screaming and yelling vocals over totally loud and crushing music remains, but in between, the true talents of these young musicians really comes out. Brady’s bass playing, no longer confined just to thumping loudly, is really allowed to take shape in the new space like on songs “Seven” and “Crimps And Ties”. The band also utilized this time to bring out other elements of their song creation including guest vocals, acoustic noodling and new influences. Outerspace was as strong a debut album as any band could have asked for and as it remains the bands finest moment and their unfortunate swan song, future generations of music listeners will just have to embrace it and take it up the mountain.
Mass Movement of the Moth broke up not too long after Outerspace was released. The world saw their debut EP Finally re-recorded and re-released as Finale. The band was working on songs from some compilations at the time they disbanded. Suddenly, Washington DC seemed bleak once more. Around Mass Movement of the Moth were a slew of young bands that seemed to come and go quickly, but they were all filled with excited youth, eager to catch that exciting wave that The Moth was clearly in command of.
For the rest of you, here and now, you can celebrate their entire catalog. Finally launched after a few years of work collecting masters and design, Mass Movement of the Moth have unveiled Maximum Documentation which includes nearly every song they ever released (I believe there is one song missing from an early split). The band is offering their catalog, along with another unreleased batch of demos for free download (although you have the option to donate or purchase remaining physical copies, which I suggest you do). Included on this page is a collection entitled Beyond which features six songs captured from an acoustic performance at American University. This special insight into the band shows the depth these four amazing individuals have.
Today, the band members are spread out on the east coast. Ashley Arnwine is in Philly and last I heard was playing in the awesomely named Birth Noises. Christian Brady is in Richmond and plays in Antlers, a fantastic, mostly instrumental post-rock and soul infused band. Joey Dubek is currently playing bass in Hume who released a very well received EP on Sockets Records late last year. Adam Lake is currently in Richmond as well, eating pizza and generally being the amazing dude that I have always known him to be. Mass Movement of the Moth was a fantastic band, forged full of unencumbered, youthful energy. They managed a modest following in the four or so years they existed. Further, they played in Washington DC in a time where they were needed most. With any luck, the historians of DC’s rich, DIY culture will not overlook this band or the time period in which they existed. They may not have reached the legendary status of the countless bands before them, but they made interesting, intense music in a time when so little of the establishment was paying attention. Their contributions to that history are equally as important, ushering in a new generation of young people to a world in which your friends are your fans and your fans are your friends. Mass Movement of the Moth were intensely DIY, touring the country and making music that was passionate and original. They are missed greatly by this writer, but I am glad this library exists in documentation of the mighty Mass Movement of the Moth.