We recently featured Modern Inventors
' track "Closer (Ft. Daru Jones)" as our Song of the Day
. The band, which consists of central members Josh Benus and Matt Kass, boasts a hypnotic sound similar to Tame Impala. We loved it for its psychedelic synths and smooth instrumentation, so we had to talk to the band about their favorite pieces of gear.
Guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Matt Kass told us about his personal favorite, "My favorite piece of gear right now is probably the Moog Voyager that we have at our studio. It actually belongs to our roommate Owen Biddle, but I've gotten really familiar with it over the past year, and it's a special instrument."
Kass continued, "When I was kid, I'd flip through music catalogs pining over gear and the Voyager or Mini-Moog was always like the best and most expensive analog synth. So when we all came to Nashville and combined our recording gear last year, into our house/studio, I just started tinkering with it all the time. I'd stay up really late, turn all the lights off, and just play around with it until I knew enough to start recording with it. It's got this blue backlighting on all of the knobs, and a touch screen, so when it's pitch black and you're making these insane, psychedelic sounds on it, it feels kind of like a spaceship or something."
He then goes more into depth about the technical aspect of the instrument, "It's monophonic, so you can only play one note on the keyboard at a time, but it has 3 oscillators (tone generators) each with their own pitch control, so essentially you can make a chord by tuning one to the root, the other to a 3rd and the last to a 5th. You can assign the pitch bend wheel to one of secondary oscillators, so like down is a minor 3rd and up is a major 3rd, and I can play diatonic chords on it if I need to. But that's kind of technical, what I really dig about this synth is how organic and musical it is."
"It doesn't feel like a soft synth or plugin, in the sense that there's this tactile element to turning the knobs with your fingers that moving a mouse or even sliding fingers on a touch screen cant replicate. Sometimes I like to just start messing with knobs to see what I'm going to get, and there's this happy accident thing that happens where I'll find a really interesting texture that I never would have thought of, if it all needed to be premeditated. That's how I taught myself how to use recording gear, one of my friends in Philly told me he would go to an EQ on the board and just start turning knobs, in these big drastic motions, and if you use your ears, you can start to hear what you're doing to the sound."
"With the Voyager, it takes it a step further because there's this element of the unknown; like this thing is a bit elusive and if I find a really awesome sound and then try and recreate it later, it could take a while to get back to it, and even then it probably wont be exactly the same. I dig that though, it makes me feel like I'm playing an instrument and not just turning knobs. More than once though, Josh and I have been messing around with sounds and we'll stumble on something great, record it, forget to store the sound, then want to use it later and, 'poof' it's gone. There is however, a save preset function, which is really great and useful if you don't want to spend time recreating your sounds from scratch."
"On our recordings, we use the voyager for synth bass, leads and sometimes just sound textures. If you find a note that feels like it works with all of the chords in whatever progression you're on, you can just hold it down, and start messing with the filter cutoff, resonance knobs, and the LFO and modulation busses. It instantly adds this vibe and feeling, like you're floating inside the music, but even though you're only holding down one note, if you can change the filters, it keeps evolving and it never gets boring."
The track we just released 'Closer,' I use the Voyager on a bunch of stuff. On the chorus, I played this high arpeggiated synth line which was the Moog going through an analog delay, and there's this low sweeping bass synth that comes in. We actually sidechained it in with the bass guitar, so it drops in to that big subby thing, without losing the groove of Owen's bass playing. I also use it on the end of the song after the breakdown, but not for anything more than just slow sweeping noises with delay. It's funny, I don't think you can even hear what note I'm playing, but the texture of the sound just makes the end part achieve liftoff in a great way. We were searching for a sound to transport the listener to this psychedelic headspace for the end of the song, and when I started messing with that texture it all came together."
"That's something that Josh and I pay a lot of attention to when we record, transporting the listener to a certain vibe or feeling, and the Voyager really helps us do that. We played a show recently and there was this great bass player in the headlining band, who sat side stage for our entire set and came up to us afterwards and told me that our music made him feel like he was floating through outer space. That was like one of the biggest compliments that he could have given me, because that's what I was feeling when I was messing around with this thing, with all the lights off, late at night, and somehow the vibe translated through the music."