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What's in a name?

Mr. Motorcycle produces indie psych-pop that transcends nostalgia

Mr. Motorcycle’s indie psych-pop surpasses its delightful name. Plays Saturday in Olympia. Photo credit: Anna Moore

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Before we get to this week's subject, a quick word about band names: Music, in general, is one of the most visceral arts out there; you can intellectualize it all you want, and maybe an artist can grow on you, but it's generally true that you know immediately whether or not you're into any given band. If you're finding music on your own, as opposed to having a friend shove a CD into your hand, the first impression tends to be the band name. Awesome band names draw you in, leading you to pay attention to things like Guantanamo Baywatch, Captain Beefheart, The The, or any other delightfully named project.

One of my favorite local band names is Pig Snout (usually stylized with two exclamation points at the end, because one is boring and three is clichéd). Pig Snout came by their fantastically distinctive name honestly, as it was named by its two child-aged members - the same as how they name each of their songs. Pun names like Guantanamo Baywatch - or Merchant Ivory Wayans, which I recently came up with, and which you can have for free - are great, but they aren't as giddily childish as Pig Snout.

Another of my favorite Tacoma band names is Mr. Motorcycle. If I didn't know any better, I would've thought that it similarly came from a prepubescent mind, born out of crudely drawn grade school comics about homespun superheroes named things like Karate-Man or Captain Super-Punch. Knowing that it's lame to inquire about band name origins, I still asked Mr. Motorcycle lead singer Evan Main about where the name came from, and the explanation was simultaneously more hardcore and more adolescent than I had assumed.

"I used to be neighbors with this horrible Nazi biker guy who scared the s@#% out of me every morning with his motorcycle," Main said, "so we passive aggressively gave him the name ‘Mr. Motorcycle.'"

Of course, after you get past a cool band name, the music still has to work, and Mr. Motorcycle pass that litmus test. Made up of Main on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Levi Gosteli on bass, Luke Warren on lead guitar, and Paul Hirschl on drums, Mr. Motorcycle accesses the moody sounds of ‘60s psychedelic pop while avoiding the pitfall of leaning on nostalgia. On their debut EP of demos, The ‘Vator Tapes - recorded live in an elevator shaft - Mr. Motorcycle come out of the gate with the Zombies-esque "Agnostic Blues," bringing a moody pep to the overexposed genre of modern day psychedelic garage rock.

The rumbling "Pai Mu Dan" follows, with the bass leading the charge and Main's already laconic vocals taking on a nasally early Bowie-ish quality, a sort of sneering energy that serves as a neat counterpoint to melt into the rocky churning of the instrumentation. "Pai Mu Dan" intersperses elements of tricky rhythmic shifts into what is otherwise a relatively straightforward song, a slight nod to the recent trend of indie bands embracing destabilizing math-rock. A potent bit of disturbance for a song named after a type of tea (which can be found at Mad Hat Tea Company, which likely is where the title came from).

"South for the Winter" closes out the short collection that Mr. Motorcycle have assembled in the lead-up to their first proper release. It's a swinging song that suggests forays into a jazzier area, working in contrast to their more ‘60s radio-friendly tendencies. A band can catch your attention with a spirited name, but even a person like me that's never played an instrument can come up with something like that. Mr. Motorcycle's name is merely an entry point to a talented, up-and-coming Tacoma act.

Mr. Motorcycle, w/ Cheap Sweat, Table Sugar, 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17, $3 suggested donation, Le Voyeur, 404 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, 360.943.5710

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