Stepping from behind the mask, Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman Thomas Fec explains how exorcising demons with a new record has found him opening up to the world…
“I’ve always loved masks. I just love the idea of hiding behind a face.”
A computer screen is the face that Thomas Fec, aka Tobacco and frontman/songwriter of psychedelic synthpoppers Black Moth Super Rainbow, has chosen to adorn when he chats to Electronic Sound. Rarely one to show his own visage, Fec and his bandmates have gone to great lengths to hide their true identity, to the point of even being interviewed behind a toilet door. Seriously, it’s on YouTube; an exchange from a few years ago where Fec remains concealed by a toilet stall. It’s as good an example as any and gives you a peak into the surreal world of Black Moth Super Rainbow.
“The face is what you go to first and it’s what everyone identifies everything by,” Fec says. “If you look at most of the Black Moth records, they all feature a big old face.”
The faces that adorn their sleeves have a distinctive cut-up aesthetic, a warped collage that seems to fit face-in-mask with their hypnagogic synth swirls and processed vocals. The front of the upcoming album, ‘Panic Blooms’, the sixth BMSR long-player and first since 2012’s, ‘Cobra Juicy’, features a huge sinister grin and glaring eyes, half-hidden behind a pair of wide, dark sunglasses. Another face; another mask.
But it’s with ‘Panic Blooms’ that the mask has started to slip. In sharp contrast to their back catalogue, the new record is a raw, visceral outing. With song titles like ‘Permanent Hole’ and ‘Bad Fuckin Times’, it’s full of downbeat melodies and abstract synth textures that ooze around the trademark vocoded lyrics. So why, now, have BMSR decided to let us all see what lies beyond their weird, unnerving veil?
“I didn’t have any choice,” Fec explains. “It was either get that shit out or don’t make anything at all. And I guess that’s kind of what slowed me down for so long too. I haven’t thought through the right way of talking about it. But, I mean, I guess it’s kind of a depression record, so the way the album moves is like the bloom of panic. It comes from over-thinking and feeling really bad.”
He says that the gap between ‘Panic Blooms’ and preceding album ‘Cobra Juicy’ couldn’t be larger, both literally and figuratively, describing them as “like yin and yang”.
“‘Cobra Juicy’ came from the rubble of this project that I had gotten hired to work on,” he explains. “That album was upbeat, almost sassy. This is anything but sassy. It’s a bummer album.”
Fec says that while the new tracks don’t necessarily have a specific, individual meaning behind them, songs like ‘Bad Fuckin Times’ are representative of how he felt when he was working on the record.
“That’s just recognising that you’re at the bottom. It doesn’t refer to any specific instance or anything. It’s just about a feeling that you get when you’re in a certain place. And that song in particular, that’s like, you can’t get any lower. If I could only turn on one song from the album, it would be ‘Backwash’. I think it was the last song that I wrote, and it felt like it was the acceptance of everything and letting go of whatever that demon is that’s fucking with you.”
And does Fec feel the demon has been released with this record?
“I do, and that’s some corny shit,” he says. “It’s an end to a shitty chapter and it feels great to listen to. It’s weird; it doesn’t bring back bad memories and I actually really feel good listening to it.”
Fec also heads up the band’s own label, Rad Cult, which he says has been a learning curve in itself.
“It’s very hard. Like, infinitely hard,” he laments. “It’s not really my choice to be self-releasing on our own label. I fucking hate doing all that work. That’s the only thing really that makes me jealous of other artists – they get to be artists. And being an artist, to me, should be everything. But it only takes up a small percentage of all the bullshit I have to do.”
Yet even with all the “bullshit”, Fec admits that managing Rad Cult has given him a new appreciation for the minutiae that goes into getting a record out into the world.
“I’ve spent a lot of time shitting on labels,” he says, “but once you realise that everyone who puts in time on something costs money, then you start to see why you don’t, at the end of the day, see as much money as you think you should. It’s making sense to me now. We end up making 100 per cent at the end of the day, which is really nice.”
Will we have to wait six years again for a new Black Moth Super Rainbow album? Fec hopes not.
“I hope that I can stay excited about this project, because it seems like every time I do a record, I kind of lose interest for a while,” he says. “And I think it would be nice to stick with something, not go away for another six years. That would be nice.”
So there’s every chance that ‘Panic Blooms’ could be the last BMSR record?
“Man, every record has been the last Black Moth album! I’m pretty sure you could dig up an interview with me for every single record where I say it’s the last one. This’ll be the first interview where I recognise that I say that every time and that it’s probably not true.”
In truth, Fec admits that he doesn’t really know why he loses interest in BMSR, but hopes that the post-‘Panic Blooms’ Fec, who has exorcised his demons publicly and feels better for it, will stay excited with the future of Black Moth Super Rainbow.
“Maybe it’s all part of that, ‘not always being able to see what’s in front of you’ thing,” he sighs. “But maybe, in recognising that, I’ll be better at it this time.”
‘Panic Blooms’ is released by Rad Cult