How Did Mass Gothic Turn New York City Into a Karaoke Bar?

How Did Mass Gothic Turn New York City Into a Karaoke Bar?
Photo courtesy Shawn Brackbill / Sub Pop Records

Noel Heroux is taking a break. Not from music, although his long-running band Hooray for Earth dissolved last year. Instead, he's walking away from working against his own artistic grain. After spending years making music that felt a little inauthentic, his new project, Mass Gothic, is all about letting things happen naturally. In the video for their debut single "Every Night You've Got to Save Me", Heroux proves he's serious about the change of course. He'd planned a high-production value, high-concept video filmed upstate, but when he watched the footage, it just didn't feel right. "We were like, 'Alright, shit, if this didn’t work, what are we going to do?'" he says. "So we just went out to see what was happening and did what we normally do. It ended up being the most natural thing."

The four-minute clip follows Heroux as he wanders Chinatown, the East Village, and SoHo, karaoke mic in hand, lip-syncing to the track and going nowhere in particular. Along for the ride are his bandmate (and wife) Jessica Zambri, some random passerby, a few cab drivers, and Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman (Mass Gothic's self-titled debut with the label arrives February 5). That cameo was an idea Heroux pursued in the moment: "I just called him up and asked 'Where are you right now?'" he explains. Poeman was already in the neighborhood, and Heroux was glad to include him "as a little Easter Egg for anyone who'd recognize him." 

Karaoke sort of just happened, too. "Ending up in a karaoke joint is unavoidable when you live in Manhattan," laughs Heroux. "We didn’t want to do an obvious karaoke video, so we were just carrying around a karaoke mic and goofing off." At points, a half-empty pint of Jagermeister replaces the mic; someone in the crew accidentally walked off with the real one, and Heroux went with it. "I was like, 'OK, this is a mic now!'" After leaving one of the bars where they sang for a bit, a group of drunk guys followed them out and, eventually, began trying to pick up Zambri and the other women in the shoot. "I’m not one to be rude, but I had to tell one guy to fuck off," bristles Heroux. "One of the camera guys just kept repeating 'Leave, leave, leave, leave' until the guy did." It was the only hiccup in an otherwise freewheeling evening.

The laid-back feel of the video matches the content (if not the upbeat sound) of the song, which covers Heroux's feelings of alienation and depression when he was making music that didn't resonate within. Mass Gothic is an honest record, and its lead single needed an honest video where Heroux could exhale and act naturally. "It feels nice not to try to hard. That’s not the same as not working hard," he clarifies, "but why swim upstream? Let it be, that’s my thing." Honesty, it turns out, is indeed the best policy. 

Mass Gothic's self-titled debut album is out February 5 on Sub Pop. They play Palisades on February 27 with MAZED and Vomitface. 

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