Band of the Week: Hiss Golden Messenger

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Band of the Week: Hiss Golden Messenger
Photo by Graham Tolbert
Meet the Band: M.C. Taylor (vocals, guitar)

A COUPLE OF INTROVERTS: Singer-guitarist M.C. Taylor originally met bandmate Scott Hirsch in 1994 when the two were freshman at the University of California at Santa Barbara. They'd eventually relocate to San Francisco and form the Court & Spark. "I was a huge music fan without a ton of musical skills, and I was just learning to play guitar at the time," says Taylor. "I knew about music and poetry and art. I was coming at it from that direction. Scott [Hirsch] was already playing in bands. I thought that was pretty cool. There was something about our personalities that clicked. I'm not sure what it was. We're both kind of introverted people, but something about working with him was easy." When the Court & Spark dissolved after a nearly ten-year run, Taylor started up Hiss Golden Messenger, abandoning the idea of fronting a group that gives all its members equal say. "I wanted to start my own thing and be the boss of everything," Taylor says. "With any band, it's hard to have a democracy because energy levels and personalities are different. What I've done with Hiss is not so different from what we were trying to do with the Court & Spark, but the bar has been raised considerably as will happen when you work at something for a long time."

SONGS OF DEVOTION: Last year, the group issued Devotion: Songs About Rivers and Spirits and Children, a limited-edition boxed set that features remastered reissues of the three early Hiss Golden Messenger albums along with a new rarities compilation. "It was fun," says Taylor when asked about the project. "Those records are not that old, so it's not like I was looking back 25 years. They're in my recent past. It was nice to revisit them. Generally speaking, by the time a record of mine has come out into the world, I'm not listening to it anymore because I've spent so much time with it. It was fun to look back at those records and realize there are all kinds of thematic and sonic through-lines. There's definitely a consistency with what I do that I'm happy about. I've thought of the records as chapters of a book. There might be a curveball here or there, but overall, the changes are subtle. I'm more concerned with mapping my own psyche. I make these records for myself and my close circle of friends. It's kind of a miracle that anyone knows about them anyway."

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Earlier this year, the group issued two new singles, the rootsy "Watching the Wires" and the soulful "Everybody Needs Somebody," a Van Morrison-like ballad that features Sylvan Esso's Amelia Meath on backing vocals. "There was a bit of a lull between albums, so I thought it would be fun to make stand-alone singles and see how quickly I could move from recording them to getting them out," says Taylor, who adds that he has a new full-length slated to come out in the fall. "I had a couple of songs that didn't have a home, so we recorded them in a couple of days. It was really fun."


WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Hiss Golden Messenger performs with Anna St. Louis at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 7, at the Grog Shop.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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