Seven Fields Of Aphelion “I have notebooks upon notebooks of songs no one will ever hear.”

Her main act, Black Moth Super Rainbow, creates woozy electro-fried psych that fills the ears like liquid candy, but as Seven Fields Of Aphelion, Maux Boyle trades in a more naturalistic sound, creating analog-piano opuses that sound like what would happen if Cluster were Luddites. We spoke to Boyle about her recently-released debut, Periphery, the benefits of being in Pittsburgh, Tori Amos, and what exactly is up with Black Moth Super Rainbow.


How and when did you decide to record this solo album?

I’ve been working on some of these songs for the longest time — seriously, 5 years on some of them. It just never felt like the right time. I felt like I needed to keep these close – I rarely shared them, even with my friends. Then after a while, I got this feeling that keeping these secret was holding me back from moving on. It’s almost a cleansing process for me. A confession, graduation, moving day, arson, I’m not sure. I couldn’t move on without letting go. So I let go, and I think it’s working so far. I feel a lot less cluttered.

Before BMSR, were you working on solo music then?

Yes, it’s a strange thing though. I could read music before I could read words – set a piece of sheet music in front of me and I’ll play it. But it never really occurred to me that I could write my own. I always assumed that I was missing whatever it is in a person that lets them write. I just thought that it was a different kind of person that did that. Not me. It wasn’t until college, when I was forced to write a song for a class, that I finally wrote one. And it was so easy once my head was in the right place – which is nowhere, really. For me, writing music is sort of a process of becoming invisible. I had to realize that it’s not about what I want. It’s not about my vision. It’s about knowing that I don’t know. I have to let myself become transparent to let the light through.

What were your main influences growing up as an artist?

I took piano lessons pretty much all of my life and I hit this point right around the 7th grade where I couldn’t stand any of the music my teacher was picking out and just didn’t want to play anymore. I wasn’t connecting with anything and I was getting bored. But I was looking around our local piano shop and I found a book of sheet music – “Tori Amos Unplugged.” It had a lot of material from Boys For Pele in it. But at the time, I had never heard her – I was really drawn to this book though. And that was the music that brought me back in. It was exactly what I needed, at exactly the moment I needed it. I played those songs until the book fell apart at the seam and I still play them now. It was a really strange experience hearing the album recordings for the first time – I had been playing them for months without knowing what the songs actually sounded like.

“I don’t have any plans for my own tour just yet. Or maybe ever.”

Have they changed now?

Tori Amos’ Boys For Pele is absolutely the album I can always come back to. Even now, 13 or so years after I first listened, I always pick up on something new when I listen to it. There’s something about the way it feels like I’m listening in on a past-life regression — it’s so stream-of-consciousness — that it always stays fresh for me. Like it’s always just being written in that exact moment that I’m listening to it.

And I’ve always had a strong interest in older music – ’60s and ’70s – and I’m constantly exploring those artists more and more. Right now I’m trying to absorb as much Sandy Denny as possible. (“The Battle of Evermore” has always been my favorite Led Zeppelin song. One of my favorite songs, period.) And after years of some strange resistance, Kate Bush has recently entered my rotation.

On Periphery, there seems to be a split between relying on synths and treated piano. Is there symbolism in that?

It’s not consciously symbolic. I very rarely have a melody or idea in mind when I sit down to write, so there’s really no plan. I let the sound drive the song. I have to love the sound – I have to be absorbed by the sound, or there’s nothing there. So I don’t really make choices very often – I just try to let things speak, without interfering.

Are you planning to make another solo album?

I’ll always be writing – whether or not I’ll share those songs with anyone else, I don’t even know. I write when it strikes me, not necessarily for the purpose of creating an album. I have notebooks upon notebooks of songs no one will ever hear. So I’ll have to see when the time comes whether there’s a handful of songs that need to be set free.

BMSR does have a reputation for being very secretive, but is there any way you can give us your version of a brief history of the band?

Of course, it all started with Tobacco dreaming up some crazy, noisy songs. And he felt strange having it come across as solo work – like people wouldn’t take it seriously — so he added other names to make it appear as more of a collaborative effort. Which I guess worked in some way, because people always think that the early stuff was written as a band. Then he got the idea to actually bring in people to be able to play the songs live. And slowly over time he brought people in – they’ve changed here and there, and there are a few collaborations along the way. And the music has certainly changed and evolved over time as well. It’s a complete accident that I’m involved at all. It was one of those coincidental, friend-of-a-friend, right-place-right-time, chance type of situations that got me into it.

“I always assumed that I was missing whatever it is in a person that lets them write. I just thought that it was a different kind of person that did that.”

We know that BMSR’s origins are in Pittsburgh — is that where you grew up as well?

Yes. I always assumed I would move one day to another city, but after seeing so much of the country, there’s really nowhere else for me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of cities that I love to visit and Pittsburgh certainly isn’t without its own shortcomings, but this just seems to be the right place. There’s something about the hills and hidden places and crazy roads that lead to secret views. I just never get tired of exploring here.

What is the Pittsburgh music community like? How does it differ from that of a larger city?

I’m not sure that I’m qualified to answer that question. Crowds of people make me claustrophobic, so I tend to avoid going out to shows unless I have to. I suppose in a larger city, I would have an even more difficult time with that. And I have a hard time connecting with a lot of current music (national, local, anything … ). Music really has to hit me hard to capture my interest. I’m not one of those casual, “I love any music because it’s music” people. Sometimes I wish I could be one of those people, but I’m just not. And sometimes something won’t hit me for a long, long time. Sometimes it’s immediate. So it wouldn’t really matter where I lived, my anxiety knows no borders.

Is there a sense in the community (or within yourself) of pride at your home city? If not, why?

Pittsburgh has some really amazing Thai food. Yum. That’s something to be proud of for sure.

What’s on tap next for you? Touring?

I’ll be busy on the road this spring playing as part of Tobacco’s touring band. I don’t have any plans for my own tour just yet. Or maybe ever.

What is the status of BMSR right now?

Enjoying a bit of a holiday.

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