Sorry About the Garden’s Dynamic Command

June 14, 2014 |
Sorry About the Garden performs at Flycatcher on Saturday, June 21. photo: Jimi Giannatti

Sorry About the Garden performs at Flycatcher on Saturday, June 21.
photo: Jimi Giannatti

For the members of Sorry About the Garden, songwriting isn’t a quiet pursuit, but one they approach with the edgy excitability of adrenaline junkies. Creating and playing music fulfills an essential need, says Sara Louise Mohr, the band’s vocalist and piano/keyboard player.

Formed last fall, the group combines a wide range of experience and styles. Mohr is a classically trained pianist, drummer Kevin William Lee’s band history is heavy on garage and punk bands, and bassist Ian Williams has played in projects across the musical spectrum.

“We’re three musicians who very much lean on each other when we write music and when we perform. We don’t overthink things and that works really well for us,” Mohr explains. “We just groove and let things occur and a new animal emerges every time.”

The band started after Mohr had been playing solo for a while and wanted to start a new project. Her last rock band was Strata Divide, while Lee (also a stand-up comic) previously played with Four Five Six, The Swim and Birds of India, and Williams was in The Runaway Five and Ex-cowboy.

“We play what we know, but nothing’s simple. We’re serious and individually we’re all hard-working musicians, and that works great together,” Mohr says.

Mohr’s biggest influence “rock star wise” is Tori Amos, but the trio’s overall sound leans toward piano-driven 1970s psych-rock. “A lot of people, before they hear us, assume that it’s going to be cute girlie music. It’s not like that at all,” she says. “It’s pretty heavy, commanding stuff.”

The band tends to long songs—often five to six minutes in length—that avoid the common verse-chorus-verse structure, built to take listeners on a journey, with a variety of bridges, different parts and fills, with quick turns and shifts in tempo, tone, volume and intensity.

“There are a lot of dynamics in our music. It pulls you in, it sends you out. We’re human, we’re emotional beings, and instead of getting stuck in a riff, our music swells and recedes,” Mohr says.

Lee says he’s challenged to open different doors in his playing with Sorry About the Garden, avoiding simple 4/4 rock structure.

“We work with mood and melody, writing based on how we feel. We start with simple riffs and hone in,” he explains. “We’re different than anything else that’s going on.”

Williams, who joined the band after one day just happening to ask Mohr and Lee if they were looking for a bass player, says their goal in writing is to let the songs take their own directions.

“We don’t have an idea about a song before we start. And then as we write, we’ll frequently bring several different sketches together to finish a song,” he conveys. “We’re doing such weird stuff that not everyone will love it, and that’s OK. The bottom line is we really enjoy the stuff we’re making and we love playing it live.”

The music happens before the lyrics and sometimes they stay as instrumentals. When Mohr writes lyrics, she finds herself dealing with big topics and recurring themes, like struggling with personal beliefs.

This summer, the band is recording a three-song demo and filming a video for “Blur in My Eyes,” with plans to offer the music freely online. They’re working toward a full-length album by the end of the year.

Since playing their first show in December, Sorry About the Garden has been evolving as Mohr, Lee and Williams gain more experience playing together.

“In a lot of ways, we’re still defining what we sound like, but the stuff we’re writing now has this cohesiveness to it. We’re getting a little darker and a little weirder,” Williams says.

Sorry About the Garden performs Saturday, June 21 at Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St., with Banana Gun and Joe Peña. Find out more, and follow the band, at