The word "Moglebaum" translates to many things. None of which is in English.
Moglebaum is the German word for a generation two Pokemon (aka Sudowoodo) that resembles a tree with green gumballs for leafs. Roughly, it translates as 'trickster' (mogeln) and 'tree' (baum). More importantly, it's what 23-year-old Simon Ebener-Holscher decided to call his five-piece electronic-based band. "In Pokemon, the Moglebaum isn't particularly powerful, but he's tricky and cunning," says Ebener-Holscher from his home in Dusseldorf, Germany. "It's seldom that Moglebaum appears in the game. You only really have one chance to catch it."
This mischievous character is fitting to the sounds that ruminate in Moglebaum. The combination of natural elements, like field samples of rustling grocery bags, with the complexities of technology, create a flattering musical playfulness. Like the Pokemon, Ebener's initial idea for Moglebaum was as a solo tree—a solo project. But as time went on, Moglebaum grew to include a vocalist (Franziska Geiß), a saxophonist (Jonas Geyersberger), an additional producer (Alessandro Fáma), and a violinist (Tonio Geugelin).
Photo by Crazewire.
Geugelin is the latest addition to Moglebaum's musical greenhouse and is responsible for the impassioned violin cries that heave each song in its respective direction. With his classically trained background, Geugelin is perhaps one of the best additions to Moglebaum's mystical fluctuations. "Working with Simon, we immediately had this flow. We could make up a song in one day, not caring if or when we ate something, just producing the song until we were happy with the result," says Tonio. "It's rare you meet a person like that."
Though THUMP was unable grab a one-way to Dusseldorf to chat with Ebner, we settled on a Skype call and—despite the language barrier—discovered what Moglebaum is and what they want to be.
Listen to Moglebaum's new track "Vision" above.
THUMP: Why did you make the decision to grow from a solo project to a full band?
Simon Ebner-Holscher: As the main producer, all the tracks and instruments come together on my computer in my little home studio. I've been producing since I was 15 or 16-years-old and started studying jazz piano later in life. I'm interested in how unique sounds are created, but I'm more a sound designer than a songwriter. So, I had all these friends at university who were studying vocals or classical music and wanted to be included. Moglebaum's soundscape ended up being influenced by both the synergetic instruments we include—saxophone, vocals, violin—and electronic beats.
You tend to use some out of the ordinary field samples in your tracks, why is that?
It's always an interesting aspect to add, I think. I like the combination of natural sounds and noises with these high-definition electronic sounds. We sampled a coffee machine in the track "Ozean" for example. There's something in nearly every track, whether it's just the sound of the environment we're in or some plastic bags.
It will sound weird, but a cactus makes a really unique ticking sound if you use your finger to brush gently against the needles. If you pitch that down or up, it's quite interesting.
With so many musical elements making up Moglebaum, what's the process behind your music's construction?
Everything starts at a jam session. From there, we figure out a tempo or BPM, create some chords and melody. In our case, we produce and compose simultaneously. We're putting an audio clip into Ableton as Tonio plays a violin, either building on that or using it as an effect to play against. We add ideas each time.
[body_image src='//thump-images.vice.com/images/2015/05/20/meet-moglebaum-the-23-year-old-producer-from-germany-whos-not-making-techno-body-image-1432156537.jpg' width='720' height='405'] Photo via The WE Festival.
Being based in Germany, surrounded by a predominantly minimal techno culture, how do you make your beats-based music work?
We know we have to view the international market with our music. In my opinion, there's much more interesting electronic music happening in France, or Great Britain, and maybe in Belgium or the Netherlands. But in Germany, the market for electronic music, in general, is very small. The minimalistic scene in Berlin is awesome, but the beats scene—like what Flume does, being beat oriented but combining styles and genres—it's not that big here. If something gains popularity, it's often because the music is mainly pop-based. It's not very innovative around here.
I think the Canadian market is different, though. Like in Vancouver, I'm really interested in the music scene there.
Prior to your debut EP Ozean, you focused mainly on remixes. As a group of five or more, how do you decide on what to rework?
Most of the bands I've remixed are friends of mine or live near me in Dusseldorf. We've played concerts with them and they end up asking me to do a remix or vice versa. Some songs are perfect for remixing, but there are others that shouldn't be remixed, too.
Moglebaum's live performances seem to have this theatrical element; using glowsticks as drumsticks and wrapping microphone stands in leaves. What about this visual aspect is important to you?
As a musician, you're able to create a new world. I'm really interested in fantasy worlds, like Pokemon—hence the name Moglebaum. So we want to create an imaginative landscape that people can dream about, something that can't be attained in reality. If you're presenting people with something special, something that goes beyond the music, your music is all the more powerful. We have these LED trees that sit behind us that a friend of mine made and I throw that glowstick in the crowd at the end of the concert, as a tradition. It's important to do both music and visuals.
What else is coming up for Moglebaum?
I think the live presentation is the focus now. We're releasing more tracks in combination with all five musicians now. It seems like we have so many tracks, but fewer tracks with the five musicians we have now, so we're trying to get everyone involved. Hopefully then we'll release a new album or EP and get some more live shows going.