Mythology is a progressive rock band, based out of New Jersey, that seeks to combine jazz, classic prog, and a variety of other influences to create music that is clever without being pretentious and technical without being overwhelming. They recently released an album, All The Planets Have Aligned, which features 6 adventurous tracks that run the musical gamut. Brynen Sosa, the chief songwriter/vocalist/guitarist/obscene noisemaker joined us on Proglodytes to talk about what they’re up to.
Tell me about how you got started playing music.
I was attracted to music at a very early age. Christmas 1990 I was bestowed *both* an NES and Gameboy by my parents. And as a child in the early 90’s, that was like hitting the jackpot! I remember really emotionally moved by the music contained in those games (Super Mario Bros, Metroid,) as it was really melodic, and in some cases, superbly strange. By the time I was 6 years old, my grandfather was kind enough to get me an acoustic guitar, since he played a little. Now of course this acoustic was absolutely nothing to write home about. Most likely procured in the Bergenline Avenue section of Union City, NJ. So that was my first musical instrument. I remember learning a lot of the mechanics of guitar playing that thing.
This was also around the time that MTV was ubiquitous in the social and guitar-based rock music was the music of the day. Around this time, Spring 1994, the big news of that time was the untimely death of Kurt Cobain. I remember being confused with that kind of news at 7, as one would expect. And as a sort of homage, MTV would play Nirvana videos and interviews a lot, which is where I first saw the video for “Heart Shaped Box”. Upon seeing that video, I thought it was the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen up until that point. I decided then that I needed to get an electric guitar as soon as possible!
Your music seems to have a range of influences. Tell me about some of your favorite artists or bands growing up.
I grew up listening to so much great stuff. My parents loved music, but didn’t really play anything. They liked stuff like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Santana, Phil Collins, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby/Stills/Nash, James Brown. They also enjoyed Classical music. I remember they had some sort of cassette collection of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and Tchaikovsky. I was a strange kid… I would demand they play Beethoven on car rides, no joke! I remember my mother had a taste for country music and soft rock, so from there I got things like Ronnie Milsap and Seals & Croft in my radar. My father was into classic rock mostly, but had a penchant for Motown records, and also Disco. So there you have The Stylistics, The Chi-Lites, The Temptations, but also Donna Summer whose records are fabulous productions. “Heaven Knows” is a perfect track. Like, I wouldn’t change one tiny little sound on there!
Then my stepfather enjoyed Doo-Wop from the 50’s and early 60’s. That was his music growing up. From him I learned about songs like “Earth Angel”, “In The Still Of The Night”, “So In Love”. You want a crash course in vocal harmony? Start there. He also enjoyed Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, which also blew my mind as a kid. So I had all this great music at my disposal growing up. But it wasn’t until that Nirvana mentioned earlier that things really started cooking. I loved the Alternative Rock from the 90’s as a kid. Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Primus, Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction were amongst my favorites. Then, it’s worth mentioning, that Freshman year of high school was when I discovered the music of YES, which my parents had not me. I can safely say that was the pivotal moment in my life. Their music made me realize that music didn’t just have to be cool sounds, and that it could be fine art. Of course, that started me down the rabbit hole of progressive rock.
How did Mythology form? Where did the name come from?
Mythology started in March of 2007. I was 20 years old. I was looking for a new band since my previous one B-Bop & Rocksteady had disbanded (We would eventually continue to make music despite living 1100+ miles apart). I lived in the same town as Dane and Jason (Turner, original Mythology drummer), and knew them through my friend Brian (of B-Bop & Rocksteady), as they all grew up in the same neighborhood. I approached them both, separately, asking if they’d be interested in forming a band, and that I had some pretty outlandish ideas in mind. They were intrigued, so we all got together for a rehearsal. Once I showed them a couple songs (One was very light in scope, one was very grand), we decided that there was a lot there to be explored. So what do we call ourselves? We had some terrible names at first. I think our first show we did under the moniker “The Sticky Bandits” a la Home Alone 2.
There a few other embarrassing band names that I can’t quite remember at the moment. For a moment there, we were “Forever Endeavor” which eventually became the title of our 2nd album. Then I suggested the name (don’t laugh, it’s true) “Pandemic”, but Dane suggested “Mythology”. I enjoyed that since it had a mystique to it, which prog rock requires. And lent itself to story telling through songs. Another idea I was interested in exploring. Jason would eventually move on from the band amicably after many shows and 2 studio albums, which paved the way for Jordan to join on drums.
Tell us about your bandmates!
I like to think of both my as brothers. We talk, act, argue, disagree, and occasionally bicker like brothers do. But most of the time, we “play nice”. Dane Carmichael is my bassist. I like to think of Dane as the “secret weapon”. Most bassists are, frankly, quite unadventurous. But he has the chops, and also the creativity to not only improvise melodic and fast solos, but also provide which all bassists should do. He’s got both sides of it: comping and taking at times. I know if I provide a lead sheet or a chord chart him, he will fashion a witty that, as a guitarist, I wouldn’t necessarily think of. That is indispensable, if you ask me. Very rarely do get a bass player who can actually play both sides.
Jordan Morrissey is my drummer. Jordan provides a great dynamic to the band, in that he is not only competent in providing rhythmic anchoring, but also can humor my odd ideas and go to the far corners of the galaxy if need be. There’s seldom been a moment where he looked at me sideways for a song or an idea or concept. He’s there for the ride. That’s nice to have someone who believes in your madness. He comes from a similar eclectic musical background like I do, so he’s been exposed to some bizarre things. He also has that capacity, like Dane, well, but also add a flash and flair that exclusive to him. He has a strong punk rock flavor, which I love, but it’s set to prog.
Tell us about your latest studio album, All The Planets Have Aligned.
All The Planets Have Aligned is a wonderful showcase for the band. I think it takes every facet of what Mythology does, and hones it to the point of effortless finesse. Almost like we don’t have to think about it anymore. We have always been very comfortable in ourselves and what we do, but that record comes from a place of confidence. Self affirmation, even. It’s worth mentioning that we don’t consider ourselves “virtuosos”. We prefer to sound like human beings playing instruments, rather than machines being programmed. Some of the virtuoso music I’ve heard is so perfect, it’s almost sickening to me, Mythology has always sounded like humans, flaws and all. But trust me, we can each play, and rather well. Most of my favorite records have noticeable mistakes on them. I like that a lot. It reminds you that your musical icons are people too.
My initial goal was to have a record that sounds like it could’ve been released in 1974, but with some of the modern amenities that only digital audio could provide. We recorded the whole thing in 5 days, which was brutally exhausting. But I think the end result was an album that is confident, spontaneous, and charming, with plenty of staying power. You got the progressive cerebral nature of “Thilafushi”and “Hoodeehoo”. The acoustic tenderness of “Raindrops”, which spills over into “Doppelgänger Rag”, which then goes into RAWK territory. Those are both deeply personal ones of mine. Then of course, there’s the obvious 70’s jazz fusion homage “One For The Gipper”, a really fun one to play live. It culminates with “Lunar Lupines”, a bombastic tale of space wolves who reside the moon and fight evil felines who invade Earth. ya know, normal stuff… It’s a really great snapshot of the band, and I’m very proud of what we accomplished with it.
You’ve mentioned that humorists and satirists play a part in your music. Tell us about some of your favorites, and how they’ve influenced your songwriting.
Humor is an important part of my life, which then spilled over into the music that I write. I like to tell jokes, and say funny things. So why not write music that is also funny? I think that’s one area in which progressive rock needs to lighten up a bit. A lot of prog bands take themselves a bit too seriously, and it shows. We come from another angle: play your instruments so well that people sigh heavily whilst watching you, but also give them “easter eggs”. If you’re paying close enough attention, our lyrics are rather oddball and goofy. I’ve always enjoyed satirists like Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Tom Lehrer, Weird Al, and of course, Frank Zappa. Every artist I just mentioned could make you spit out your coffee with their funny work, but they also were supremely talented musically. Sometimes, you see humor used a mask for of musical talent, but certainly not here.
A lot of people like to rag on him, but go see Weird Al It will knock your damn socks off! His band is unbelievable. And of course, anyone that’s spoken to me for more than 15 minutes, knows that Zappa is a humongous influence on my music. He was crucial in my musical upbringing. The guy could compose post modernist classical pieces, jazz fusion tunes, rock songs, and leave enough space for the topical satire of the time. I really like his concrete stuff which he did a lot in the early days. As someone born in 1986, I find the concept of tape manipulation fascinating. And even more so in the digital currently live in. What a painstaking process that must’ve been!
What is on the horizon for Mythology?
Before this pandemic hit, we had a recorded an entire album in December of jazz tunes that I had written (all but one) over 10 years ago. All stuff akin to The Great American Songbook (Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodger & We had completed the mixing process, and were ready to master the audio, but got halted by all this hullabaloo. So that was supposed to be a Spring 2020 release, but who knows when that will happen at this point. In the meantime, I’d like to open the vault and give a proper release to some of the live recordings I’ve accrued over the last 13 years with this band. If you’ve ever listened to the King Crimson for “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”, “Starless And Bible Black”, and “Red”, they have so many live recordings from that era, which is my personal favorite period of Crimson. So deliciously adventurous and fearless. The live recordings are not fantastic sounding or “hi-fi”, but they provide a great amount of enjoyment for the diehard fans.
Those gave me a bit of inspiration to “open the vaults” so to speak. Whereas, a few years ago, I would’ve been embarrassed to release some of the live recordings I have. I think it’s high time for a proper release! And of course, once everything subsides, we want to play live once again! This time away from social gatherings, made me realize how much I love playing music live. Of is an upside, and I’ve been writing some fantastic songs, riffs, and melodies in the downtime, so something is certainly brewing there, I can feel it. Hopefully it coalesces into something beautiful, since the world needs beauty right now.
Check out Mythology’s latest album, All The Planets Have Aligned, here.
There are a lot of missing words and other typos in Brynen’s answers there. It makes for difficult reading. 😦
And, there are multiple bands/artists called Mythology. Spotify gets them horribly mixed up. :-<