We’re really excited to be teaming up with the Make It Funky SF collective to put on a series of showcases in California highlighting local talent. Launching this Saturday, February 21st at El Rio in San Francisco, the first installment will feature experimental indie band Feed Me Jack and the folky, electronic vibes of Mosaics with support from acoustic soul duo, The Kakaroaches making for an eclectic mix of styles. As part of the series, we’ll be catching up with some of the performers to shed light on up ‘n coming musicians. RSVP at the link below. 

M o s a i c s

The emergence of electronic music has created a fascinating rippling effect across genres as more and more artists find creative ways to combine musicianship with the seemingly limitless capabilities of modern studio technology. San Francisco band, Mosaics, have perhaps one of the most novel fusions we’ve heard yet using unconventional, percussive acoustic guitar to create samples that can be manipulated, arranged and layered with unique vocals into brooding, experimental compositions. Their debut LP, Of Colors, helps establish their forward-thinking sound proving refreshingly original without losing accessibility or catchiness. We had a chance to catch up with Mosaics band members Devon Kelts (guitar, vocals), Tyler Hill (production, keys), Grady Lee (vocals, guitar, bass) and Westin Joy (drum machine, bass) about their collective vision, musical influences and experiences as musicians in SF. Get to know Mosaics below and come out to see them this weekend at our first ever Music Ninja show in the Bay Area!

RSVP: Make It Funky & Music Ninja Present: Feed Me Jack, Mosaics and The Kakaroaches


TMN: Can you tell us a bit about how you all first met?

Devon: Tyler and I went to Loyola Marymount down in Los Angeles to study music and composition. We were best friends from college and decided to move up to San Francisco to try to make it as musicians. We did a couple musical projects that were kind of just our own thing but we didn’t really put out anything. Mosaics was the final iteration of those projects where we felt like we had a sound that was something we could stand behind. We needed a passionate musician and strong vocalist to get our LP Of Colors finished so we brought on Grady. It ended up working out really well and he made some really strong contributions in helping us finish the record. Then we needed someone to help us play live—Wes and I were already friends and he was pretty excited about the opportunity so we brought him in. He already has experience with production and has similar musical tastes so it worked out quite nicely.

TMN: Your music falls at this really interesting intersection of folk/acoustic, experimental and electronic. Can you talk a bit about the vision behind Mosaics?

Tyler: I think that the vision essentially started with Devon and I painting sonic landscapes on the computer. We wanted to create a sound that could be considered pop but still is drawing all of this original material in from things we’ve created. When we did our first EP, we had a concept where all the songs heard were coming from the guitar. So, basically we made an album all from samples created from hitting the guitar for drums, creating pads out of the guitar using production techniques and obviously writing melodies with lyrics. Our goal is to make something that is very authentic and artistic, but can still have that pop catchiness and drive.

Devon: We wanted to unite things. Often times really unique ways of playing the acoustic guitar are kept in a purist category. Meaning that they just play the instrument and nothing else. It’s very seldom that you see people with unique approaches to acoustic guitar uniting with the world of electronic production. Our goal was to find a way to unite the two in a tasteful manner and maybe, in that unification, to create something that’s new and novel.

TMN: The two things that stand out the most in listening to Of Colors are the production sampling techniques and unique use of the guitar. What artists have influenced you in those spaces?

Tyler: Production-wise definitely Apparat, Moderat and Four Tet.

Devon: There’s a famous instrumentalist named Kaki King who’s a really cool percussive guitarist. Also, artists like Michael Hedges, Andy McKee where they treat the guitar as an instrument that’s also a drum and use a lot of sophisticated technical playing applied to a really different approach to the guitar. In terms of songwriting, Radiohead, Yeasayer and David Bowie are all big influences.

Grady: Bowie was huge vocally for me, personally. He’s such a chameleon. I think on the record we were trying to do a little bit of that where there was a focus for this record but there are a couple songs that are a little bit further out there.

TMN: Yeah, I can definitely see that. The track “Constant” felt a lot different from the other songs on the album, especially vocally. What’s your recording process like?

Devon: Some times it starts with Tyler having an idea for a progression. Then we may transfer that to the guitar and try to find elements that will work with that. Other times, there’ll be an acoustic guitar sketch as a basis that’ll get completely transformed into something synthetic. With “Constant” for example it started with that particular arpeggiated guitar lick and we thought that was cool. That song went through so many iterations—it was actually the first that we started but last that we finished.

TMN: The songwriting in your music has a unique emotional charge. What drives that feel in the lyrics?

Devon: it’s definitely something we all collaborate on and add to. In general, the songs, emotionally speaking, are meant to convey our experiences of trying to be an artist in San Francisco, isolation and living in an urban environment. I wouldn’t say all the motifs are really positive. it’s not like an album you turn on on a sunny day at Dolores Park by any means but is something that’s more contemplative and introspective. I think with Grady and Wes we want to move it into more of a positive direction and see what can develop with that but at least at this particular juncture with that record those were the particular things that the emotional charge revolved around.

TMN: So, a lot of the album was really driven by your challenges and obstacles as musicians here in SF?

Tyler: Yeah. Devon and I sat down before we started the album and talked about things that we wanted to come through the whole project. A lot of it had to do with just our experiences trying to be musicians in SF where lots of people are making lots of money and not really having too much of a struggle. Whereas we’re out here working a job and then trying to do the whole music thing on the side and it’s something that you have to work hard at but it brings you reward. I think the lyrics, to some extent, revolve around that.

TMN: Since we’ve got the show coming up, what’s your live set up like? And what can people expect from that?

Tyler: Essentially we have two computers going that Wes and I are on. On my end, the computer’s connected to an M-Audio keyboard with synth patches loaded in there. For the most part, I’m playing more synth melodies and pads.

Westin: I mainly focus on triggering more of the percussion noises and back up synthesizer. We’re trying to implement more of a real bass, not just keyboard because it’s challenging when you work with samples to make it feel more live and have more of that human feel. That’s something we’ve really been transitioning into and working on.

TMN: Who are some contemporary artists you’ve been listening to a lot recently?

Tyler: Geographer is one of my favorites. Vocally, I think they do some really cool stuff, but really everything they do. The first time I saw them was at Outside Lands in 2011 and they blew me away. Twin Shadow is also huge for me—I like their vulnerability and the Cure-esque, 80s revivalist they’re going for. But it’s a little bit darker, too, like The Cure. Life isn’t always pretty and I think a lot of people write these pop songs that are just always happy. It’s like, “okay, what’re you saying with that?”

Devon: Definitely a big fan of The War On Drugs and Future Islands. Both of their albums are incredible—I certainly can’t stop listening to either one of them. I feel like those guys are two of the most important bands in indie music right now.

Westin: I’d like to throw a shout out to Sia, I’ve been listening to that a lot.

Grady: TV On The Radio and New Pornographers.

TMN: Anything you have coming up that you want to let people know about?

Devon: Yeah, we’re working pretty hard on the next record right now. We’ll probably be debuting some new songs either at this coming show or at Bottom of the Hill on March 24th.

TMN: What can people expect from your next album?

Grady: More involvement from everyone. Maybe a little happier, less brooding. More electric guitar will be coming on this record. So, I’ll be playing that in tandem with Devon playing acoustic.

Thanks to Mosaics for taking the time to chat with us! Keep up with them on social below.

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