Common Molly

Common Molly

October 2023: Common Molly

We are proud to present the first edition of "The Gold" with our first signee to the label, Common Molly.

Left to right: Oliver, Tommy, Fish, Carter, Brock, Kacy, Spike

Spotify Podcast Link

Fall Tour of 2023

Album Review: Common Molly – Explosive and Groovy Skater Punk by Hunter VanKlompenberg:

Common Molly's explosive debut, self-titled album is a genuine skater punk gem. From the blistering kickoff to the diverse and emotional finale, this album showcases the band's strong groovability and infectious energy. Lead singer, Fish’s vocals are strong and memorable; plus they cut through all the noise in a rather male-dominated genre. Having met at a skatepark, the members' shared passion for skateboarding seeps into their music, evident in their pedalboards built on skate decks. The energy kicks off right from the get-go and stays strong through the front half of the album with some of their strongest and most memorable songs in this section, such as “Green Eyes”, “Water Gun” and “Funky Mother”. Further along, the hard-hitter, “Punk Song (Strong Word)” adds anthemic thrill to the middle of the album. Yet the most diverse songs are saved for last, ending the album on a soft and emotional note with “Izzy’s Song” and “Missed Calls”. From buzz cuts on stage (stay tuned for the QnA for more on that) to each electrifying guitar riff, Common Molly pours everything into their music, and their dedication shines on this record.

The album opens with a bang on "Green Eyes," wasting no time in delivering a high-energy punch. The tight lead lines and groovy bass create a solid foundation, while poppy power chords in the chorus add catchiness. Extended instrumental sections and guitar solos (largely a relic of the past) play an integral part in Common Molly’s live show. Their charisma can be visibly seen in the bonds between the musicians on stage, and it’s felt in their recordings equally well.

A seamless blend from one song into the next is a mixing trick that never gets old. It’s a sign of a polished album, helps you feel like you’re in the studio with the band, and it’s exactly what you get going into track two, “Just the Same”. The spacey arpeggio and syncopated chord chugging create a captivating intro. After the first verse, they go into an abbreviated chorus, with what I find to be perhaps their most memorable lyrics. Having seen them live numerous times, the line “You’re a captive audience, let me show you the music that I like,” comes through powerfully and feels like a premonition. As they’ve grown in popularity as a band— up to selling out their album release show—the lyric has become more and more of a reality. While the chorus has a easy to catch on to, repeated melody, the lyrics never quite repeat the same way. The punky stream-of-consciousness feel of the song keeps it fresh and engaging. The title track line comes in partway through the song “I want to feel nothing, or to feel it all just the same!”

"Water Gun" takes a downtempo turn, offering a darker ambient vibe. The syncopated interplay between bass and guitar stands out, particularly impressive considering it’s some band members' first-time experience in a band. The tempo picks up during the chorus, adding energy to the song. This song navigates darker themes with surprisingly light-hearted imagery of discovering to your surprise you’re holding a squirt gun.

Recording a song that doesn’t adhere to a steady, conformed metronome with a consistent tempo can be a risky move. It makes the mixing process more finicky plus it’s harder to overdub recorded parts and have them line up perfectly. Furthermore, you run the risk of having a complete mess if you can’t play in time together. However, when a band can pull it off and stay in sync with eachother as the tempo ebbs and flows naturally, it creates a beautiful, refreshing song that really feels like it can breathe. You can never be sure exactly what techniques are used behind the scenes in recording, but as the choruses hit, the band glides up in tempo, not quite to double time, but to a bpm that really works for the section. The repeating chanted lyric: “Hang on to the music, hang on to myself, hang on to you, hang on to my mental health” matches the energy of the section very well.

"Funky Mother" lives up to its title, delivering a danceable and appropriately funky chorus that feels right, even if its meaning is not immediately apparent. It's a high-energy track that keeps the album's momentum going.

"In Good Time" catches your attention with an opening that faintly resembles the "Tainted Love" synth line. The bridge instrumental slows down to a cool groove with a loose ska/reggae pulse. Track Six, “Snake Bite” drips in guitar and bass modulation effects, a staple sound of the guitar tone for the album overall.

"Punk Song (Strong Word)" is a standout track that is likely to ignite a mosh pit. The lyrics transition from angsty and carefree to a heavier, Rage-Against-The-Machine-style rap/chant, injecting sincerity and anger. The raw vocals, coupled with a tasty tape saturation sound and screaming feedback ring, make for a rowdy and powerful song.

"Rat Girl" continues the album's energetic flow with fun bass runs and what might be the album's strongest guitar solo.

The first time I ever noticed panning in mixing was listening to Keane’s Hopes and Fears album as a kid. Noticing those little details got me so excited and made me feel like I was in on a secret with the audio engineer; like I had found an easter egg they’d left behind. You’ll have to listen to Common Molly’s Track Nine, “Strawberries” with headphones to catch it, but the stereo pan of the drone-y opening guitar line pulls your head left and right as it shifts phase and swims around your ears. These things are easy to overdo in mixing and can get distracting when done poorly, but it fits well here with the general swirly modulated guitar tone present all over the album. The guitar solo with huge bends and quick tapping brings this song to a satisfying close.

Track ten, "Search & Destroy" has a hint of gritty Southern Rock n’ Roll folded into its skater punk style--although maybe that’s just lead singer Fish’s drawl as she calls the listener “Honey” coming through. As far as song title’s go, I think this one ties for best title with “Funky Mother”.

The album takes a departure from the punk mold on tracks 11 and 12, "Izzy's Song" and "Missed Calls," delivering softer sounds and touching lyrics. "Izzy's Song" features a glittery acoustic guitar sound and a wind/keys instrument, creating a beautiful emotional break. "Missed Calls" brings all the 90’s and 00’s nostalgia of layered voicemails and ringtones placed over a dreamy soundscape of soft guitar and icy keys. Careful not to get caught in your feels too much as each band member takes turns professing their love for you- although maybe it’s a brotherly love? TBD, but it’s a touching and memorable bonus track to close out the album.

"Common Molly" is an explosive album, packing a punch that exceeds expectations for a band in its early stages. It successfully captures the raw energy of their live performances, showcasing a polished sound that allows every intricate detail to shine, while retaining that gritty garage vibe that keeps punk music genuine. Personally, I can't wait to experience their next electrifying live show and witness the exciting directions they explore. In conversation, one of the band members mentioned Skate 2 as their go-to skateboarding video game. While I’m partial to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 myself, it’s obvious that this album easily belongs on the playlist of either game. 


The Making of Common Molly the album by Ryne Clarke:

It was a cold, snowy day in December of 2022. After a few cancellations/reschedules, I had finally got the band Common Molly to cut a demo in my studio “Upstairs, Man.” I had shared a bill with them twice before and thought they had a badass rock and roll sound. What drew me to them was their dedication to the rock sound while leaning into the punk edge. I knew they had two singles out, but they played over ten original compositions at all their shows. I was an instant fan and had to get them over to the studio somehow. All I expected was a demo session on that day in December, but it blossomed into something else entirely.

In mid December we tracked the song “Snake Bite.” I thought it was a catchy and thoughtful rock anthem. I sent them back a mix down of the song and kept communications open with the band. I shared another bill with them on New Year’s Eve at a random dive bar in Grand Rapids. Spirits were high, and we planned to start meeting on the weekends starting in January to record what would become their debut album. I was stoked to take on such a heady project, to say the least.

One thing I knew for sure was that this was a LIVE band and needed to be captured as such. We isolated the members into their own rooms so the band could live track their songs while still having the option to overdub in post. As I recall, it didn’t take long to get all the drum tracks out of the way. In a matter of two weeks, we had the drums and some usable guitar/bass parts to use as our skeleton for each song.

From there we dove into the overdubs. We tackled the bass first, then the rhythm guitar, and finally the lead guitar. The chemistry of two brothers in any band is undeniable: they tend to feed off each other musically. A fond moment I have from this time was when Tommy (lead guitar) and Brock (bass guitar) both live-tracked together on the band’s cover of Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy,” and nailed take after take until it was perfect. While Carter (drums) was done with his parts first, his work wasn’t over. He helped keep the band relaxed and focused with reassuring comments between takes. This made the whole process go much easier as I felt myself befriending the band more and more. We bonded over cigarettes, cheap beer and the local eatery, “Sneakers.”

After we had established all of the instrumentation, we moved on to Fish’s (guitar, singer) vocal parts. Within the fun, high energy, and occasionally chaotic group that is Common Molly, Fish grounds the whole project with a poignant and unique voice. I was impressed with the ease at which we recorded the vocals for the album. It all happened easily and naturally with only a few takes on each track. After we’d all had a few drinks, the band attempted gang vocals on a couple of songs, though “Snake Bite” was the only instance where they made it to the record.

One struggle with the album was recording “Izzy’s Song”. The song was previously written and arranged with their old drummer, and the band wanted to restructure it a bit to set it apart from the single they already had out. We spent three different sessions on this song until finally the idea came to just do it acoustically. This ended up being a great decision. The song was stylistically an outlier and needed to be showcased in a softer light. I was honored to play one of the guitars and add some accordion to the tune.

Another idea that had been pawed around throughout our weekends together was a bass riff that Brock had. We kept trying different takes on it until we found one we liked. We dubbed in guitar, keys, a three part harmony by Fish, and nature sounds. We sat with the track for a while to see how we felt about the direction the take took. They wanted it to be an outro track with some sort of theme. I suggested a missed call voicemail. We ran with the idea of having each member record their voicemail privately on their phones. I spliced them together and got the track “Missed Calls,” which closes the album. It was a last minute idea we threw together in an afternoon, but I think we were all happy with the outcome.

Now that we had finished recording all the music, it was time to mix. I was honored that the band chose me to mix the album with them. It was March now, and we had come a long way in just four months. We started meeting on the weekends in March, and Carter loaned me his Yamaha studio monitors to mix on. In my opinion, the beauty of this record is the true-to-life capture of the band’s sound. We did some very light EQ, compression, and more minor effects to each track, but mostly kept it faithful to the band’s live sound. It was raw, but tight. By the end of the month, we had a fully realized album. They took the album to their friend Koty to master, and history was captured in the cold months of winter in Lowell, MI. I’d like to think that the band grew in our time together. They really do love each other like a family.

Flash forward to May of 2023: the band played their album release show to a sold out crowd. Their fan base was as strong and as rowdy as ever. The band closed out a chapter of local rock and roll history: the songs will live on outside of the band, and stay in the hearts of all who adore them. I know they will stay in mine.

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