Mass Gothic is an acclaimed New York-based synth based project comprised of married duo Noel Heroux and Jessica Zambri, and the over course of their 18 year relationship, the’ve managed to dip in and out of each other’s creative spaces, advising on their respective projects and supporting one another; but throughout that bulk of their relationship, they never completely committed themselves to collaborating together on an entire album, sharing equal load — that is until, the project’s recently sophomore album, I’ve Tortured You Long Enough, a tongue-in-cheek title based around the fact it took way too long for the duo to finally collaborate together.
Interestingly, Heroux started Mass Gothic back in 2016 as a solo project, after the breakup of his previous band Hooray for Earth. Reportedly plagued by his own insecurities and anxieties, Heroux wasn’t yet ready to deal with putting his trust and confidence into a shared, collaborate project — and perhaps most importantly, he wasn’t ready to do so with someone so close and so fundamental to his life. But before work began on the second Mass Gothic album, the phrase “I’ve Tortured You Long Enough” had reverberated through his head and quickly became both a mantra and a premonition. “It just popped into my head,” Heroux explains in press notes. “You can say it to a loved one or to a friend. Or You could wish someone say it to you. It covers so many basses but it’s taken on extra meaning in the past couple of years, while everybody is at each other’s throats; frustrated and confused all the time.” At the time, Heroux was in need of forcing himself out of his comfort zone and letting go of his prior, deep-seated stubbornness — and by the fall of 2016, circumstances forced him to face his biggest fears head on. “We rented a small tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. We put ourselves away and worked on music all day, wondering what it would feel and sound like,” Jessica Zambri recalls in press notes.
The first song they wrote together was an early iteration of “Keep On Dying.” Zambri had the melody and lyrics while Heroux had arranged the chords. From there, things snowballed and while the writing began in New York, early last year the duo threw caution to wind, got rid of their Brooklyn apartment, purged most of their belongings and relocated to Los Angeles to write and record their album. They then bought a car, drove to L.A. where they lived out of duffle bag with co-producer Josh Ascalon, and they spent the bulk of their time writing. “The entire record from start to finish was done without having our own place to live,” Heroux recalls. Maybe we wouldn’t have been able to do it if we were anchored at home. We were forced into it. Jess was trying to open me up and if we could have just sat on a couch and thrown on the TV it probably wouldn’t have worked.”
Working as a duo helped to evolved the project’s sound, with the duo’s sophomore album being a more intentional meeting of the minds, centered round a complete openness to work together without rules or conditions — although last spring, when they initially thought they had finished the album, Heroux and Zambri separately realized that the material had way more potential; in fact, while they were preparing to go on tour with Zambri’s sister Cristi Jo and her boyfriend Jospeh Stickney when Heroux woke up one morning, turned to his spouse and said “Oh God, we have to fucking re-record the whole album.” The duo quietly agreed that it was required and during the final ten days, they made sure that the material was perfect but felt alive. Reportedly, the album’s material basks in and celebrates the acceptance of co-dependence and independence simultaneously — and while being autobiographical (it’s rooted around the relationship of its creators), it’s not so autobiographical and a conversation between its creators but while not being alienating to the listener.
I’ve Tortured You Long Enough’s latest single”Keep On Dying,” is a hook driven song that features brief blasts of horn, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping beats and Zambri’s ethereal vocals — and while sonically the song brings to mind Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks, it possesses a swooning Romanticism that’s tethered to the real world; vulnerable but with the recognition that love, like all things doesn’t make much sense and can be simultaneously easy and difficult yet so necessary in an increasingly stark, cynical world.
Co-directed by the band and Nira Burnstein, the recently released video is an look of the band while on tour, goofing off, practicing — and with a profound, behind the scenes intimacy of a touring band.