Last year, I wrote about the acclaimed New York-based synth-based band Mass Gothic, and as you may recall the act, which is comprised of married duo Noel Heroux and Jessica Zambri can trace the project’s origins to the duo managing to dip in and out of their various creative projects throughout the course of their 18 year relationship, advising and supporting one another; but oddly, throughout the bulk of their relationship they never completely committed themselves to collaborating together on an entire album, sharing creative load.
Heroux stared 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, collaborative project. And perhaps most important, he didn’t feel that he was ready to do so with someone as close and fundamental to his life, like his wife. But before he began work on the sophomore Mass Gothic, the phrase “I’ve Tortured You Long Enough” reverberated through his head and quickly became a mantra and a premonition of his collaboration with his wife. And in many ways, that mantra became the title of the band’s sophomore album, a tongue-in-check reference to the fact that it took so long for the duo to work together. “It just popped into my head,” Heroux explained 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.”
As the story goes, as Heroux was about to work on the band’s sophomore album, he felt that he needed to force himself out of his comfort zone — and his deep-seated stubbornness. By the fall of 2016, circumstances found him facing 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 recalled 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, in early 2017, 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 the 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 said in press notes. “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 with the project’s sound evolving with the album’s material being an international meeting of the minds, centered around their openness to work together without rules or conditions — although oddly enough during the spring of 2017, Heroux and Zambri separately came to the conclusion that the material they wrote had way more potential. As the story goes, while they were preparing to tour with Zambri’s sister Cristi Jo and her boyfriend Joseph Stickney, Heroux woke up one morning, turned to his spouse and said “Oh God, we have to fucking re-record the whole album!” Heroux and Zambri agreed that re-recording was required and during the final ten days of recording, they made sure that the material was perfect while being as alive as possible.
Thematically, the album’s material basks in and celebrates the acceptance of co-dependence and independence simultaneously — and while being rooted within the relationship of its creators, the material isn’t so autobiographical that it’s off-putting and alienating in its intimacy; in fact, the material was intentionally written to be a conversation between its creators about something deeply universal. Now, as you may recall, the swooning Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks-like “Keep On Dying” managed to be both vulnerable yet grounded in an earthy realism. I’ve Tortured You Long Enough‘s latest single, the atmospheric and euphoric “How I Love You” is a song is centered around Zambri’s ethereal vocals, gently strummed guitar and shimmering synths — and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to Mazzy Star and others, the song as the act’s Jessica Zambri explains in press notes, “The lights turned on for me. Committing to something can be relieving, even pleasurable. I used to think I had to protect myself from anything that I perceived to get in the way of making music, but all that did was close me off. Whatever is happening I want to enjoy it. I wrote this song as a reminder to live and not be lived.”
Directed by Evan Fellers, the recently released video is centered around strange yet realistic feeling environments that feel digitally constructed — and in some way, captures the unusual terrain of a new, committed relationship. “I wanted to create strange realistic feeling environments that also felt a bit digital. I used a process called photogrammetry to grab a bunch of real-world elements and turned them into 3d models which make up most of everything you see. Anything from small rocks to large sections of woods, trees, moss, and dirt, to Jess and Noel.
“I knew I wanted to take the viewer through these different environments, but I wanted it to be more than just a camera flying around — something simple and purposeful, searching for something. I wanted there to be this feeling of a journey. I also wanted to trace specific paths through the environment I thought were pleasing. Creating a single red orb that illuminated the environment was a nice way to accomplish all of those goals with the story, and control the way in which I revealed each scene at the same time. The red orb also came to represent the voice of the song to me.”