The members of Black Moth Super Rainbow do not want to be rock stars. In fact, they'd prefer no one know who they are.
So they hide their day-to-day personas behind layers of pseudonyms and silhouettes, and recede into darkly cartoonish absurdity: Their latest release, 2007's Dandelion Gum, is a loosely based concept album about witches who make candy in the forest. The backstory is that people stumble upon the witches' hut and are given the mysterious confection being made within. Each track represents the experience of a different woodland wanderer who's tasted the witches' brew.
Tobacco, the band's primary songwriter, producer and vocalist, insists that Dandelion Gum wasn't meant to be a drug record. But it's easy to see how that mistake could be made. It's all heady fuzz and spiraling surrealism, at once terrifying and giddy. It's either a fairy tale with fangs or a nightmare drenched in syrup.
"I want people to see things in a different way," Tobacco says.
Perhaps that's why he has made a habit out of rejecting the usual attempts at labeling his band (psychedelic, pop, electronica). It's not so much that he disagrees with these tags. It's just that he doesn't want to be associated with other musicians or, for good measure, lava lamps (which he describes as "annoying"). Exactly how he does want to be defined is unclear. Tobacco, and Black Moth Super Rainbow as a whole, are vague by design about most things.
The five-piece band is from an unspecified town in the woods of Pennsylvania. Along with Tobacco, there's Power Pill Fist (bass and Atari), Father Hummingbird (rhodes and monosynth), The Seven Fields Of Aphelion (monosynth) and Iffernaut (drums). Yes, that's what they want you to call them.
The band's name was also not supposed to mean anything. Tobacco jammed together four words that had no business being next to each other in an attempt to capture the band without actually nailing anything down.
"These words feel like what the music sounds like," he says.
BMSR was formed in 2002, and has had its current line-up since 2003. Dandelion Gum follows 2003's Falling Through a Field and 2004's Start a People. And, in 2006, BMSR collaborated with Austin, Texas' The Octopus Project for an album called The House of Apples and Eyeballs. Well, because why not?
"I make music because I've been trying to entertain myself for a long time," Tobacco says. "There's a lot of stuff out there that isn't perfect, and I'm trying to make stuff that is perfect to myself."
He goes on to describe how he attempts to do this, creating tracks layer by careful layer, each of which must stand on its own. He explains how difficult this is and how he thinks a lot of bands don't want to go through the hassle. There he hesitates.
"That sounds really fucking arrogant for me to say that," he says, almost apologetically.
Expect nothing at their show at The Black Sheep Friday night. Or expect everything. Just don't expect anything you've seen before. Tobacco is predictably elusive about how a BMSR live set looks at this point; all he'll say for sure is that the focus is squarely on the music.
"I just want people to listen," he says.
Black Moth Super Rainbow with Eyes Caught Fire, The Life There Is and Abracastabya
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Friday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $8; visit ticketweb.com or call 866/468-7621.