Interview: Move Orchestra talks ‘EP1,’ songwriting techniques, brother chemistry & more

Brogan brothers: Cuinn, Ryan, Connor

Brogan brothers: Cuinn, Ryan, Connor

Once upon a time, my playlists consisted of 95% rock from progressive metal to hardcore, screamo-type music. I never really knew what genre to place most of the music in, but that didn’t matter. Avenged Sevenfold, The Fall of Troy, Dance Gavin Dance, Protest The Hero; that type of stuff. My favorite band during that time though would have to go to pmtoday. Three brothers and a close friend as the bassist made the most technically interesting music (as a guitarist, their talent was something to envy) with vocal melodies and guitar riffs that burned my ears — in a good way.

Fast forward a few years after they dissolved out for a bit, and here they are as Move Orchestra. A whole different face to the brothers not to be associated with their past.Their familiar chemistry is back at works making music that’s a blend of indie rock, trip-hop and electronic. EP1 could be a movie score as each song is its own ballad to a beautiful visual.

I got a chance to invite the Brogan brothers to a Google Drive to exchange words on EP1, their songwriting techniques and more. Enjoy the read and check out EP1 if you haven’t yet.

You just released EP1, which is your first completed body of work as Move Orchestra. How does it feel?

EP1 is a stepping stone to a larger idea. If anything it was relieving to release some music that wasn’t a demo. It felt like the beginning.

How did you guys get into music and playing instruments?

Our dad forced guitar lessons on us when were 12 or 13. It took us a bit to actually gain interests in our instruments and music in general, but naturally it came. We started listening to a lot of rock bands then decided we wanted to play in one. Then we gave up our instruments and started learning the computer. We still play, but a lot of our interests are focused on composing.

What program(s) and equipment do you guys use to make your music?

We use Logic and Ableton to record everything, but eventually the tracks are mixed and rendered through Ableton only. We try to balance the use of hardware and software instruments so everything doesn’t come out sounding lifeless.

One of my favorite parts of your music is the drums. They’re bubbly, while being rapid inside of ambient, soft soundscapes and it’s oddly complementing. What do you use and how do you tackle the percussion?

Thanks man. Most of the drums on this EP are found sounds we recorded in our apartment. Some are glitches made from electronics. Some are just samples I found in Ableton that I then processed.

Percussion is getting more difficult per new song. Very often I don’t hear any sort of drum at all these days. It was a lot easier to write on a drum kit back in the day because all I would focus on was trying to play a really cool beat. Now I’m focusing on what fits the atmosphere of the music the most.

Do you feel like you’ve always had some advantageous chemistry being brothers?

I feel like there may be a slight advantage to being brothers. The main one being that we all live in the same place. Also we have similar tastes in music, movies and food. I think that’s good.

What would be the ideal concert, movie and restaurant for the Brogan brothers?

Well a few weeks ago, we all went to see a Beethoven concert. I believe the last movie we all watched together was Interstellar in 2014 and just yesterday we were discussing how we wanted a restaurant to open here that only specializes in vegan pizza. So maybe something around that for now.

How did Move Orchestra form and what influenced the change of sound from pmtoday to Move Orchestra?

We formed Move Orchestra because we wanted to do other things with music. The sound is different because we just naturally evolved as writers. Everyone’s music should be evolving.

Do you believe it evolved based on new music you discovered or began to appreciate or because of life experience? Or both? What are your current favorite bands and artists that you are currently drawing influence from?

Both. It’s something natural that happens in life unless you’re just sitting in a room all day doing nothing. It’s inevitable. We’re always listening to different stuff. Right now, I’m listening to Gyorgy Ligeti. I think Cuinn is really into John Luther Adams right now and Ryan was listening to the Interstellar soundtrack yesterday.

You guys released your last album as pmtoday (In Medias Res) in April 2010 and didn’t release a song as Move Orchestra until September 2013 (to my knowledge). Was this a break from music or a long transition? What was the difference in scenes from being signed under Rise Records to where you are now?

We try to avoid creating any sort of relation between “move” and “pmtoday” because it tends to draw expectations from people. You could say it was break and a transition. We never stopped playing music during our absence from the public, but it was emotionally relieving to be away from that narrow point of view. We spent a lot of time learning different ways to approach music and composition so that was nice. The only real connection between the two groups is that we are physically the same people. Mentally, we are nowhere close to that time in our lives.

I’m not sure how to compare scenes because I don’t really understand what scene we’re in now. People dress differently? Haha, I don’t know. I didn’t understand the scene then either.

The structure of the tracks on EP1 is unique. The four tracks often feel like ballads or scores for movies. Can you describe what inspired this and the songwriting process behind it?

Each track was written alongside a visual, so that’s probably why. For us we found that it helped in creating the arch of the piece. Also it helps point out faults or anything that could disrupt the flow of the music.

When you say visual are you talking movies, pictures or does this vary per track?

It’s usually referring to a video of some sort. Lots of movies. Some youtube clips of dances or ballets. Each track on the EP was written alongside a different ‘moving’ visual. Still pictures have often inspired us to write a piece of music that conveys a similar emotion. We’ve never actually written a piece of music to a specific photograph though.

Does the visual come first or does one of you bring a melody or a base for the song first?

That varies. More often it’s the music that comes first, but there are some pieces that the visual initiated. Apex is one example. It was a completely different piece of work until we had to score this wedding video. We used the original chord progression but slowed the changes down and simplified the melody line using a single piano because of the dynamic with the visual. In the end it created a much better version.

How does creating music based off a wedding video tie into the “Apex” visuals with the ocean shot — which is also the project cover? Will there be other videos for the other tracks?

Well the visuals for Apex have nothing to do with the wedding video. I was just saying that scoring a wedding video forced us to write differently.

The project’s cover actually came first, and was an idea Cuinn had. The idea was to transform something we thought of as ugly or unappealing and make it appear… not that way. For the video, we wanted to show slow change. There’s something really interesting to me about watching an event gradually unfold at a very slow pace.

We are hoping to get something together for ‘Rupture’ but nothing concrete yet.

What’s next for you guys?

Right now we are finishing up some promotional things for EP1 and beginning the writing process for our first LP. We are hoping to document the process somehow.

I see that EP1 is now for sale physically and comes with Polaroid shots. Are these short glimpses of documenting the process?

You could say that. We thought about doing something similar with the recording and writing of this next material, but we don’t want to do the same thing over and over. We talked about doing live updates on our website every week. Not sure how that will go.

Any final comments?

Just want to thank the people who actually care about what we’re doing with music. It’s cool to know that we’re not alone in this project.

Grab a physical copy of EP1 today.

Twitter @moveorchestra.