Interview: Mason Brown [Destination Space Station]
I got a chance to chat with Mason Brown, frontman for the St. Louis-based indie rock band—Destination Space Station. Here is the highly stimulating transcript of our conversation. Enjoy.
Jesse: What's up Mason? So, what exactly inspired Destination Space Station?
Mason: I suppose quite a few things, though lyrically we tend to emit back some sort of amalgam between science and politics. Musically, we all have pretty similar tastes and were heavily influenced by bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Boards of Canada, Tycho and many others.
Jesse: Can you elaborate on this lyrical amalgam between science and politics? Where are we headed?
Mason: In the near term, anyone's guess is as good as mine as to where we're headed. I am a bit of an optimist though, so I tend to believe that we'll probably continue to move in a more progressive direction. However, we could obviously just as easily see the growth of massive police states as technology advances, like in our song "The Afternoon"; but hopefully not [laughs]. As far as the distant future, assuming that we don't somehow destroy ourselves or are wiped out by an asteroid or some virus, it seems like most of the patterns and behaviors of humanity will probably stay relatively the same over time. That is, as long as we continue to need to eat, sleep, breathe, feel emotions, feel pain, etc. and not become mostly machine or have some other somewhat depressing form of existence. Our first album (Nomadic) touched on this a bit; it had a narrative arc ending in a possible distant future where the Earth will have to be abandoned before the Sun expands and becomes a Red Giant in 5 billion years or so. The first half of the album's lyrics are mostly written around observing the human condition in various ways like how politicians or any of us can behave when we feel secure as part of a group or belief system, how everyone and everything will eventually be forgotten, war, is religion inherently dangerous, our attempts to make sense of society, are we able to reach outside of what most people perceive as reality and somehow learn from it or are those glimpses actually illusions, and so on. The first seven songs could apply to any time period but starting with "To Ganymede" the period is set as the surface of the Sun has now expanded out past Venus and we've launched countless robots to mine and build gigantic structures capable of housing various forms of life on places like Ganymede, Europa, Io, Callisto, Enceladus and Titan; populating each of them with some of the plant and animal species that still remain in existence on Earth and the long ago terra-formed Mars. "Resident" then tells the story of a girl who chooses to die with the Earth rather than be taken by the last massive ship to leave the planet, which she witnesses as it departs. All of the life on Earth has now died in "Nature Gets Its Way" and we ended the album with "All You Can", as human beings continue to push and spread throughout the Universe for as long as they can. So I guess that's one possibility of where we're headed, but who knows.
Jesse: Genius! Sad and depressing—yet simultaneously beautiful. This would make for an epic film. So, what sent you down this path—that is, writing possibly prophetic songs set far in the future? Walk us through your creative process.
Mason: Thanks, yeah beautifully depressing could almost be our motto if we had one. All three of us are interested in the same subjects, and they're typically ones that tend to look rather gray when ultimately trying to make some sense of them. In terms of my actual writing process, I almost always begin the same way; with a guitar or piano part, to which I create a rough vocal pattern. Then either a line will emerge while "singing" (which is really closer to humming or mumbling) the rough vocal pattern, that I'll then write around, or a general feeling provoked by the combined parts will evoke certain images in my head; guiding the lyrics. I believe Alex writes in a similar way, and we've actually written lyrics to each other's base instrument parts on a few songs; but usually it's whoever it is that writes the initial guitar or piano part, also writes the lyrics. From there, after any changes are made to the overall song structure and the bones of it are recorded, we'll then layer on the additional instruments until none of us think anything else is needed. Finally, once all of the songs on the album are recorded, I'll start mixing and later master.
Jesse: Well, life isn't black and white so I feel having a gray perspective is realistic at the very least. Anyway, we've sort of jumped ahead of ourselves discussing existential and creative matters. So, let's back up a bit. What is Destination Space Station's lineup, instruments of choice, and where are y'all from?
Our lineup is Alex Beaven (vocals, guitar, synth/piano, bass), Jim Hughes (drums, bass, guitar) and myself (vocals, guitar, synth/piano, bass); and we're all originally from St. Louis, Missouri.
Jesse: Cool. So, do y'all have anything in the works?
Mason: Yeah, we're actually in the process of recording a new 11-12 song album at the moment; it'll probably be released sometime around the middle of 2018.
Jesse: Will it follow in your previous albums footsteps of possible prophetic sci-fi? Or will you be taking a new direction?
Mason: It'll still pretty much continue down the same general path; certainly drifting at least a bit into the realm of science fiction. But I wouldn't want to give too much away, for the sake of suspense
Jesse: Alright then I'll stop prying. Well hey Mason, this has been great. Interesting to say the least. But before we part ways, would you like to impart any words of wisdom, or advise to the human race to ensure its survival?
Mason: Thanks Jesse, great interview. I guess I would probably just ask humanity to save as much as we can, for as long we can. After all, the existence of life in itself is baffling. Made from atoms, consisting of mostly empty space that were born with the death of stars and the birth of our Universe; coalescing into single cells to eventually evolve into beings that can now analyze themselves along with the spacetime that they somehow inhabit. I can't help but feel that after everything that has needed to occur to get to this point, it would be quite a shame if the story of humanity was to end with our own self-destruction. Perhaps it's a future that we deserve in some ways, but I'd like to think that we'll struggle until the condition of Universe itself leaves us with no other choice but to die.
Jesse: Fucking beautifully depressing.
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"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever." — Sagan