May 22-28, 2003
The Couple That Plays Together
Megan and Mason Wendell run Canary Publicity all day and make music all night in The Method and Result.
The most remarkable thing about The Method and Result is not their snazzy, beeping background noises or eccentric, machine-made polyrhythms. No, the real trick is that this Philly duo utilizes a small junkyard of machines and looping tricks to create such robotic beats and still comes off human.
It seems simple enough -- after all, every band has at least one human being in its ranks -- yet so many electronic acts surrender to the technology. While Mum and Sigur Rós have found a place for themselves in cold, sterile experimentalism, The Method and Result are a rock band, drummer or not, and they like it hot.
So the fingers slide up the thin guitar strings to create something not entirely unlike a pop hook. Everything moves recognizably from verse to chorus to verse and so on just like a "real" song. And, most importantly, Megan Wendell's crystalline voice maneuvers above the fray to pull the listener in and tell a story.
That this so-called electronic act so resembles a rock band is no big surprise; the humans only replaced their drummer with a robot out of necessity.
Our story begins at Berklee School of Music in Boston where Megan (pronounced "Meegan") Gass, from Maine, met Mason Wendell of West Virginia freshman year. Both were in the professional music program, a build-your-own-major major for people who don't wanna be jerked around by required courses. The two hit it off and started making music together.
After graduation in '97 they moved to Jersey City, where people go to play in the New York scene without paying New York rent. Mason and Megan got married in Manhattan and got jobs at enormous companies (he did Web design on Wall Street, she worked for a Hollywood gossip dotcom). All the while they made music and tried to find a place in a music scene they felt had little sense of community.
The first band of theirs that you might have heard of was Blinder, a loud, mathy, high-energy rock trio. They put out a CD, Calamity a Foot Behind, on their own Solarmanite label and toured behind it. The curiously ambitious time signatures were a hint of things to come.
Separate from their musical careers and personal lives -- as separate as possible, anyway -- the Wendells started Canary Publicity. With Megan in charge of handling the artists and getting the word out and Mason spearheading the design work, the two started promoting indie artists -- creating websites, calling newspapers, eventually booking tours.
While that business was on the rise, Blinder was heading in the other direction. Their drummer, the first of them to get sick of the New York music scene, fell in love with somebody in Indiana and moved away. His replacement, after months of rehearsals, bowed out just four weeks before Blinder was to embark on a cross-country tour. There wasn't time to teach someone else the complex rhythms. It was fight or flight -- play the shows anyway or cancel the tour.
"And that's how the computer came into everything," recalls Megan. The two headed to the studio to strip away every instrument but the drums from their recorded oeuvre, then added synths and backing vocals. Blinder hit the road as a guitar-bass-vocals duo with a pre-programmed backup band contained within a laptop. It was ballsy and audiences responded. By the time they got home, the seeds had been planted for a more finessed, less aggressive musical direction. They also decided it was time to get out of the NYC scene; 9/11 had just happened, The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were about to.
"I don't think anybody who loved living in New York moved because of Sept. 11," says Megan. "But I think for a lot of people like us who were already sort of thinking about it, it was like the last straw."
So why Philly? "We always got a good vibe from Philly when we came down here [to play shows]," says Mason. "We felt like we could put some roots here and we could kind of notice we were making a difference." They found an apartment near McMenamin's in Mt. Airy and quickly made an impact volunteering Canary's services for Ladyfest Philly.
All the while the Wendells have been making and playing music under the name The Method and Result. Their first EP is three songs of soulful, electronic pop and strumming, hook-laden guitars. A debut full-length is nowhere near completion.
"We are taking a long time to finish it, but we want it to be as good as our favorite record," explains Megan. "I don't want to settle."
"I feel like we're at a place creatively that putting the right amount of time and energy into it, we can make that record," asserts Mason. "I just want to make sure we do it. I don't want to put it out and just be like, If I just had another month it would be there.'"
So the couple works on Canary (the current roster includes Val Emmich, Race For Titles and Lanky, which plays The Rotunda May 24) all day and experiments with the music in the evening, adding melodies and found sounds in layers. The Method and Result's latest track, "I Woke Up" (available for download at www.methodandresult.com), takes all of its percussion from a broken light bulb -- shaking it for a tinny maracas sound, tapping it for the snare, thumping it for the bass. The noises are recorded, mixed and manipulated into a catchy beat.
"Not that we'd have to have studied music to do what we're doing, but the stuff that we studied [at Berklee] comes in handy now," says Megan.
Says Mason: "It helps to think in large ensemble terms."
Both agree being partners in life makes it easier to be partners in music. "We have been playing music together in one form or another for almost 10 years now," says Megan. "I don't think I could know anybody better musically." Still, the enthusiastic publicist for other people's music is more self-conscious when talking about her own. She claims shyness when approaching her bandmate with a new song.
"I'm still not allowed to look in the lyric book," says Mason. "It's a very well-kept notebook. That's all I know about it."
The Method and Result plays Tue., May 27, 9 p.m., $6, with Buried Beds and Aunt Jessica, The Khyber, 56 S. Second St., 215-238-5888.