It was an amicable split, and it wasn’t abrupt. Nevertheless, Massy Ferguson was knocked off track when keyboardist Tony Mann parted ways two years ago with the Seattle-based rock group.
Mann’s run with Massy Ferguson (founded in 2006 by singer-bassist Ethan Anderson and singer-guitarist Adam Monda) spanned the band’s first three albums: 2009’s Cold Equations, 2010’s Hard Water and 2013’s Victory & Ruins. After dropping a few hints about stepping aside, Mann made his intentions crystal clear around mid-2014.
Not only was Mann planning to leave the band, he was also leaving the country for Costa Rica in order to spend more time with family there. His last Massy Ferguson gig was a hometown affair, and it was a high-profile one, too: Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival in September 2014.
Following their finale with Mann, Anderson, Monda and drummer Dave Goedde found themselves adrift musically.
“For a bit there, I think we lost our way, playing with random people sitting in and not having any real consistency,” Anderson says. “Maybe we’d have a pedal steel player one night and a keys player the very next night.
“Honestly, I like playing with different people,” he adds. “It keeps things new and fresh and makes you adapt your playing in cool ways, but it’s no way to go forward with this band.”
Anderson, Monda and Goedde ultimately chose to move forward as a trio. And that decision played a big part in the material and the layered-guitar approach on the band’s fourth album, Run It Right Into the Wall, released worldwide on July 1.
“Our thinking was, ‘Let’s just get really solid as a three piece, as if we’ll never be a four piece again,’ ” Anderson says. “We have no ‘keys’ songs on this album — mainly because we never knew if we’d be able to wrangle one.”
Recorded from May to September 2015 with producer Johnny Sangster at Soundhouse in Seattle, Run It Right Into the Wall packs more punch than previous Massy Ferguson efforts. That’s because this time around, the predominantly Americana band drew inspiration from select 1980s college rock bands that Monda and Goedde grew up listening to and the younger Anderson came to appreciate at a later stage in life.
“The band that we all identify this record with as an inspiration would be The Replacements, though not exclusively,” says Anderson. “It seems like sacrilege that I didn’t get my first Replacements record until the early 2000s. I think Ryan Adams was a big influence on my songwriting, and [Monda] is a Paul Westerberg disciple. This disc has a marriage of those guys, I suppose.”
Drummer Mike Musberger, best known for his work with The Posies and Supersuckers, was brought in as a drum tech, and Goedde actually used Musberger’s kit in the studio, resulting in a bigger drum sound. And while there are no keyboard-led songs, Run It Right Into the Wall does include complementary keyboard parts, which were played by session veteran Dan Walker.
With Walker having other studio and touring commitments, he wasn’t a long-term solution on keyboards. Thanks to a recommendation from their old friend Mann, Massy Ferguson hooked up with keyboardist Fred Slater, who’s been on tour this summer with the band in the United Kingdom.
“We couldn’t have picked a better choice for a keys player,” says Anderson. “He’s really talented, but he’s tasty — meaning he doesn’t overplay but can cut loose on a solo at the drop of a hat.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Massy Ferguson on tour (schedule subject to change):
• July 9: Everett Waterfront Concerts — Everett, Washington
• July 13: Coulon Park — Renton, Washington
• July 14: Chop Suey — Seattle
• July 16: The Rumor Mill — Friday Harbor (San Juan Island), Washington
Massy Ferguson, from left to right: Dave Goedde, Ethan Anderson and Adam Monda. Photo by Rich Zollner