I could feel it in the air — the anticipation was palpable. The final opener’s set had ended, and all I could hear was the clink of forks against plates as people finished their meals. An overwhelming aroma of fresh waffles and warm chocolate enveloped the room, and the crowd knew that the main act was coming on shortly. With my excitement mounting, I eagerly watched as Rochester/Brooklyn natives Maybird took the stage and prepared for its set in support of its newest EP, Turning Into Water. In that moment, the sense that I was about to witness something special was tangible. Maybird certainly fulfilled that prophecy.
Opening up with “Call You Mine” off their 2013 debut LP Down & Under, Maybird started the show strong and never looked back. Observing from my booth, I was enamored by the psychedelic, 1960s vibe that the group was radiating. I felt transported into another time period filled with guitar-driven tunes that are never long enough. There were no fancy effects or light shows, for it was simply the band and the audience – a perfect combination. In each word, note and song I experienced the love that Maybird has for music, as well as for performing for the sake of pure passion. Watching them play gave me hope for the future of rock and proved that rock is alive and thriving.
Lead singer Josh Netsky kept the audience engaged, conversing in between songs and making us all laugh with his humor and humility. His unique, somewhat-folky voice sounded even better live than in studio, attesting to the intense talent exuded by this band. At one time during the set, he pointed out guitarist Sam Snyder’s amusing sketch of each member of Maybird depicted as an ape that was happily sitting on the merchandise table. Utilizing the petal steel guitar, Kurt Johnson converted a typically country instrument into a psychedelic rock machine, churning out sweet but forceful sounds. Drummer Adam Netsky kept the whole operation running, effectively acting as the heart of the band. Bassist James Preston and Snyder killed it with their perspective instruments, cementing the entire sound together into one solid feast for the senses.
Playing dynamites like “Big Sun Explosion,” “Nocturne” and “Turning into Water,” Maybird truly demonstrated and proved their craft. To my surprise, the band performed two new songs. And if they’re any indication as to the content of the upcoming album, then I am completely on-board with the new material. Despite the small crowd, several danced to the music, while the remainder blissfully rode the sound waves of the ‘60s-inspired guitars riffs and solos.
From this concert, I can foresee Maybird growing and experiencing incredible success. The true measure of a band’s talent lies in its ability to create new fans after a single listen. As of tonight, Maybird has a new fan. I am fully engaged and ready to join this band on its ride to the top, and I encourage you all to come with me.
Before their set, I was fortunate enough to chat with the members of Maybird. It was a wonderful experience to get to know such cool, genuine people. Leaving the loud Funk ‘n Waffles, I conducted my interview outside the waffle shop in the pleasant early evening air.
20 Watts: How did you all meet each other?
Josh: “Adam is my brother, so we met when he was born. Sam and I met at a Battle of the Bands at my college, but Sam was still in high school. Both of our bands lost to a Ska band, but the good thing that came out of it was that we were interested in each other’s music. After that we hung out.”
Sam: “I had an internship at the studio you [Josh] were working at. Josh was working on solo album at a studio in Ontario called GFI. My high school had an internship program, and I would get to skip school and work up there.”
Josh: “We [Sam and Josh] have been playing music together for like 8 years. Kurt played music all the time at this place I used to work at on RIT campus called the Lovin Cup. Sam was unable to play a gig, and I liked the way Kurt played guitar [with petal steel]. I asked him to fill in, and then Sam ended up showing up unannounced so they got to play together for the first time. We all liked how it sounded so we decided to form a band.
Kurt: “This all happened at a festival called the Stone Mill, which is where we ended up recording Turning Into Water and shooting the music video.”
Sam: “It was all done at this house that we played that show [Stone Mill] at.”
20 Watts: It came full circle, then?
Sam: “Yes, very much so.”
Josh: “James is the last piece of the puzzle. He was a bass player around New York who played in a bunch of bands, and we had met him while he was playing in Rochester about 6-7 years ago. We kept in touch, and when Adam and I moved to Brooklyn we started playing with James.”
James: “Fun fact: recently I figured out that my friend was in the Ska band that won that battle of the bands. So it just had to happen!”
20 Watts: It was meant to be. What year did you guys form?
Josh: “I guess you could say we formed in 2013 with the release of Down & Under. We became Maybird when we released that first album. It was kind of like a last minute decision because we had made it as another Josh Netsky album, but it sounded like its own thing.”
20 Watts: Where did the name Maybird come from?
Josh: “Maybird is a song that is on both albums, and we were going through a bunch of band names, and they were all pretty bad and didn’t have any relevance to us.”
20 Watts: Like what?
Josh: “I dug Foliage.”
Kurt: “Didn’t we have a Hector Protector?”
[Everyone laughs as they reminisce.]
Josh: “My mom came up with Maybird. She knew that it was a song of ours and suggested it. We all agreed that it [Maybird] worked.”
Kurt: “Everybody thinks we say Neighbor!”
Josh: “When you’re at a bar and the crowd asks what are you guys called we always shout ‘Maybird!’ and they respond ‘Neighbor?’”
20 Watts: I really like your album art. Do you guys draw it yourselves, or do you have local artists do it for you?
Josh: “We have a Rochester guy, Mike. He does all of our artwork, t-shirts, and photography. He’s a jack of all trades, basically.”
20 Watts: Do you collaborate with him, or just let him do his own thing?
Josh: “We let him do his own thing, but we let him do his own thing about ten times, and then pick one. The original album cover for Turning Into Water has three demonic faces that all melt into each other. It was really cool, but if I’m looking in a record store and saw this cover, it wouldn’t match up with our sound on that record.”
20 Watts: What would you classify your sound as? It seems like a combination of a lot of things.
Josh: “It is definitely a combination of a lot of things.”
Adam: “The most common answer would be psych [psychedelic] rock.”
Josh: “Yeah but we’re not really all psych rock, our single is a psych rock song, so we’ve mostly been classified as that… whatever Beck is.”
Kurt: “We could say all these things that we want it to be.”
Josh: “But if a radio station was classifying it, it would be indie/alternative.”
James: “With a strong ‘60s vibe to it, too.”
20 Watts: What bands/musicians inspired your sound?
Josh: “Beck… Radiohead, Tame Impala, George Harrison, Cass McCombs, Elliot Smith.”
20 Watts: What was the thought process going into Turning Into Water?
Josh: “The lyrics were a bunch of Beatles references. So, the chorus “turning into water” would be replaced by “all things must pass”. I had a few others, too. I don’t really remember how “turning into water” became the chorus. The rest of the song was really easy to write once the chorus was there. It was pretty clear… turning into water is like a feeling of dissolving. You feel very ignored, or you don’t need to be there. So I kept some of the lyrics with The Beatles references and then replaced quite a lot to match that chorus.”
20 Watts: What about the rest of the EP?
Kurt: “It’s kind of funny how it all came together. At the time, half of us were in Brooklyn, and the other half was in Rochester. We were releasing those slowly as we were living far apart.”
Josh: “The EP spans probably 3-4 years. I would say it was a transitional period… the transitions we were going through were a big part of it. Nocturne is kind about change of seasons. It all has to do with life transitions – big and small.
[One of my favorite parts of the interview occurred at this point where the band shared a story with me about glasses. Josh and Sam were walking around in the mall, and Josh decided to try Sam’s glasses on. Once Josh tried them on, he wanted them for himself because his vision was improved drastically. He jokingly asked if he could keep Sam’s glasses. It was revealed that all the band members have similar prescriptions.]
20 Watts: Who does most of the song writing?
20 Watts: What do you want people to know about the Turning Into Water EP?
Everyone lightheartedly jokes: “It’s really good, you should buy it!”
Sam: “It exists.”
Josh: “We put it together as an introduction to us because it was all stuff that we had recorded and released before. The next thing should be pretty different.”
Kurt: “Also if you play it backwards it’s a really killer Kimchi recipe!”
20 Watts: So you are making a new album now?
Josh: “We’re kind of recording a bunch of new music right now, and we’re going to put it out once we have more on the table. We’ve gone to some studios and worked with some producers, so it will be a little different sound because of the different process.”
20 Watts: Are you excited for the album to come out?
20 Watts: Me too! Where is your favorite place to play, or what has been the most memorable venue?
Sam: “We really enjoy playing in Rochester.”
Kurt: “Annapolis, Maryland!”
Josh: “We played on a boat in Annapolis over the summer. It was called the Harbor Queen.”
Kurt: “It [Annapolis] turned into a total punk rock show. We ended up having to put the vocals through a guitar amp. We had to wing it for awhile, but it was super fun.”
Sam: “Yeah, and the ship was rocking around.”
Josh: “Colorado was really nice, too. Colorado as a whole. But Sharon Springs, Kansas is rad, too.”
Kurt: “We love stopping at random small towns of like 800 people, and just meeting…”
Sam: “800 people…”
Kurt: “We’ve met some really cool people.”
20 Watts: Do you guys have any upcoming shows?
Josh: “We are playing in Brooklyn on October 13th.”
Kurt: “We’ll definitely be back at some point in the near future. We have tours coming up in November and December.”
Any final thoughts for the readers?
Kurt: “The Kimchi recipe is true!”
Josh: “Kurt’s just obsessed with Kimchi.”