The local indie-rock/noise-pop group Mouserocket may have begun as a solo side project from the tirelessly prolific Alicja Trout (River City Tanlines, Lost Sounds, the Clears), but it has evolved into one of the city's strongest and most intriguing musical partnerships. With the addition of co-bandleader and music-scene veteran Robby Grant (Big Ass Truck, Vending Machine), Mouserocket has produced three excellent LPs over the years, including the band's newest, Cicada Sounds.
"It started morphing when I got Robert Barnett [Mouserocket drummer] to record on a couple of songs," Trout says. "From there, I got Robby for guitar and Ron Franklin on keyboards to play some songs like 'Song of Broken Glass,' 'Walking Lizard,' and 'Stomp Around' [from the band's eponymous 2004 debut LP], which were songs that did not work for the Lost Sounds."
Eventually Franklin left the group to pursue other interests, and bassist Hemant Gupta and cellist Jonathan Kirkscey joined the fold, rounding out the current lineup.
Mouserocket came into full bloom as a project with the 2008 release of Pretty Loud, a more cohesive and confident marriage between Trout's infectious pop songwriting and the darker edge of Grant. The sophomore album was a clear success for the band, garnering positive reviews from Pitchfork and Terminal Boredom.
By 2009, Mouserocket had once again amassed enough new material to begin work on another album and decided to venture out of the home studios of Trout and Grant to record what would become Cicada Sounds. But there was a stipulation.
"One requirement for this record was that we wanted to work fast," Grant says. "For two reasons, really: One, we are all doing a lot of other stuff, and two, we didn't want to spend a ton of time in the studio since we didn't have a lot of money. Alicja and I do a lot of home recording, so it's kinda hard for us to justify paying money to record."
Enter producer/engineer Scott Bomar. The band entered Bomar's Electraphonic Studio in late '09 and recorded and mixed Cicada Sounds in under five days.
"Bomar said he could do it quickly. We were really happy with what we ended up with," Grant says.
"Scott told us we were the most sober band he's ever recorded," Trout says. "I think he did a great job. It's the first record where all the songs have the same recording sound because we did them together at Electraphonic. I also think this group of songs is consistently more mainstream viable, though that was unintentional."
Intentional or not, Trout's songs on the album — particularly standouts like "I Can't Keep My Hands Off You" and "Hello (Talk to Me)" — are some of the catchiest and most instantly memorable works she's ever committed to tape and serve as a perfect complement to Grant's more complex (though equally engaging) contributions.
Cicada Sounds is being released exclusively in digital format by the New York label Shoulder Tap. Though the reasoning behind this decision was primarily financial, according to Trout, there were other motivating factors.
"We're tired of seeing our CDs used as coasters and our LPs on the top of bird feeders to discourage squirrels," she says. "I was at a party last year, and some guy was letting his kitten ride around the turntable on our album Pretty Loud — and that was the last straw."
As a live act, Mouserocket has always been known as a loose but intense affair, dominated by a spontaneity that comes across as playful and adventurous but never fully improvised or jammy.
"Our greatest asset is not practicing," Trout says.
But for Friday's release show for Cicada Sounds, Mouserocket will do something they haven't done in a long, long time: They will practice more than once before a gig.
"Nothing is really difficult with this band," Grant says. "That's kind of our modus operandi. Mouserocket is pretty effortless for us. We've gone four months without practicing, and then we'll play a pretty decent show. It's weird that we're doing two practices for this one coming up."
Mouserocket record release show for Cicada Sounds, with El Cento and the Fuzz
Friday, July 8th, 9 p.m., $5