Brian Joseph Schuh of Motyka hopes his new album, By Keeping Spring, will get listeners used to the unexpected. The album, available Jan. 22, fluidly strings together songs ranging from electronic to folk pop in a way that allows listeners to go along without thinking about its eclectic nature.
“I don’t really think of myself as any particular kind of artist. I just follow where I want the vibe to go and pieces organically come together,” Schuh said in an interview with the Tribune. “For me, every album is kind of case-by-case, not so much thinking of myself as any type of artist, where this is gonna be my ‘blank’ album. I just fill in the gaps as I go along.”
Schuh has been making music seriously since high school. He taught himself the ropes of music production on audio workstations where he experimented with samples he found on the internet, and eventually started to produce his own music. While he was at the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam, Schuh worked on projects under several different monikers, eventually settling on Motyka after graduation.
“The name Motyka is actually my mother’s maiden name,” Schuh said. “I come from a pretty musical family, and I wanted to honour them by using that name in association with my music.”
Although Schuh writes and produces music under the name Motyka, he rarely does it on his own. Since starting the project toward the end of college, he has collaborated with friends and fellow musicians on every step of the production process. Collaboration offers Schuh the ability to incorporate specific styles and instruments he would not otherwise be able to execute himself. Part of the production process for Schuh includes improvising with friends over short tracks he has created. By Keeping Spring is full of improvised sessions featuring a number of musicians, particularly due to the interesting production method Schuh followed.
“I wrote a poem during quarantine and that poem became the track list for the album,” Schuh said. “The seven tracks on the album come from seven lines of the poem. [To compose the album], I just started at the beginning and I did the first song by finding some samples [….] From there, I just did the next song, and it unfolded pretty linearly.”
Schuh explains that improvisation is one of the ways he makes his music more organic and human, and that those elements also help to make the combination of musical genres cohesive. His philosophy is simple: The hook is the key. Focussing on the hook of the song, the part of the song that resonates with listeners and keeps them coming back for more, is the best way to bridge the gap between dissonant genres on a single album. The eponymous track, “By Keeping Spring,” ends its nebulous electronic run with a brief pause, followed by the unmistakable graininess of a record player. Transitioning into the throwback tones of “We Take The Air,” Motyka shifts easily between the sounds of the past and present. The vibe throughout the album is nostalgic, written during the beginning of lockdown when life was full of uncertainty. It is highly emotive, and its unique flow reflects the untamable and often undefinable emotions we all experienced at that time and continue to feel to this day.